Pearls & Vodka

Here’s to all the ladies…

Every single human being on the face of the planet has a mother.

Every.single.human.being.

7.6 BILLION people.

Every single one has a mother.

Sound Vision estimates that there are 2 billion mothers in the world, 85.4 million of those are in the United States. [1]

As a noun, “mother” is defined as, “a woman in relation to her child or children.” As a verb, “mother” is defined as, “bring up (a child) with care and affection.” [2]

Last year on her blog Momastery.com, Glennon Doyle wrote about what her Aunt Patti had said about Glennon’s mother, “She always made me feel safe, wanted and loved. I could depend on her. She was fun, a bit mischievous, a bit daring. But mostly she was very responsible. Patti (Glennon’s mom) was and still is my rock. My go-to person. I trust her completely. She is full of generosity, love, tenderness, and wisdom.”

That to me is the perfect definition of a Mom.

A mother births a child, by definition.

A mom cares for a child, whether their flesh and blood or not.

Yesterday I wrote a letter to my son on this blog. You see I became a mother 679 days ago.

I spent 16 hours in labor. Something I would not wish on my worst enemy. And still, no sign of a baby. I lingered at a “4” for most of the day, after having my water broken at 5 a.m., another shot of Pitocin later, I finally got to a “6.” My incredible doctor finally said, “enough is enough, we are taking this baby.” It was ironic for that turn of events to occur. My fear of “giving birth” had been the topic of every single checkup we had and I begged my doctor for a C-section. At that moment though, I found myself frustrated. I felt like my resilient body that had carried that baby so well for 9 months, with no issues, had failed me. Even my child-bearing hips were not enough to physically push that baby boy out. And I was mad. I was scared. I was nauseous. I was in pain. I was about 2 million things all rolled into one, a mother who so desperately wanted her child to be here and be OK. One botched-epidural later, I was wheeled into the brightest room I’ve ever seen, that must have been set on “hypothermia-inducing” temperatures. My sweet husband was there, all dressed in green scrubs, and that adorable smile he gets when he wants to cry from happiness, but he’s sucking it in. My amazing doctor and her incredible team of nurses got the party started; music was playing, I was puking, yes…while having a C-section. Just as a PSA, I don’t recommend doing that. But my husband will tell you I’m stubborn and like to do things the hard way. I’m not sure how long the actual process took, but it ended with a screeching cry from the most beautiful little boy in the world. I don’t remember seeing him then. I didn’t get to hold him then either. They cleaned him up, wrapped him up and my husband walked him to the nursery. I was wheeled into “recovery” where I decided to throw up again. A few hours napping and the next thing I knew I woke up in my room there at the hospital. I still hadn’t seen my little boy. I asked my husband if he was cute, and he said yes, and showed me a picture on his phone. Around 4 hours after he was born, the nurse brought our baby into the room and placed him in my arms. I could barely move and still felt so out of it. But I looked down at this little person that had my husband’s beautiful long eyelashes, and everything within me felt at peace.

It’s a feeling I’m confident could never be repeated and a feeling I’ll never be able to explain.

But with that, I became a mom.

I’ve watched my own mother do the “mom” thing for almost 35 years now. And it’s true what they say, “you never fully grasp your mother’s love until you become a mother.”

In almost 35 years, she has never been too tired to be there for me. She has never been too afraid to believe in me and my dreams. She cared for me, changed my diapers, dressed me, prayed for me, rocked me to sleep and suddenly, it was my turn to do those things for my own child.

I have never, ever, for one moment, felt less than adored by my Mom. And my mission as a mother now is to make sure my little boy feels that same type of love.

I wrote another blog yesterday before I wrote the letter to my son. After consulting with my good friend, I deleted it. It came from a place of anger from something I had read on social media. And first and foremost, let me say, that is never a good place to start a blog from. I had read a post where one mother was criticizing the journey of another mother. I won’t get into specifics; this is not the online space for that. But I’ll just say it was mean-spirited, at best.

After reading it though, my wheels were spinning. I scrolled through my Twitter feed, and it was filled with such hate, I promise I do follow some sane people, but the overall message was just hate and vitriol for one another. I got off there and began scrolling through my Instagram feed. The pictures were beautiful. The meals looked like Martha Stewart had personally visited the kitchens of those I follow. The kids looked like they were posing for Baby Gap advertisements. The selfies looked like they could appear on the cover of Glamour magazine. The filters are unreal y’all. I was blown away by the façade. So, I got off there, and I got back on Facebook. And I kept coming back to what I had read previously, and with each visit, someone else had commented something that fired me up even more. I finally decided to just clean my kitchen. I mean that’s how bad it got y’all.
As I cleaned though I began to think of this journey in motherhood that I am on. It’s a blessed ride, do not get me wrong. I love being a Momma to my little man. I love even the yucky parts, and that dude deposits some yucky stuff into some awfully expensive diapers.

