A friend of mine posted today asking friends what their mission statement as a parent was. My first thought was, “On a daily basis or as a long-term goal?” She responded, “both” which left me thinking about the subject all day. It’s definitely something I think about all the time. regardless.
I did not grow up dreaming about being a mom. For a long time I was entirely convinced I just wasn’t the type of person “meant” to be a parent. I am not a natural caretaker, and I’ve never been good with kids. Hell, I wasn’t even all that good with kids when I was one. Then I met my future husband, and my attitude did an abrupt about-face. Not for him, mind you, but certainly in part because of him. How could I look at the man I loved with all of my heart and not want to create little beings who would be a part of each of us? So I’d changed my mind, but getting there was trickier than I could have imagined. It took us 15 months to get pregnant with my son… 15 very long months. They seemed long, anyway. Long enough that we started to be concerned that there might in fact be something wrong. Long enough that the giddiness we started out with was well and truly gone. When you’re single, you’re convinced that even if you do everything perfectly (well, as perfectly as one can without practicing abstinence) you’ll somehow end up pregnant. When you start trying to get pregnant and it turns out not to be as easy as you’d imagined, it seems like the world’s biggest irony.
After 15 months, we did get pregnant, no medical intervention required. We were elated. Then, after 13 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, heard a sound like running water and thought I’d peed my pants. Looked down and saw blood all over the floor… a terrifying amount of blood. I assumed I had miscarried and immediately went into a state of shock. I couldn’t even see the point of going to the ER… I told Chris they weren’t going to be able to do anything, anyway. In the end, we did go to the emergency room, where I was forced to describe what had happened. They asked about pain, and I responded there had been none. I was told I probably had miscarried but they wanted to do an ultrasound regardless, to determine that I was all right. I remember thinking that was stupid, and that I obviously wasn’t all right. They had already given me an exam and were startled by the amount of blood. I was still bleeding, although not as profusely. Got taken to the ultrasound room, feeling like I was caught in a nightmare. The tech spread the gel over my abdomen. There was a long pause, and then I remember Chris telling me to look at the screen, and I couldn’t understand why he would want that. The screen was massive… not a small computer monitor like the normal ones but a giant one mounted near the ceiling. I saw it when we came into the room and thought it was cruel to have the screen so large here, of all places. I couldn’t imagine people ended up there often under happy circumstances. Anyway, again Chris told me again to look, that it was all right. I couldn’t imagine anything being all right, ever again, but somehow I looked. There on the screen was my baby, moving… dancing. The arms and legs were all in wild motion, and suddenly the giant screen didn’t seem like such a bad idea, after all. I couldn’t believe it. The detail was incredible… the last ultrasound I’d had he’d looked like a tadpole. Instead, now there was a baby on the screen above my head. A dancing baby. A very obviously alive baby. A miracle, really. I sobbed with joy.
No one was ever able to definitely tell me what had happened. They call it a “threatened abortion,” which seems like the worst name ever. Not only could they not tell me what had happened, or why, they couldn’t promise it would be okay, either. I spent the next several weeks afraid to move, as if lying still with my legs clamped tight would prevent a miscarriage. I prayed constantly, but I only wanted one outcome. God’s will in this was not relevant to me. I wanted one thing: that the dancing baby would live. The other thing I prayed for, almost as often, was his happiness. I wanted a happy child, probably because I hadn’t been one. I didn’t want my child to ever experience the kind of unhappiness I’d struggled with. Still don’t.
So my mission statement as a parent? Day to day, my goal is to remember what matters, to breathe before yelling, and to love them and make sure they know they are loved. Long-term, my goal is that they become strong, confident human beings who know exactly who they are and are completely comfortable with it. It’s also my long-term goal for myself, as it happens. Goals are a good thing.