Friday, February 02, 2007

The Motherhood Tattoo

Sarah wrote about how "motherhood is tattooed on her soul".

I think about motherhood a lot and how it has completely transformed me, and that the transformation was not a surprise. I had big dreams when I was a kid and teenager and in university. Big plan and lots of expectations. Being a wife and mother factored into those dreams, but the long-term planning stopped at the birth. It's like I knew it was going to change but since I didn't know exactly how, I couldn't plan for it. All I really knew was that if there was anyway possible, I wanted to be an at-home mom.

I remember being pregnant and having lunch with my girl-friends and debating being "at-home" (when you have that option). There was one friend with a super high-powered job with her child having three meals a day in childcare because she and her husband worked such long hours. Her argument was that she wanted to go back to work because she might miss out on a great professional opportunity. I said what job could be better than being there and raising your child until they are ready to leave on their own; why have kids if I only saw them nights and weekends; that I knew for myself, there would never be a professional opportunity more exciting, more satisfying, more amazing than being home with my child. She didn't say much after that.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I started to live on his salary and bank mine for a down-payment for a house. I knew we needed to "practice" living on one income. When we did start to look for a house we based the mortgage on one and a half incomes (I knew then I had to go back at least part-time), not two mortgages so we wouldn't get in over our heads. We bought the house we never thought we would, in an area we never thought about because it made sense and we could afford it, and of course, it turned out to be the right decisions.

Baby came. As soon as I recovered, literally and figuratively, I started thinking about childcare. Who could I trust? Was there anyone really on the planet capable of taking are of my child, outside of myself and Grammie and Grammie lived too far away. And where do I find this person?

So I went to my church. I did some investigating and found the super-childcare giver. Who, of course, had the maximum number of children she could care for in her home (I wanted a home environment). But, she recommended Susan, a woman she would have take care of her children if she needed a caregiver.

So I interviewed Susan. Went to her home, checked out her family and home and asked my 30 or so questions. Checked out her references and decided I could try and trust her with my precious, precious six-month old baby.

I'll never forget my first day back at work. Went to work and was 40 minutes late getting to my desk. Everyone knew it was my first day back and assumed I was having a hard time leaving my baby. Oh, no, I said. I was here on time, I've just been in the parking lot, crying for the last 40 minutes but I'm OK now.

Marly stayed with Susan from the time she was six-months old until she was four and a half, when I finally had the chance to start being a stay-at-home mom. She was wonderful. She indulged my every new-mother whim/neurosis. Her own son and another little girl were the same age as Marly so she formed a tight group of little friends, that lasted for years. Susan was very close to her parents so they became Nanny and Grandad to my child as well. Susan was a gift given to me that I will be forever grateful to, as I remember her every Christmas and Mother's Day so she will know how important I think she is/was to the early development of my little girl.

Here comes the "motherhood's stamped on your soul" bit, that motherhood may cause you to change and do things that under any other circumstances you may have run to the hills. Motherhood has certainly done that to me.

One evening, when she was a toddler, I was changing her and noticed some bruising in her "private area". She was also toddler-babbling about her diaper and how one of the little boys wouldn't let her have diaper.


So, on the one hand, she's a toddler, she can't talk, she doesn't know what is going on, Susan and her family have been wonderful to me and my family. WHAT I AM THINKING IS CRAZY AND EVEN IF IT'S NOT, WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

(At this point, let me say I am a people-pleaser, NON CONFRONTATIONAL person by nature, although I am working on that, successfully I might add.)

On the other hand, she is a toddler, she doesn't know what is happening, who are these people anyway and IT IS UP TO ME TO PROTECT HER. Do I tell her when she's older, I was too embarrassed to bring up the subject of the suspicious bruising so I sacrificed your life so I wouldn't have to say anything uncomfortable?

My comfort zone is begging me to say nothing, "I'm sure it's nothing, you are over-reacting, leave it alone. If you talk to Susan, she will hate you and you will lose a good sitter".

But that "mother lion and cub" thing just took over and I knew I had to say something, even though I had no idea what would happen.

So I did. I talked to Susan about the bruising and the toddler comments about the diapers. Not accusing, but certainly inquiring about abuse, so really I was accusing her at some level. Susan was heartbroken, I was heartbroken, that we were having this conversation. But how could I not? We were so crushed. Later on after Susan thought about it, she noticed that their new coffee table/heavy wooden chest with pointy corners was just the right height and she had also seen Marly bang into it since it was a new piece of furniture and everyone was just getting used to it (Marly has never been known for her grace to this day). The diapers: her son had been "helping" Susan when she needed to change the kids and thought it was fun to play "keep-away" with the diapers. When I later talked to her and wondered if we would be able to maintain our relationship, she was gracious and said we could. She also said that she hoped that if there was ever a question about the care of her child, that she would have enough courage to do the same.

It was an amazing experience. Until that point I was brought up to "suck it up". There was questionable behaviour in my own family by a certain uncle and when the grandkids were born, my sister and I demanded that he was never to be alone with our kids as we had been. My mother was horrified about our demands and worried what her sister would say (the uncle's wife) but the other family members immediately agreed and it made me wonder what my mother would sacrifice for "peace" in the family.

When my own child's safety was in question, I was shocked at the powerfulness of my urge to protect her at all costs. And I knew I would take whatever measures I would need, without question or delay, to make sure that she was not harmed in any way. It's that POWER of emotions that amazes me. I didn't know it was there until I needed it. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE is a powerful thing. I feel I am a better person for experiencing it. The mother-child bond is so fierce I can't really explain it, just feel it.

Sarah's right, motherhood is tattooed on my soul. The only tattoo I will ever have and I'll be proud of it for the rest of my life.


1 comment:

Barb said...

It's hard to imagine any mother who wouldn't do exactly what you did, Sandy. There's no relationship that matters more than the one you have with your husband and your child. I'm glad your provider was so understanding and I'm glad there was a good explanation for the bruising.

You don't have to explain that powerful love to me. I've always said there's no way to explain it but when you become a mother you know it without ever having had to have it explained at all.

Beautiful post.