Someone asked me this week how I liked being Mom. I said, "I do."
While today is Father's Day, I can't really speak to Being Dad, so I've been thinking about Being Mom.
My whole life - as long as I can remember - I've wanted to be Mom. Part of this is a testimony to how much I enjoyed my own mom, I think. Part of it has to do with how much I loved having and caring for my younger siblings. But I suspect a really big part of it is that I was made to have children fairly easily, it turns out.
People used to ask me how many children I wanted. Because so many times it was asked with an I-bet-you-think-your-parents-are-nuts attitude I tended to give a slightly facetious answer and say, "Fourteen!" I really doubt Ben and I have time to have fourteen and to be honest, at the moment I'm content with our one - though Ben did deliberately ask me during the roughest part of labor if I thought I could do this again and I thought it over and told him that yes, I could - but the point is that I've always wanted to have children and I'm really glad that particular wish has been realized.
That said, being Mom isn't exactly what I pictured.
Let me explain that.
For most of my life, I've heard moms tell about the wonderful deep love they experienced the moment they held their new baby for the first time. I was kind of shocked to find that when Abigail was first laid on my chest I experienced relief, contentment, happiness, and indeed love...but they were all familiar to me. There was nothing I felt or experienced that was new. In some odd way, it felt more like Abigail was another of my little sisters rather than my daughter. I don't know if that was because I loved my siblings like they were mine or if I was just so familiar with that kind of love it's what came easiest, but there was no sweep-me-off-my-feet overwhelming joy and fuzzy feelings. I did not fall in love with my baby at first sight. Actually, I would say I experienced amusement at first sight more than anything else. I took one look and said, "Who on earth does this squishy-faced funny little fat baby look like?"
(Turns out...she looks mostly like me. Except I was never quite so...hm, pudgy. Heh.)
Come to think of it, though, I'd say my experience of coming to love Ben was much the same way. That love grew. It didn't just wipe me out like a runaway train.
So there I was with my brand-new baby and I loved her like a little sister. It was a bit disconcerting. I had to squash a few thoughts drifting through my head that went something like, "I hope there's nothing wrong with me and I'm loving Abigail properly."
That was the first part of Being Mom that I didn't expect. Love for Abigail was always there - she was certainly my baby and I loved her and wanted her from the moment I first knew she was there - but I didn't know who she was so I loved her more as a concept than as a real flesh-and-blood person with a unique identity. Loving Abigail as Abigail has had to develop, just as loving Ben as Ben had to develop even though I loved my husband a long time before I met Ben.
Another unexpected thing has been not always knowing that it's okay to turn Abigail over to someone else to care for. It's not that I don't trust people like our parents or siblings or much-loved friends...it's that I often have this niggling feeling that Abigail's my responsibility and if I turn her over to someone else I'm shuffling that responsibility off on them and annoying them if Abigail's being weepy (which she has the sad tendency to be if not diligently walked so she can observe life from all angles). It's a weird unsettled feeling that I'm reneging on my job. This is not entirely unreasonable on my part, given that Abigail has to stick pretty close to me to be fed and having a nursling separate from her mother is bound to give her mother a faint sense of uneasiness. But I've had to continually remind myself that I spent a lot of time caring for my little brothers and sisters and enjoyed it and when they were being crabby I didn't mind or feel that Mom was dumping her responsibilities on me. I treasured that time; and I can see others treasuring that time with Abigail also.
I also tend to have a stab of guilt when someone wants to hold Abby and she's being whiny or generally not amenable to the idea. Especially when someone (like my Grandma) says in disappointment, "She just doesn't like me - she always cries when I hold her." Why I should feel guilty about this, I have no idea. It's not anyone's fault if Abigail still acts like a baby at four months and I expect she'll come into a pleasanter frame of mind as she gets older and has the benefit of more training about being polite and un-whiny. But I want Abigail to be cheerful and smiley and agreeable to whoever I hand her to...and from Abigail's perspective, she wants to be with Mom and doesn't know all these other people Mom gives her to even if Mom knows and loves them.
This is probably why Proverbs says an unruly son is a grief to his mother. Right now Abigail's being a baby who by nature needs to be deeply attached to her mother. She's not doing anything "bad", just not exactly what I'd like her to do. However, if she were older and doing things that were actively bad, I already know that'd be a grief to me.
Another facet of Being Mom: the enormity of what I've set out to do (WE'VE set out to do - but I'm writing about Being Mom, not the even greater job of Being Dad). Even being Big Sister for most of my life had not fully prepared me for the intense responsibility of being one of two people who are constantly in charge of what needs to happen with this baby. And everything rests on us, to a very large extent. Abigail's health, happiness, and future depend on our ability to know and teach her what's good; and not only Abigail's future, but the future of her children and grandchildren down the line. No matter how much a person might know that in theory, it's a whole new thing when this little person is laid on your chest and you realize that you're starting completely from scratch: everything this new person needs to learn and know and do has been entrusted to your care, and if you mess up...the repercussions can be devastating beyond imagination. This little person can either be your greatest joy...or can absolutely break your heart.
Not that this is a unique realization; but having Abigail is not at all like being given a complete little kit including a booklet of instructions and a process by which you can cook up the perfect woman in 18 years. There is no silver bullet, no neat step-by-step process for helping her finish growing into the kind of being God created her to be. And with this task, very small thoughts can be the difference between success or failure on Ben's and my part. It's all about how we think, not what steps we take; and it's pretty easy for thoughts not to be in order.
Another unexpected moment in the life of Being Mom: when my mom is holding Abigail and Abigail starts crying, I sub-consciously expect Mom to take her off and nurse her. Hey, I spent twenty years of life with Mom having one nursling after another: when the baby's hungry, I still expect Mom to be the one to feed her. It still takes me a few seconds to remember, "Oh wait, that's my job." I didn't realize I would have any hesitation at all adjusting to being in that position.
And last, but not least (for today): it's still a surprise to me when Abigail is crying and crying and I realize her problem is that she's been away from Mom too long and all I have to do is pick her up and cuddle her and she'll be fine. I tell her that kind of attachment is very flattering...for about three seconds. I don't think she believes me.
Speaking of which, she is now awake and crying. She likes sleeping on her stomach in her co-sleeper, but when she wakes up she "crawls" to the head of it by putting her face on the sheets and wriggling her legs to move. It's not a good method of crawling and she loudly lets me know how unhappy she is with it. I keep telling her about hands and knees but I don't she believes me about that yet either. Oh well. She'll get there.
When we first got married, it seemed like everyone had the same question for us for months: "So, how's married life?"
It was an awkward question to answer, honestly. The surface answer - the one that everyone wanted to hear and which was quite true even if not very descriptive - was "It's wonderful!"
And it was. It was and it has only grown more so.
But there was more to the story than that.
Saying "It's wonderful" doesn't really describe what it's when your husband can gently but firmly tell you, "I knew you lied to me when you told me you didn't believe in bad moods. What you were really saying back then was that you didn't WANT to believe in bad moods...but you still believe in them because you have one right now. This isn't going to get better until you fix your attitude."
I know. Some girls out there who might be reading this are probably saying, "Huh?! What kind of thing is that to cite as a wonderful romantic thing about your husband and marriage?"
But this is why I married Benjamin Paul Turner. Because a wonderful man who tells the truth honestly and lovingly is rare; and a marriage in which a husband can say this to his wife will have more happiness in it than one in which the husband brings his wife breakfast in bed every day - something that's often seen as romantic but doesn't have a lick of usefulness when it comes to real-life things like taking care of grandmas and new babies.
Saying "It's wonderful" doesn't do justice to what it's like to be part of a marriage in which two people genuinely want to be together all the time. The other day Abigail was being a pickle and I finally marched her out of the house and put her in the stroller so I could walk her up and down. I do this quite a bit, walking her back and forth on a stretch of sidewalk about five houses long so I can keep looking in the window to make sure Grandma Lila is okay. The difference on this particular day was that Ben was home and I marched out anyway.
