I became a mother the same way I’ve reached many of life’s big milestones: without having planned to do so. Having been blessed with attention deficit disorder (diagnosed) and an assertiveness deficiency (in my own words), I’ve frequently sought others to make decisions on my behalf: my parents dictated where I went to college; my husband–well, he asked me to marry him; my career has meandered as I simply take whatever work makes itself available. I’ve never regretted sitting in the passenger’s seat.
And so it was with becoming a mother. After discovering that the wives of two of his coworkers were expecting, my husband began, with increasing regularity, to attempt discussions about our future. But when he realized that I would not drop my non-committal stance, he took matters into his own hands. On New Year’s Eve, at a hotel in New Mexico, I was giddily tipsy, and he saw his window of opportunity. Four weeks later, I saw the double stripe.
A queasy sense of joy was quickly followed by a full-blown panic attack. Having taken Adderall every workday since I was 22, I didn’t know how to function without it. I spent several weeks sleeping, eating, and doing little else. At work, I was a zombie. At home, reading What to Expect left me snoring. I fretted over how the amphetamines might have affected the tiny embryo in its early weeks.
And yet, as my belly grew (and grew and grew), so did my confidence. My doctor emphasized how well my pregnancy was progressing; my coworkers had noticed only subtle changes in my work habits, and once I was discovered eating two hamburgers before 11 a.m. fessed up to the cause, they were quite supportive.
As is typical with ADD-folks, I lacked an overall plan, instead focusing all my energy on only the details that interested me. I cultivated a birthing playlist and spent hours researching what kind of crib to get. I wanted a natural birth and I wanted to breastfeed, but that was the extent of my grasp on my future as a mom.
Aside: When I got to college, I cried for six months. I said I’ve never regretted sitting in the passenger’s seat, and that’s true–I don’t know what I would have done differently had I been at the helm–but I hadn’t really realized just how far away college would seem, and just how lonely I would be.
Can you guess what’s coming?
Anna finally made her appearance, all nine pounds of her, after 10 hours of labor and another three hours of pushing. She was perfect, in my arms. But next thing I knew, we were back home; shortly thereafter, my mom went back to Philadelphia and my husband returned to work. It was just me and that little bundle.
There was no manual, and I had no intuition. Breastfeeding was hard, my anxieties mingled with my hormones in a way I hadn’t known was possible, and when you add only a few hours’ sleep per night to the mix, I was bordering on the edge of sanity. I panicked over whether Anna was getting enough to eat; I whimpered in pain every time she nursed. I stared at my body and its stretch marks with horror. I had become a mother, and it did not look the way it did in the books.
Yet unlike my freshman year of college, I did not have the luxury of time to sit in my closet and cry. This tiny baby needed me. Before I knew it, she began to reward my doubtful parenting with smiles, then laughs, and eventually hugs and kisses. For all my ineptitudes, Anna never knew to doubt me, and as such my confidence has grown.
I’ve not established the structures or routines that would make our lives easier. Bedtime is inconsistent, baths are infrequent, and we only remember to enforce the use of silverware about half the time (which is not a lot, considering Anna is almost 4 now). I realize that might make me a failure in the eyes of some, but I can’t imagine it any differently. My child gets my unconditional love, vocally and actively, every single day. It’s the best I can do.
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