Eleven years ago today, I became a mom.
My lovable, sports-obsessed Aspie arrived on Day One of the 1998 World Series, just in time to catch the opening pitch of what would become a Yankees sweep of the San Diego Padres. Smart kid. His dad has him convinced he's a Reds fan, but I know the truth. My boy was born under the pinstripes, and someday he'll remember that.
Being a mom, though, it's not something that happens in an instant. Seems like it should. You push and you push, you bring that little human into the world, and you hold it, warm and squirmy, in your arms. And that's it. Snap. You're a mom.
That is so not how it works.
When my oldest was born, it was this magic thing. He was covered in goop and a little blood, with perfect, slimy little hands and a bright red face with an angry V of blood vessels embossed on his forehead. His wail was tiny and furious and it made me laugh and melt into a puddle all at once. I loved him instantly, goop and all.
And still, I didn't feel like a mom.
I think most women don't get that, actually. You're caught up in the love and the joy and the utter physical exhaustion of childbirth, and you don't realize that there's something missing. But I did. I realized it when, 12 hours after my little fella was born, the doctors figured out that he was sick. They wheeled him off to the NICU in the wee hours of the morning. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to help him. I didn't know how to be his mom.
It's kind of like being a grown-up. That's not something that happens the moment you turn 18. Or 21. Or 30. It happens over time. And then, one day, you wake up and you realize you've done it. You've grown up.
Being a mom is like that.
My mommy epiphany happened when my guy was maybe 18 months old. We'd stopped at McDonald's for dinner and brought home a cheeseburger. Next to spaghetti, McDonald's cheeseburgers were his favorite food. He ate half of his burger and then, oddly, stopped. We kept handing him more. He closed his mouth tight and refused to eat another bite.
And then he started projectile vomiting all over the kitchen.
Poor kid. He was sick, screaming with fear, covered head-to-toe in smelly ick.
And what did I do?
I hugged him. I picked up his stinky, icky little vomiting self and held him close until he stopped throwing up and stopped crying and realized he'd be okay. I had vomit in my hair and all over my clothes. I smelled to high heaven. And I didn't even notice.
I was a mom.
You fight for your kids. And you love them. You love them straight through the bad days and the temper tantrums, the grossness and the ick.
My tiny, angry, beautiful baby is 11 years old today. He asked for a cell phone, a comic book store and "total world domination" for his birthday. (He got a big fat "no" on all three.) And he's embraced his inner grossness as only an 11-year-old boy can. By his request, we celebrated his special day with a radioactive nest of mutant spiders that I carved out of cake, covered in icing and "dirt" made from crushed cookies, then drizzled with pistachio pudding for the nuclear waste and dotted with spiders made from malted milk balls and little chocolate icing legs.
Clearly, I've embraced his grossness too.
But then, I'm his mom. That's what we do.
(Oh crap. I've gone and written another post about vomit. I promise, this is not a theme!)