My mother always said, “You’ll never know how much I love you until you have children of your own.” I don’t even remember why she’d tell us this. Maybe because we’d have disputes about who loved each other more? Who knows? What I do know is that she was right. I didn’t know how much my mom loved me (and continues to love me) until I had my first child. I get it now. I completely understand why my mother would cry when she watched the news. I understand why my mother would cry when she saw her babies hurt. In my early twenties I cried over a boy; I understand why my mother cried her eyes out as she saw me crying. I get it. Once my younger sister and I hid in my brother’s closet for hours. My dad went around the neighborhood looking for us. We thought it would be so funny to hide. We just sat in his closet giggling as they called out our names. Well, I can tell you that once my brother found us and told my dad where we were, it was anything but funny. I don’t know how we didn’t get a beating that day! I remember my dad saying to us, “No les voy a dar una nalgada pero quiero que vayan a ver como esta su mama.” I will never forget how badly my mother was sobbing and how tightly she was hugging us. I’m so sorry, mom! I understand now.
I found out I was pregnant on my birthday. I remember it was a Tuesday and I wasn’t at work. I was recovering from a hangover. I had spent the weekend celebrating my birthday with friends. I felt like I was getting old because it took me two and half days to recover. I mean I had just spent the weekend drinking myself to oblivion. It’s not one of my proudest moments, but it’s the way it went. Anyway, I remember looking at the pregnancy test and feeling confused. My first thought was, “My life is over,” followed by, “Oh, God! I just spent the weekend drinking.” Thankfully my son is a healthy and smart boy, so it’s safe to say that crazy weekend didn’t affect his well-being. Thank you, Jesus.
The truth is I was terrified to have kids. I didn’t doubt my ability to care for them but being that my mother has been ill since I was very young I felt that I wouldn’t have the support that I believed I would need from her. I wasn’t ready, but in reality when is anyone ever ready to have children? No one can truly be 100% prepared to deal with everything that comes with having children.
Before the first kid popped out, I read some books and googled everything I thought would benefit me knowing. I knew I’d be sleep deprived and that I’d be changing diapers and have vomit on me more often than not. I knew that me-time would be little to non-existent. I expected having to be selfless in the pursuit of raising them and that I would have to decline outings with friends. I knew that traveling alone would not be an option unless I had trustworthy caretakers and that traveling with them would mean a lot more crap to deal with. I knew all this would be worth it because of the “unspeakable joy” everyone that has children talks about. I anticipated looking at the world through their innocent and loving eyes. I knew that they’d smile and laugh and call me ‘momma’ and that all the sleepless nights wouldn’t seem so bad.
The thing that no one told me, that no one warned me about or gave me the tiniest heads-up about was the heartache that comes with being a mother. Absolutely nothing prepares you for the heartache you’ll unavoidably feel. This isn’t a negative post about parenting and I’m not saying that being a mother sucks. It’s not a post to discourage anyone from having children of their own. It’s simply my disclaimer, if you will, for those that don’t have children and can only try to understand the reasoning behind a mother freaking out over things pertaining to her children.
No one tells you that your heart will be so exposed. Not literally, obviously, but no one tells you how vulnerable and sensitive your heart will be after having children. It’s like your heart is at the mercy of this world. I can’t speak for all mothers but for the most part you aim to protect your children from all harm and raise them the best way you can. It’s inevitable to feel the hurt that comes with the territory.
I feel compelled to write about this after the gut-wrenching experience I encountered the other day. We were invited to spend the evening BBQing at my friend’s apartment since a few of our mutual friends were in town. Their complex has a pool right by the BBQ pits so, of course, my three-year old boy loves going to their place. Half way there my husband remembers that we hadn’t packed my sons life vest. We were both pretty bummed but quickly realized there is a Wal-Mart on the way (the Target on the way to their place is closed permanently). Anyway, my son being the fearless boy he is wanted to get in the pool with or without a life-vest but knowing the tragedies that can occur to children in the water, we stopped at Walmart to buy one and yet again, Wal-Mart fails me. I don’t know how or why they didn’t have any but there were no life vests (thank you, Inventory Manager) so we continued to the BBQ and once we arrived, we warned him to stay by the wall and not to be jumping inside unless mom or dad were in there with him.
During the first ten minutes being at the pool I see my husband jump in fully clothed. I thought he was jumping in to play with my son. When he came out of the water I said, “You better not have your phone on you.” Everyone starred at me blankly. He replied, “Oh yes, like I care about my phone right now.” I didn’t know why he was speaking to me that way but my friend stated that my son was sinking. I hadn’t seen him which is terrifying in and of itself. I told my husband that I hadn’t seen my son sinking and that it was a good thing or else he would no longer be playing in the pool.
The evening continued. We enjoyed each other’s company and some of us got in the pool. I stayed on the ledge with one leg inside the water as I held my three-month old. The time came for us to head upstairs to eat so I told my son that he had two more minutes to play. He had been jumping in the pool and reaching the wall as he came up. I watched as he jumped in but this time he jumped a little too far from the side of the pool and couldn’t reach the edge as he came up. I watched him struggle to come back up as he tried desperately to reach the edge. He was fluttering his arms trying to reach mine for help. He was literally at arms-length away and I could not get a grasp of him. I sat on the ledge holding my three-month old as I desperately tried to get him out. Everything was in slow-motion for me at this point. I know I was calling for my husband. I’m not sure if I was yelling but thankfully my friend was sitting by me. We were finally able to grab him out of the water. He leaped into my arms and I clung to both of them tightly. I could feel my heart beating so fast as if to pop out of my chest. This less than a minute event was terrifying to say the least. He must have been submerged for less than ten seconds but in that moment time slowed down making it feel like an eternity. This is my baby!
I can’t even begin to put into words what I felt. So many thoughts ran through my head as my husband grabbed him asking if he was ok. I turned away from them and tried to collect myself so that my son wouldn’t see me freaking out. I didn’t want him to feel more afraid. Have you ever freaked out but not been able to express it? That’s how I felt! At that very instant I wanted to scream and cry. I was overcome with anger, sadness, pain, relief and gratitude all at the same time. I felt a knot in my throat as I tried to compose myself and not allow anyone to see how petrified I truly was. Your life can change in an instant and although this was, thankfully, only a scare, it was also a rude awakening. It taught me to be more patient with my children and not to take them for granted.
I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to be a mother.