On parenthood

February 7, 2012

I think that with age…….. comes wisdom.

I also think that when you are the parent of an 11 year old…. people tend to forget that you ever did have a newborn baby. Just because you have gotten regular sleep for over 5 years now…..doesn’t mean that you didn’t spend the early years up all night and chasing baby around the world. I always smile when the kids (I call em kids) these days tell me how life is. And then I think…. oh honey you haven’t seen anything yet. I have more life experience at 38 years of age than I really care to, and the past eleven years have been the best of my life. They don’t come easy though.

I can’t explain what it’s like to be at hour 12 of labor, crouched on the side of the bed with a belly so huge you can’t bend forward anymore. Your husband on his knees and snot running down your face, mixing with tears as yet another contraction comes your way the moment they are inserting the epidural needle into your spinal column, which is the same moment your water breaks, which is the same moment you hit pure exhaustion because as I said….. it is hour 12 and Pitocin has launched you into a special place of hell. And you’ve got well over five hours to go.

And good god FaceBook and Twitter aren’t around to share your special moments of joy.

“I was incontinent” I sobbed to the nurses taking care of me. Who kept reminding me to stop being a nurse and start being a patient right about now. Knowledge is dangerous in this situation.

I got the four person boost to the top of the bed.

I can’t exactly describe the feeling of not being able to feel your legs but your husband is holding one up, and even wiggling it around… can you feel that?  How about that? To try to bring some humor to a dire situation.

It was the day of the Bush/ Gore election. At 7pm my nurse left as she said to me, “When I come back tomorrow morning at 7, we will have a new baby and a new president.”

At 7am the following morning, we had neither. Bitch.

I remember my OB trying to decide whether we C section it or go for another hour. I hadn’t done an Ironman yet but there was something about finishing this up before hour 17 that was motivating to me. After all this work I didn’t want to have a C section…… but at the same time ice chips were not cutting this Ironman. I didn’t care if they pulled him out through my nose. The pain… it was tolerable after the epidural. I had always thought I’d go the natural way. Until Pitocin. I would have snorted something if I could have.

Something happens to you the moment your child is born. When your child is born in distress it’s a whole separate sort of hell. You think you know love, fear, pain and exhilaration. You know none of that. None of it. When that child is on the outside of you…… you suddenly feel all of these emotions deeper than you have ever felt anything in your life. Ever. Trust me on that.

When all was said and done and they placed him in my arms……. it was the best feeling of my life. One I can’t describe. That feeling has never gone away, never faltered. Never.

As I look at this young man now, eleven years old, that feeling has not faded but strengthened. It’s like you go from a place of toddlerhood and keeping all of the balls in the air to……. having this amazing person that you hold actual conversations with. You listen to dreams. You watch them achieve and you stand back and allow them to fail. Failing is a part of life. Where better to fail than in the home of people who love you more than anything.

I look at this kid and I laugh. I didn’t sleep for years with him. I didn’t have a non sticky kitchen floor for years. I was new to town and I didn’t have a great social support just yet. But I smile when I see these moms with young-uns and I think…. oh sister I have been there.

There are lessons you learn in the years along the way. Some are good. Some are hard. Your relationship with your spouse will be tested and tested hard. That statement seems to scare a lot of people. But it too, is a part of life.

Our biggest test was open heart surgery for our son. Nothing, and I mean nothing puts life into the right perspective quicker than sitting in a waiting room, knowing your child’s heart is on bypass (code word= stopped). Yours is stopped too. When we got to his bedside he was intubated (breathing tube) and trust me when I say this people…. you never want to see your child intubated.

When they extubated him (pulled out the tube) he sat straight up in bed, shook his head, made one of the funniest statements of his life, then laid back down and went to sleep. The nurse who was taking care of him shook his head “In my ten years of pediatric ICU nursing I have never seen a kid sit up like that out of open heart surgery.”

The action fit the kid. Trust me. I am told he learned that from me.

Parenthood relaxes you in more ways than one. Things you used to think about pre children, don’t bother you at all. You learn what strength really means. You learn what love really is. You learn what soul mate is truly all about.

I remember telling my friend the month after he was born…… that I couldn’t imagine going through this experience with anyone else but Curt. On a daily basis I look at Curt and I think the exact same thing. I can’t imagine living this life with any other person in the world.

As I told him his trainer was too close to mine the other morning, please move over.

If I had to give advice for the future for those just starting out, it’d be this; chill out. Look at the big picture. Don’t worry about the small stuff. And having a baby is like Ironman in a way….. you never hit the submit button thinking “Now I am totally ready”. Because the moment that little pink line goes from a dash to a “+”……. everything changes. In the best way possible.

Enjoy the ride, it gets better every day.



  1. Simply beautiful, Mary! Perhaps that’s why triathlon is a “mom” sport so often. Moms are tough as balls 🙂

    My little man will be ten on the 15th this month, and his fixed-heart on the 21st. God Bless Strong Memorial, Dr. George Alfieris, the whole NICU/PICU team and the Ronald McDonald House!

  2. What? I have to wait 5 years to get sleep?!

    I love what you said. I can barely handle the imaginary crisis scenarios in my head, I can’t imagine having to deal with a real health concern.

  3. Well said . And don’t forget as much as we love our kids and families the Lord loves us and cares for us all the more……he knows the number of hairs on our head and it’s in his arms we can find peace.

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