But for the outside world looking in, without having birthed children, why on Earth would anyone want to join this club?

I remember going through rush in the winter of 2002 in small town, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

I knew exactly what I wanted to pledge. I was so scared I wouldn’t get in, and I’d have to settle for my 2nd choice. I remember waiting by my door every night hoping for an invitation to return to my #1 choice’s rush party the next night. And I remember getting invitations under that door to clubs I had no desire to go back and visit with. There were certain clubs that just didn’t have the image I wanted to be a part of. And there were clubs that I just knew I absolutely did not, nor would I ever, fit in with. At the end of rush week, I sat down and filled out my “pref card.” They encouraged you to write two clubs on the card, in case your first choice did not accept you. But I didn’t. It was all or nothing for me. I either got what I wanted, or I didn’t pledge at all. The next morning, I anxiously waited by my door again for an invitation. This one was to pledge their club. And it finally came. I threw on my red sweater (their colors, of course) and walked to the steps of Cone-Bottoms Hall as fast as I could. Best decision I made during college for sure.

I wanted to join that club because I saw how much of an impact they had on our campus. They were involved in everything. And not only involved, they excelled at everything. They were the Presidents of Student Senate. The Hostesses of Tiger Tunes. The Intramural Champions. The Miss OBU Pageant winners. They were always dating the most handsome guys. They were on every sports team the school had for women. They always had a group of friends surrounding them, no matter where they went.

They made it look so appealing, how could I not want to join?

I loved every minute as a member of the Women of EEE.

But I look at this club called “Motherhood” now, and I wonder, why do people want to join?

When you hop on social media, you constantly see mothers tearing apart other mothers. When you go to the playgrounds, you hear mothers judging one another. When you overhear the conversations at drop off, you hear them belittling the one who isn’t there yet. You constantly hear things like, “can you believe she let her daughter wear that?” Or, you hear things like, “she must like being fat because she sure hasn’t tried to lose that baby weight.” The insults, the rudeness, the hatefulness never stops.

They should really warn you when you find out your pregnant that you are about to be inundated with “experts” and their opinions. The first thing they tell you the minute your child is born is “make a schedule.” “You have to have a schedule.” Let’s not take into account the 16 hours of labor you just went through, because if you don’t have a schedule planned out to the minute, you mine as well give the baby back. Oh, you aren’t breastfeeding? You’ve really done it now. Trust me, from personal experience, they won’t ask you if you wanted to and couldn’t produce milk; they’ll just instantly explain to you the 3 trillion things that breast milk can cure and how sorry they feel for your child that he won’t have that. And on the off-chance, they do ask you why you didn’t, and you do feel brave enough to face the firing squad and tell them you couldn’t produce milk, brace yourself, the impact is severe.

“Mommy-shaming.”

It’s a new phenomenon. It’s all the rage. It’s as in “style” as Doc Martens were in 7th grade for me. It’s what all the cool moms are doing.

Did you know that the Department of Labor has said that 70% of women with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force? [3]

I was blown away when I read that it was such a high number. I guess that’s because I’ve been staring in the mirror for 22 months trying to find my third eye I grew. It must be there somewhere, though I can’t seem to find it, but it has to be. Nothing else could explain the looks I get when the other moms at daycare find out I have a fulltime job. I’d tell them that I actually have 3 side gigs, as well, that I’m doing from home, but I don’t want to be held liable when they faint and fall out.

The “Mom-guilt.” It is strong ladies, so strong.

When you become an adult, this switch turns off in your brain. It’s the switch that is in charge of making you just shy enough not to say every single thing you are thinking. Suddenly, you feel the need to comment on everything happening around you. And you ask questions with no regard to the answer.

Oh, the questions.

Someone asks your age, and when you say you are over 30, they instantly look at your left-hand. No ring. “Oh, you poor girl, Mr. Right is out there, just keep searching.” They never stop for one second to consider the possibilities. Maybe you were married, and he was killed in a car accident. Maybe you actually are looking for Mrs. Right, and not Mr. Maybe you are struggling with depression because you too thought you’d be married by now. Or maybe you just forgot your ring that day, for Heaven’s sake!

