Sunday, March 29, 2015

Surprises are the Best Laid Plans

Being a parent has taught me THIS: Things don't always go as planned, but they do always go the way they're supposed to.
I have a firm belief that things happen for a reason. All things. We meet certain people because we are supposed to. Every experience in life - whether good, bad, exciting or devastating - contains a lesson to be learned, a reason certain key people were involved, and is a stepping stone to moving forward on our own personal path. My belief is that if we can wipe away the glitter and sparkles from the wonderful experiences - and clean away the muck and darkness from the horrible experiences - we will find that something positive is almost always waiting there for us to discover it.
In my early 20s, I was selfish and often told people I never wanted kids. I worked, I played, I dated, I drank, I spent money frivolously, I thought about ME ME ME and I lived my life purely in the moment. I never made decisions with any sense of permanency; if I didn't like something or got bored with it (a car, a job, a boyfriend) - I just changed it and shut the door behind me. Easy as that. Do what's best for me... move on to the next thing (or person)... never look back. Done deal. I convinced myself that my actions didn't affect other people; and that if they did affect others, that was THEIR problem - not mine. I had control over my own feelings; it was not my responsibility to control theirs.
Fast forward to late 20s >>> I met "the one". Moved in together. Got engaged. Flipped the switch from "Me" to "We". Life was awesome. We were both making a lot of money, we had a house, we had more cars than we needed, we went to expensive restaurants and spent long weekends at beach resorts and life was fun and great and easy and amazing. Yeah!
Got married. Our *PLAN* was to spend two years doing all of this cool fancy married people stuff, travel a ton, save up money to buy a bigger house, and maybe plan for kids a few years down the road. Sign on the dotted line. Agreed.
Three months after the wedding? Positive pregnancy test. UH-OH.
Definitely not in my *PLAN*. I immediately felt a sense of loss, as my "Me" selfishness came back to haunt me and I thought about all of the things I would be missing out on, all of the *PLANS* we had made to travel, and the house we wanted to buy that now we would never be able to afford because, well, diapers and daycare are expensive. We were supposed to be going to a wedding in Cancun next summer! Damn it! I had barely been a WIFE for twelve weeks, and now I was supposed to be a MOM? I had barely gotten used to calling him my "husband", how was I supposed to also add "son" or "daughter" to that. Too much. I was overloaded. This was not what we had *PLANNED*.
This is the time I suffered my very first panic episode. And then a second one. And then they happened weekly, and then sometimes several in a day. I couldn't figure out what triggered the episodes. Sometimes I would be sitting at work. Sometimes I would be watching TV, or other times I would be driving - those were the scariest. But every time, I had to talk myself out of them. I literally had to hear myself say the words out loud: "Breathe. Clear your head. Let go. It's ok. Calm down. Relax. It's just your body responding to anxiety." I learned to live with the episodes, as if they were an extension of my body. Hated them, but accepted them as a part of me. Never knew when they would strike, but knew in the back of my mind that they could happen at any given moment. I was filled with anxiety - always. Every moment of the day, and especially in social situations (I'm already an extremely socially awkward person as it is, so this did not help my social weirdness.)
On the outside, the pregnancy looked like any other. I sent the cute announcement, I registered at Babies R Us, I emailed the cheesy pregnancy updates to our families. Had the baby shower, bought the crib, decorated the nursery - did it all. Everything by the book. And yes, it was all fun and cute and I was thankful for the support and excitement of family and friends... yet on the inside? Fear. Nervousness. Depression. Anxiety. Dread of losing my identity in this un-invited, rude baby that I had not *PLANNED* for yet nor did I feel that I was ready for. I didn't have the time for this, I didn't have the money for this, I didn't have the patience. I had places to go and big things I wanted to do. It wasn't in my nature to "just go with the flow" and let things play out, I was used to having control. I was used to waving my magic wand of selfishness and bringing things/people into my life when I wanted them there, and then getting rid of them when I was finished with them. That was my MO. Plain and simple, black and white.
My son was born. And this is supposed to be the part where I say "And then everything changed the second I saw his face! The bluebirds sang and the unicorns flew over the rainbows and everything was perfect! Hooray!"
Unfortunately, that is not what happened - at least not immediately. Yes of course I felt love for my son, because he was a product of my marriage and love for my husband. I won't deny that. But my mind was still spinning with thoughts of how life as I knew it was over, I had lost my freedom, my money, my independence, my self-identity. I felt resentment. I was no longer ME, I was now B's wife (barely) and D's mom. I held him, I fed him, I bathed him, I kissed him. I took care of him. I felt love for him. But every single day I would wake up and say "Ok, today will be the day that I will feel a CONNECTION to this baby." And then every night I would go to bed telling myself "Well, it didn't happen today. It will happen tomorrow." This went on for weeks. My *PLAN* was not working. This did not help the anxiety episodes.
One day I was home alone with him while my husband was at work. I don't remember the day of the week but (somehow) the laundry was done, dishes were clean, beds were made, and my son was between feedings and diaper changes, so he was happy as a clam. I turned some music on to get some cleaning done. And then suddenly something stopped me and told me to pick him up. Literally stopped me and told me to just pick him up. NOW. I picked him up and began swaying and dancing while holding him. And before I could explain it - I guess because I had not *PLANNED* it - he smiled. He looked at me straight in the eyes and smiled a real smile, not a gas-induced smile or a muscle twitch. He was smiling at ME. The more I swayed, the more he smiled. If I stopped, he stopped. If I started, he smiled again. He would not unlock his gaze, and I didn't dare unlock mine. I can not put into words what happened at that moment, and I didn't know it at the time, but that was the turning point. That was it, that was the unicorn jumping over the rainbow! He connected with me and I connected with him and I realized that THIS was what was supposed to be happening at that very moment, THIS may not have been my *PLAN* but this was the way it was supposed to happen and this was the exact moment when it was supposed to play out.
It was no longer just about ME and my selfish needs and wants. I had this little person who depended on me for everything - for food, for care, for unconditional love - and instead of being annoyed that I was missing out on a fun night out with friends or the wedding in Cancun, I finally - for the first time - felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing the thing that I was supposed to be doing at that very moment. I actually WANTED to give him my everything, and as these feelings grew they began chipping away at the fears and resentment and anxiety.
And all of those other things I was so worried about? They all still happened, just not on the timeline that I had *PLANNED* for myself. We still bought a new house, we have taken vacations through the years, we have made time for friends and family. We didn't miss out on anything that we had *PLANNED* for, they just all happened when they were SUPPOSED to. I gave up needing control. And that's ok. I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm am supposed to be doing. I would never go back and change any of it. The connection with him gave me such a sense of peace that I felt empowered to take on anything.
My son is 7 now. We had a few bumpy toddler years, as he is very strong-willed and sometimes self-centered (surprise, surprise!) so I always joke that I didn't like him much between the years of 2-4. Parenting is HARD! I will not lie about that. It is stressful and draining and just when you think you've made the right decision, you realize you have no idea if that was the right thing to do. There will be sleepless nights, there will be power struggles, there will be days when you are just plain exhausted and want to put him to bed at 6 PM (and you will, and then you will have a glass of wine and re-charge, and then at 9 PM you will miss him and wish that you could wake him up again to play! But you won't, because there is more wine to drink. Ha!) But there are just so many amazing moments, especially when you step back and realize that these tiny humans are such amazing little packages...
My son is hilarious and makes up riddles on his own (today's was "What is a flamingo's favorite fruit? FlaMANGO!"). He is smart - top reader in his class for the second year - yeah! He is compassionate, he questions everything, he has a love of dinosaurs and superheroes and anything that has to do with any branch of science - he even subscribes to the National Geographic Kids magazine. He feels for people - even strangers - when they are hurt; he told me the other day he felt sorry for a first grader he doesn't even know, because she broke her leg and is in a wheelchair, and he's going to ask her next week if he can help push her around. He takes money out of his pocket and gives it to street performers on his own. He gets sarcasm and dishes it out well. He strives to do his best and beams with joy when we tell him we are proud of him.
I am not saying all of this to brag about how wonderful my son is, oh trust me, we butt heads DAILY, he can be a major A-hole, we argue and fight and yell and yes, we even go to bed angry sometimes (even after saying we are sorry). I'm saying all of these things because after the daily routine muck clears away, after the tenth "pick up your socks!" and the homework tears and the skinned knees and the time-outs - you will find things about your son that are unique to him and that make you realize he is the one that was created just for you.
We have a connection that I can not put into words, we can look across the room at each other and know what the other is thinking. Several people have posted this here, and I agree that there is a very special connection between a boy and his mother. I never quite understood it until a few years ago. And when he smiles at me, even with missing teeth and all (in typical 7 year old fashion), there is no one else in the room at that moment. It takes me back to that day when he smiled at me for the very first time in that living room. The unicorn jumps over the rainbow every time. We connected that day, we have been connected since, and we will be connected forever.
(Side note: I also have a daughter who just turned 3 last week. Because she is fully in the "I'm not really sure I like her very much right now" stage of life, I will leave her out of this post because I mainly wanted to share my struggles with feeling nervous and scared about having my first. Don't get me wrong, I love my daughter to the moon and back.

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