When I married Hubs in 2001, I became an insta-mom to a girl, 8, and a boy, 9.
To say that I flailed around in the sometimes treacherous waters of stepmotherhood would be accurate. Having never had children, I wasn’t really sure what to do with the two young people who were suddenly part of the household.
I figured all that babysitting I did in my teen years would be helpful.
Er, no. Not so much.
Equally upsetting was that no one seemed to understand my situation.
My single or newly married girlfriends — well, suddenly, we weren’t all the same stage of life anymore, especially given all my new dilemmas: The difficulty in finding summer daycare or packing “healthy” lunches or brushing a tender-headed little girl’s hair.
And had I been in their place, I wouldn’t have either. Nothing prepares you for the kind of responsibility of caring for children, especially when you spent your 20s partying.
A year later, I had a baby girl.
I was the first of my close set of girlfriends to have a baby. And again, I was the odd girl out. That wasn’t so bad, given that I spent most days sleep-walking in a milk-stained nightgown and frantically consulting any number of parenting books, but it sure was lonely. I so, so wanted another mama to talk to, weep with, laugh with. Also, a little advice from a peer would have been helpful.
By the time I gave birth to Baby No. 2, a few of my friends had started reproducing. But they were caught up in the dreaminess of a first pregnancy and impending motherhood.
(Mind you, this dreaminess occurred BEFORE the actual birth and what I call Maternity Boot Camp.)
I, on the other hand, now understood the realities involved in bearing and raising children. After all, I now had a baby AND a toddler. And I didn’t want to frighten my friends with descriptions of my foray into motherhood. I mean, how do you tell a pregnant woman that “OMG, your nipples will feel like they’re about to fall off and you’ll cry because you’re so tired and oh, did anyone mention the horrid night sweats that occur when all those hormones start exiting your body and holy crap WHY is my baby’s poop neon-green and WHY does my toddler wake up right after I have finally gently, ever-so-carefully placed our newest little bundle of joy in his bassinet?”
Basically, I hadn’t realized how isolating motherhood could be.
So I admit to a pang of envy when all of my friends eventually started having babies all at the same time.
Could they not have started sooner?!
But here’s the thing: Because I had my kiddos earlier, I’ve been able to enjoy all these new babies — which would not have been the case had I still been toting around a toddler and a newborn.
My children are now 6 and 8. And their burgeoning independence allows me to revel in the heavenly smell of my girlfriends’ wee newborns’ fuzzy, downy heads and their chubby little thighs and delectable baby feet. nom nom nom …
(Don’t worry. I won’t actually eat your babies, my friends. I just want to sniff and nuzzle their heads and squeeze their adorable teeny toes.)
Awhile back, I babysat my friend Amy’s then-4-month-old daughter. Rocking Miss Josie to sleep, watching her eyelids flutter closed … it took me back to those precious early days with my own babes.
Only in this case, I got to go home and sleep through night!
The other benefit of going solo? I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, to find the confidence to trust my instincts. And believe me, I needed that. It made me a better person and a better mother. It also made me a better friend when my girlfriends were suffering through the rigors of new motherhood.
I compare it to being a reporter — had I not chosen this profession, I would have missed out on so many experiences. This job made me brave. It made me feel like I could do anything.
And so did having children. Alone.
Tomorrow: A tale of three girlfriends who now have daughters! With photos…