Sunday, November 23, 2014

What No One Told Me About Being a Parent

When I was pregnant, I heard everything imaginable about pregnancy, labor, and being a new parent. I grilled everyone I knew and read weekly pregnancy updates from bloggers so I could compare their symptoms to my own.
I knew I would be tired. Really, really tired. I knew that there would be times when I would be so overwhelmed that I would break down in tears. I even knew that I would come to love this little person in my stomach more than I ever could imagine, and that that incredible all-encompassing love would make the exhaustion and the overwhelming feelings and the fact that most of my clothes will never fit quite the same way ever again seem not nearly so important.
What I was not prepared for--what no one mentioned to me even once, not even in whispers or on message boards or as a casual remark after a glass or two of wine--was that being a mother would make me FEEL so much more.
It's not just about my beautiful daughter and how overwhelmingly powerful my love is for her. It has nothing to do with the fact that I would literally jump in front of a car for her without hesitation and that now I can say that without a little voice in my head thinking "but would I really??" It doesn't even have to do with how much more love and respect I have for my husband after seeing how much he loves her. It's bigger than that. It's bigger than I am.
I feel everything. When I watch the news my chest hurts so much that I can hardly stand it. I can't help but put myself in the position of every parent and every child in each grisly story. When I hear a story about a selfless act or a hometown hero my eyes tear up with joy. It's like someone attached a faucet to my heart and now my emotions ooze out like squeezable grape jelly.
Often it makes me feel powerless. Utterly impotent. I can't adopt every foster child or every kid who lost their parents to Ebola in Africa. I can't wrap my arms around them and hug them and tell them that they are loved and special and worthy. I can't bury my nose in their necks and smell their sweet scent of Dreft and Baby Shampoo and Cheerios.
I can't pay the bills for every parent who is out of work or underpaid or worrying about how they will buy new shoes for their sons or give lunch money to their daughters.
I can't provide a home for every bleary-eyed dog and cat in the rather manipulative SPCA ads on TV.
I stay up at night thinking about all of this. Not because I'm a good person, not because I'm a bleeding heart, but because something has removed the protective shield that used to allow me to process things from a safe distance.
That's why I'm reaching out to the wonderful and generous people that I know to provide some warm pajamas to some children who really need them. Because thinking about Olivia needing something to sleep in at night, or not having a parent to tuck her in, or being so excited about something as basic as a book makes me feel like my chest can't expand enough for me to breathe.
There are a million worthy causes out there and even more worthy people. I understand that it's a time of year when everyone is asking you for something. I will not pressure you or judge you or force you to listen to Sarah McLachlan songs while scrolling photos of pathetic animals when all you want to do is watch the rest of Gilmore Girls. I will just ask that if you do have a few dollars to spare or a few minutes to go buy a pair of children's pajamas and arrange to get them to me, then it would mean an awful lot. I'll probably cry, because apparently that's what I do now.
Good night and God Bless.