That same person does find a ring on your left hand and instantly follows up the age question with asking how many children you have. Be prepared at this point for the “shock and awe” look if you say none. That’s the look that again convinces you that you’ve grown another appendage on some part of your body. Trust and believe, they did not take one second to consider the fact that you are praying every prayer you can think of that your period doesn’t start this month, and that test will finally have a plus sign. They would never dream of thinking you’ve been trying for five years and each test that says “not pregnant” starts an emotional roller coaster all over again for you. I assure you she’s not in the least bit prepared for you to answer that you actually are content without kids and it’s not something you all are pursuing. Though if you do answer like this, please have a feather nearby, because I assure you, you will be able to knock the asker over with it. Miscarriage? You aren’t ready for that reaction either. I’ve been so floored to hear someone actually say, “what went wrong?” WHAT WENT WRONG? You were born, and you grew up to be an inconsiderate fool who asked, WHAT WENT WRONG, that’s what happened.

It doesn’t stop there.

You spend 16 hours in grueling labor and deliver the most beautiful curly headed baby that ever walked the face of the Earth, and they will ask, “when is he getting a sibling?” First of all, you want to respond, “please let my doctor finish cutting the umbilical cord.” But alas, there are more questions coming. As a side note, whoever said “there is no stupid question” is definitely a moron. There are stupid questions. There are inconsiderate questions. There are rude questions. There are questions better left unasked. And yet, they will ask them. Your child is almost two and has no sibling on the way. Oh, get ready. They have no clue you’ve been trying for a year. You want the sibling for your son just as much as they apparently do. It was so easy the first time. But not this time. The periods keep coming; the tests keep being negative. The ovulation kits keep showing high, but never peak, fertility. And you remain the parents of just one child. And the catch is, you love that child. With all your being. But their comments have made you feel like a failure. Like you have failed the world by only rearing one child. Like you’ve failed your son because he will be an only child.

And to you sweet saints who have lost a little one. Oh, how my heart breaks for you in light of what the world says to you. I can’t even. I have tears welling up in my eyes just thinking of you all.

They just don’t think. And they just keep asking stupid questions.

Motherhood is this beautifully hard, complex journey. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Our world is so screwed up that we don’t see there are MOMs all around us who have never birthed a baby. There are women who love my little boy as if they had given birth to him themselves. But only I did. There are women who love your children, if you have them, as much as if they were their own. There are women who live their lives caring for others, encouraging others, protecting others, empowering others. And they have never given birth. And they may not ever. Maybe because they don’t want to. Maybe because they can’t. Or just maybe because it isn’t their time yet.

Being a mom is more than giving birth. I’ve learned that really is the easy part. Even with 16 hours of labor.

To all you ladies out there, I have a few thoughts for you, some challenges if you will:

1) Stop the “Mommy shaming.” It’s just wrong. No matter how you slice it, it’s wrong. It’s mean. It’s hateful. It’s rude. It’s immoral. It’s sinful for you church-goers. Why would you want to demean and demoralize other women? Surely you don’t want the same done to you?

2) Moms, let go of the “Mom-guilt.” It’s hard. God do I know it’s hard. But you are doing an amazing job. Some of my favorite words from “Finding Nemo” apply here, “Just keep swimming.” “We can do hard things,” in the words of Glennon Doyle.
Stop asking stupid questions. Just stop. If it takes you just never asking another question again for the rest of your life because you have no filter, then stop. If you cannot fight the urge and you just absolutely must ask a question, sweet Jesus, please take a minute to consider at least half of the possibilities before you do. I won’t challenge you to think of ALL the possibilities because if you just MUST ask the question, you don’t have the bandwidth to consider everything that could be behind the answer you are seeking.

3) Find your tribe ladies. Find the moms who will scoop you up and hold your hand through this journey. Find the ladies who don’t have kids, for whatever reason, who will fall so in love with your kids that you have created a tribe around your little ones to help you do this thing called life. Be the tribe to your friends. Be the ones they can ask all the questions to. Be the ones they can text you pictures of weird looking rashes. Find the ones who will not allow you to go on webmd.com. The site should be banned anyway.

4) Be thankful for YOUR tribe. I am so blessed to have amazing friends and women around me who encourage me in parenting. Their friendship is irreplacable. Be grateful for them, tell them that!

5)Love the babies. Love them all. Some have amazing mothers as I have had in my Momma. And some don’t. Some have mommas who are struggling. Some lose their mommas far too soon. They need us. Be that for them.

[1] https://www.soundvision.com/article/statistics-about-mothers-around-the-world
[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mother
[3] https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/stats_data.htm

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash