I laid in the recovery room, my third daughter in two and a half years pink and fresh and peaceful in my arms. Contrary to popular belief, I was so happy to have another girl. I grew up with two sisters and while I’m sure our teenage years were at times a bit tumultuous for my parents, my sisters are now my dearest friends.
My parents arrived in the middle of the night and my Mom, grinning from ear to ear, walked over to my hospital bed.
“You didn’t have to drive all the way up here – it’s like three hours,” I said sleepily.
“Oh, honey,” She said. “This is a momentous, joyous day for your father and me. Nothing could have kept us away from telling you in person that… payback… is a bitch, sucker!”
With that, she snapped a picture, gave my dad a high five and laid rubber out of the parking lot.
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of extra money but one year we splurged and went on a vacation. Now… many people would say that camping in the boondocks in the middle of August isn’t a vacation.
And those people are what I like to call right.
But the worst part of the vacation wasn’t the insufferable mosquitoes, the mind-numbing boredom or even trying to leverage my youth to hitchhike a ride home with random strangers. No, the worst part of the “vacation” was the trip down and back.
Of course my entire family couldn’t all squeeze into the cab of my Dad’s pick up truck, so my two sisters and I had to ride in the back.
Of a truck.
For two hours.
To make matters worse, before we pulled out of our driveway my Mom tossed an empty coffee can at us and said, “Hey look girls! It even comes with its own bathroom!”
Before I could even open my mouth to protest she said, “Oh Hannah. Just watch out for the perverts before you pee, and everything will be fine.”
If you’ve never ridden in the back of a truck, let me explain what it’s like. First, close your eyes, then take a deep breath. Now imagine that you’ve died and gone to hell.
And that pretty much covers what riding in the back of a truck is like.
I remember looking around as other normal cars blew past us, the children wide eyed and pressing their noses against the glass to get a look at some real life wild hillbilly girls. I tried to hide under the running boards while my sisters roared with laughter as they threw coffee cans full of their own hot, steaming urine onto their windshields.
I swore things were going to be different when I finally moved out, got married and had some kids of my own. And I had to act fast because as an 11-year-old girl living in the Ozarks I knew the odds were in my favor of at least one of those three things happening by the end of my sixth grade year.
I spent over twenty years envisioning the perfect life I would have with my kids. We would spend our days strolling through museums, swapping gossip magazines as we got our toes done, taking long naps and end the day sitting around the fire talking about all the boys we have crushes on.
But then I actually had kids and things were a bit different.
A few weeks after my second daughter was born I wore the same underwear for five days straight.
Sometimes if I go a really long time without talking to another adult I start acting out scenes from Dirty Dancing in the playroom.
I haven’t pooped without someone looking me square in the eye since 2010.
I think about the months I worked on my master’s thesis as I eat cold and stale macaroni and cheese out of the pan over the kitchen sink in my pajamas.
I think about the business trips I took to exotic locations, and vacations I took to Europe as my daughter looks at me and says, “Mommy – the poop is coming out of me now.” the moment the zoo train leaves the station.
I think about how I gave presentations to CMOs of some of the world’s largest companies as I sniff someone’s butt.
Actually, those two are sort of the same thing.
My successes are small, and I celebrate them alone. Like when my kids say ‘thank you’ without having to be reminded. Or when I single handedly fix the vacuum. Or when I limit my daily alcohol intake to only one bottle of wine.
Just kidding. Vacuuming is for losers.
Ultimately my Mom was right – payback is a bitch and I was screwed. I quickly found out that motherhood is like doing the splits. When you watch someone else do it, it looks easy and fun. But when you finally try it for yourself you end up curled up in a little ball screaming “My vagina! My vagina! Oh christ in heaven I think my vagina just tore all the way to my butt hole!”
And then you cry yourself to sleep because you’ll never be a cheerleader.
Suddenly, overnight, everything my Mom had ever done made so much sense to me.
I found out that “We’ll see” means “The actual answer is hell to the nizzo but I haven’t taken my Zoloft yet today and I swear to all that is holy that I will drive this mini van straight into a concrete pylon if you throw a tantrum right now.”
And I learned that the maddeningly frustrating “Because I said so” is a kinder way of saying, “Because imma go Lizzie Borden up in this mother if we have to watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas one more time.”
And my life isn’t the perfection I thought it would be when I was 11.
When I walk into the room to get my 1-year-old up from her nap her eyes sparkle and she bounces up and down as she says, “Not you – I want Daddy!” and claws at my eyes.
And when I play make believe with my 2-year-old she’s always the princess and I’m always Shrek because I’m “really really huge.”
And last week I went to give my 3-year-old a high five and she told me that I “better get those Lee Press Ons outta her face.”
And at least once a day they do something that makes me laugh until my stomach hurts.
Even though motherhood didn’t turn out the way I dreamed it would be when I was 11, my life is perfect in a way I could never have imagined. Too sacred to be captured with mere words. Love so ferocious the very thought of losing it will make you weep.
And this time is fleeting. I try to hang on to every moment, every memory, because I know that in a few months I’ll look back on today and remember only a few of the blurred out highlights.
And before I know it my girls will be rolling their eyes, pointing out everything I’m doing that they think is wrong and telling me how they’re going to do it all differently when they have kids of their own.
And I’ll just laugh and tell them exactly what my Mom told me – just watch out for the perverts and everything will be fine.