When I became pregnant for the first time, I excitedly went to the book store to buy every book about parenting I could find. I read countless articles and posts, talked to many other parents, and felt ready to take on this new life challenge. Wasn’t I adorable? Needless to say, parenting has been full of surprises. Here are my top five.

1. I need very little sleep. Before kids I was a whiny, cranky mess if my sleep was interrupted during a busy work or school week. Sundays were for catching up on any missed sleep. My husband and I would sleep until the sun woke us, roll over, and sleep some more.  We liked to say that sleeping was our hobby. Now? Give me a just a few hours of sleep (they can even be interrupted) and I can manage an entire work day AND evening commitments and chores as long as I have a cup of coffee within reach. I can’t remember the last time I slept past 8:00 and naps? What are those?

2. I have a very strong stomach. I always shied away from any job in the medical profession because I was terrified of my weak stomach embarrassing me at work. I have always been sensitive to smells and if anyone had any sort of injury near me I always volunteered to be the one who ran for help. Now? I’ve cleaned vomit off of car seats, crib rails, and walls; poop out of bathtubs, sneakers, grout, and from beneath my fingernails; and I have mopped up blood coming from all sorts of different places on my kids’ bodies (the mouth is the worst). Through all of this I have stayed conscious, kept my own stomach fluids in place, and simultaneously cared for and calmed down a child (or two).

3. My body has completely changed. Did I work hard to stay healthy during my pregnancies and limit my weight gain? Yes. Did my body permanently change anyway? Yep. I may be able to get down to my pre-baby weight but my body will never be the same. Growing a baby is a massive undertaking for any woman’s body. Caring for those babies also takes its toll. My body definitely shows it. My hips are wider, my feet are bigger, and the skin around my stomach will never be flat without some help. My hips hurt and my back aches from lugging carseats, diaper bags, toys, and increasingly heavier children. I’ve had my face battered by toddler fists in the middle of the night, I’ve stepped on countless legos and toy blocks, and I’ve fallen down steps, while holding and protecting a child from injury. This body of mine has served me well but it’s definitely feeling a bit beat up these days.

4. I can have patience. I can be a rather impatient person. I have been known to boil with frustration if I’m stuck behind a slow moving car on a very long road, waiting for any type of test result or promised gift/event is agonizing, and I always read the last chapter of a new book first. When it comes to my children, however, I have the patience of a saint. I have waited out my daughter’s first attempt at zipping her coat, listened to my child sound out every. single. word. of her favorite book, and sat through hours of countless recitals and school concerts so I could see my daughter’s one minute performance. I’ve sat on a bathroom floor for entire afternoons hoping my child would do her business in the toilet. I have waited silently, barely breathing, for my infant to fall asleep so I could sneak out of her room.

5. I am tough. Parenting has taught me that I am one tough woman and I definitely feel as if I can handle pretty much anything life throws at me. The pain of labor and delivery alone has made most injuries barely noticeable. I had to have blood drawn from an artery once and the nurse apologized in advance for the pain that she would cause. I said, “Will it be more painful than labor? No? Then I’ll be fine, thanks.” I have suffered through sinus infections, the flu, and I have recovered from surgery all while continuing to parent. I have had to live through personal crises that made me want to retreat to a dark room for days but I still managed to hide my pain in front of my children and continue to parent. I have advocated for my children’s needs and stood up for myself and for them on multiple occasions. I nursed my 10-year-old back onto her feet after major back surgery while watching her cry and writhe in pain. I never let her see my own pain. I control the incredible amount of fear and anxiety I feel, daily, about my children’s safety in this increasingly violent world. There are days when I feel like Superwoman, taking on challenges and fixing everyone’s problems. Other days I feel like a lioness, daring anyone to come after me or my kids. Parenting has made me incredibly strong and I like it.

So thanks, my darling girls, for the surprises.

me and girls

Photo credit S. Orris