Before we were married, Ben and I did nearly everything together. We both wanted a marriage where the husband and wife were together and we figured the best way to determine if we wanted to marry each other was to live our life that way so we could see each other constantly in "normal" situations and be comfortable enough with each other that we would be able to actually see each other as we normally were as opposed to on our "company behavior". It worked very well: we did decide to get married and after a year and a half (and two children) we've yet to be surprised by each other's character. Life together is in many ways very much as we expected when we got married.
However, one thing that changed after we got married is that we became responsible for Grandma Lila's care. Initially, we thought that would mean a sort of general presence which would include us making sure Grandma had her meals and the house was taken care of and she got medicine on time, the kind of general companionship you have when you live in a family. Since Ben only works at the office during the afternoon, we thought it wouldn't be too difficult for us to manage things in such a way that I would continue to do everything with him as we had before.
Things did not work out as we had planned. It was made clear to us that while it was obvious Ben had to go to work, it was not so obvious that Lauren had to be with Ben; and since someone needed to be with Grandma Lila, Lauren was the one who was going to stay home. That was to be Lauren's job.
Does it sound like I'm still a little sad about this? Well, I am. Not because of having Grandma with us - and not because she actually needs so much more care than what I described - but because it has meant a lot of separation between Ben and I; and the thing we were and still are afraid of in this is that we'd get used to it and the closeness we had anticipated, desired, and planned for would vanish as we lost the sensitivity of needing to be together.
The other day when I took Abigail out and began walking her up and down even when Ben was home was a product of us getting used to being apart. I've gotten used to doing this without Ben, so I had no red flags about doing it without him even when he was there.
Ben realized this and came out looking for me. "We have to be very careful," he said. "This is a little thing now, but pretty soon we can start doing more and more apart and the next thing you know, we'll have two separate lives like so many other people do. If it's good to take Abigail for a walk, I'm more than happy to go for a walk."
And that is why marriage to Ben is wonderful. Because having a husband who reasons with me and protects me is what I was hoping for when I married him.
I knew time had been flying by, but I had no idea it was flying quite so fast. It really doesn't seem like a month since my last post, but I just realized the date stamp on it is May 11th, so...that sounds like a month to me.
I've updated our House Progress page to have a longer slideshow; in a nutshell, we now have a complete basement and the first floor deck is in place, meaning we no longer have a big hole directly out of our kitchen doorwall. Our garage is full of lumber for the framing of the house and Benjamin, Isaac, and Aaron spent a while today lining things up so the full crew can come in and do probably a very large chunk of the rough carpentry tomorrow.
Today also marks the first day the newest Joseph was present on the job - or rather, the first day he was present outside of Leah. John Benjamin Joseph spent the afternoon here mostly snoozing and eating, but given his heritage I suspect it's not going to be too long before he's out there working as hard as his daddy, uncles and grandfather. Abigail currently looks huge next to him, but he's catching up fast and he was born with his hands and feet already bigger than hers - he's going to be a big boy, but right now he's long and lanky and Abigail looks bigger because she's so much heavier.
It's been pretty busy around here, between construction and keeping up our normal things. Abigail began "talking" this week and has a lot to say - she rides around much of the day in her baby carrier with me and loudly comments on everything from washing dishes to watching the work go on outside. She really likes all the activity and continues to be busy and want to move all the time, which has prompted Mom Turner to state that Abigail has a personality that's a combination of me, Mom Turner, and Dad Tuckfield. She followed the comment by saying our next baby needs to have a personality that's a combination of Ben, Mom Tuckfield, and Dad Turner - in other words, a quiet peaceable laid-back sort of person instead of a busy-busy-go-getter.
I have more to say, but wanted to put a post up before any more time slipped by and putting slideshow pictures in turned out to be pretty time-consuming. After a month with Internet not behaving much at all, I'm happy we seem to've mostly solved the problem and that'll make the whole process of posting pictures much faster and easier; but it still took my all my spare time today to get those up. Enjoy and hopefully it'll be much quicker than a month before I put more up!
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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