Today my book, Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, launches out into the world, and I want to give my sweet friends here at Coffee + Crumbs a little peek. This is the first chapter, “A Complete Lobotomy of the Heart.”
I’m going to need a hug before I get started. I’m about to tell you about my relationships with women, but I’m not completely all that terrific at small talk, so can we skip ahead together and pretend like we’ve known each other for a while? Come over here and hug it out.
Okay. Thanks for that.
When we finally brought our Elliott home from neonatal intensive care and my husband had the gall to go back to work and leave me alone with our four-pound floppy baby, I felt overwhelmed.
I’m not the only one, right?
Young mothers are shriveling up into crusty dried raisins of despair. Every minute feels like forever when your two-year-old wants to put on her own socks and your five-year-old won’t get in the bathtub. When you’re a mom, you spend hours and hours sitting with other moms while your kids kick a soccer ball, learn how to blow bubbles in the pool, and shake maracas at music class.
You bat eyes at each other and glance away. It’s awkward and someone always needs a diaper change and no one ever knows what to say. And most of us are frazzled and lonely, isolated in our minivans, schlepping bags, strollers, and munchkins to and fro across town.
I believe that we are better together. We make each other better moms, better humans. We need each other, because mothering is just too darn hard. Women Are Scary is our journey to each other, to finding our people and being other people’s people, to learning how to bless each other and not destroy each other.
My Lumpy, Bumpy Road
I’m the least likely person to write a book about motherhood. For years, I didn’t want to be a mom. My boyfriend and I almost broke up because of it.
I have the most amazing parents in the universe. Ever. My mother stayed at home with my brother and me, and she could do it all. Baked goods greeted us when we came home from school. She was room mom, made homemade dinners every night, and we always had folded, clean clothes. When I was wracked out in pain every month because, unbeknownst to me, endometriosis was killing my fertility, she held my hand, brought me meds, and whispered to me to think of my toes. Think of your toes, sweetie. Relax your toes.
My mom gave everything she had to be a superhero to us, and even so, we treated her like crap. Despite her self-sacrifice and outpouring of unconditional love, we took her for granted, took advantage of her, took her cookies and ran.
I told my boyfriend that I couldn’t handle the sacrifice. I told him, “I’ll have kids if I can be the dad. I don’t want to be the mom.” I could never live up to my mom, and my kids deserved nothing less. So I just wouldn’t have them.
We almost ended it there, but we were in love and total idiots. We decided to table the discussion and keep swing dancing and watching Fletch together. A few years later, we got married, and a few years after that, I felt the oddest urge to do the mom thing, like maybe the baby wouldn’t start rejecting me right when it came out. Like maybe the first few years might be worth it. Like maybe even if I wasn’t as good a mom as my mom, maybe I could be good enough. I found myself experiencing a complete lobotomy of the heart. I wanted a baby. I really, really wanted to be a mom.
Then I discovered I couldn’t.
Every year that crept by felt like twelve deaths. I rode a monthly merry-go-round of up-up-up hope, hanging at the top, feeling maybe this time, then down-down-down into despair. Every month it felt like my dream baby died. On the road of infertility, I discovered how far I was willing to go for my child. I would endure any needle, any surgery, anything for my baby.
And finally after five years, I held him. The little preemie red raisin who survived my body, barely, and lay in his incubator hooked up to all the beeping things. He made me a mommy. And I loved him.
I loved being Mommy. I loved it so much that I tried to make more babies—more needles and science and more brokenness.
My body told me, “You’re done,” and after months of counseling, I began to feel whole again. God glued me back together, shard by broken shard, and then surprised me with an unexpected gift, a passion for adoption—passion, not fallback. Adoption became the deep desire of my heart, not a backup plan.
We worked and waited for our daughter for two years, and it still surprises me how hard I work for the children I didn’t used to want.
We brought our daughter home from Ethiopia when she was almost two. Now she’s four, our incubator boy is six, and as I finish this book, I’m sitting in a cozy apartment in Latvia with the nine-year-old girl who has captivated us all. Three continents, three kids, and three unique journeys to each of them.
As I’ve met moms, from the ones at our local playground to the ones advocating for orphans around the world, I’m flabbergasted that I ever had a dim view of motherhood. I saw it as giving something up. It never occurred to me what I’d gain. My rough road to motherhood grew my character and readied me to join this incredible group of women, powerhouse women changing lives around the world together.
Mothers are strong and powerful, and when we join together in relationship, mountains move. The girl who once turned up her nose at motherhood fought tooth and nail to enter in. I’m still fighting for my kids.
As I gained kids, I gained so much more. I entered into a living, loving organism of motherhood. Society fears our power, seeks to divide us on issues, but when we pull together for the common good of generations, we change the world.
So I’m here, oddly enough, the girl who didn’t want to be a mom, the girl who couldn’t be a mom, trying to break down these crazy things I call momlationships. You know, those relationships that come with carpools and cupcakes, friendships borne at tee-ball games and in quiet corners feeding babies.
Whether you became a mom accidentally or on purpose, hesitantly or with gusto, you’re here now, and sooner or later, we’re going to meet at a park or soccer game or ballet class. And it might get awkward.
In this space of a book I invite us to come together. So much of mothering doesn’t seem to apply to me—like Pinterest. And other parts of me don’t seem to apply to mothering—like my unabashed movie quoting. If pages don’t apply to you, read my story and have the freedom and grace to live your own. No matter who you are, you are welcome.