I always felt called to be a mother. I have one of those huge families that require special seating at restaurants: the wait staff know us to be loud and demanding, there will be small children running amok, requests to change the menu, and we’ll linger too long. In families like mine, mothers are the kinkeepers. They have the noble task of holding the center, giving their children that affirming yes or no they need to find their way. I always wanted to be a mother because in my family mothers are important.
My first pregnancy was unplanned and I was unmarried at the time. But Tim and I were very much in love: we had already made up our minds to get married someday, agreeing that the reasonable age to get married was maybe 28 years old because words like “established” and “responsible” would surely apply to us at that point.
Instead I was unexpectedly pregnant after an evening of debauchery that was fairly typical for two people in their early twenties. Tim and I were soon engaged and Celeste was born four months after our wedding. Celeste and I share the birth month of October: I turned 24 years old only a few weeks before I met her. She was born at home with the help of midwives, not because I think homebirths are superior births but because my home is the best place for me to give birth. So like any idealistic first-timer just trying to do her best, I did my research and planned a blissful waterbirth at home.
Far from being blissful, my experience in labor was galvanizing: I can remember very clearly holding that stunning, swollen baby in my shaky arms and rambling on to the women around me about feeling like a pioneer woman, a woman from another era who had just survived the Oregon Trail or something. Yes, Chelsea, the midwives said gently, no doubt wondering if I ever stopped talking. They helped me into my bed and my new baby to my breast. I met my own strength that day. I also met the small soul who would literally and figuratively shit all over my concept of planning from that moment forward.
In my pregnancy with Celeste, I was very interested in proving to myself that my life could stay just as it was. Certainly I could become a mother and still remain free, unfettered, independent. I had not yet encountered anything in my young life that made me doubt the powers of planning and manifesting. I wouldn’t say I was conscious of it, but nonetheless I was operating under the belief that I could simply manifest a child who would easily mold herself to fit my life, rather than the other way around. So I camped on the hard earth and climbed trees while pregnant, my round belly bounced over the chopping waves as we sped through the Gulf in my husband’s boat, and I danced in crowded bars late into the night. The what-ifs, the worries of pregnancy rarely occurred to me. I was smug, although not necessarily on purpose. I was determined to manifest a carefree baby, a baby who would easily acclimate to my life exactly as it was: a baby who was calm, quiet and agreeable. In other words, a baby very unlike myself.
Celeste did not abide. She was unexpected, otherworldly, both in her sensitivity and in her beauty. Where did she come from? She was not the baby I had planned: she even had blue eyes, which was beyond startling, as I fully expected my Spanish blood to trump any light-eyed genes my husband and I shared.
And so it is that I have learned that motherhood requires a strange blend of preparedness and surrender, requiring that we do our best to make solid plans for ourselves and our children and then do our very best to stay steady during those moments when our plans completely unravel. Finding the balance between surrender and control is probably the most challenging aspect of motherhood for me. (Well, that and all the kid slime, ugh, the ghastly kid slime.)
I am not writing as a mothering expert. We all have that friend who we can call when we really need advice from a reliable parenting resource. It ain’t me, babe. Moreover, I’ve only been at this mothering gig for five short years. (Although I will say that parenthood is like a microwave when it comes to personal growth: it would probably have taken me ten years to learn these same life lessons without my kids in tow, forcing that galvanizing change upon me.)
I still have many moments where I wonder how it is that I am a mother of three. I waver between feeling like the oldest twenty-something on Earth (especially after scrolling through the lives of my childless peers on social media) and feeling like I am still an irreverent youth. It was not that long ago that my own young mother bought the Cranberries album and put it on blast in our old Mazda, my little brother and I dancing in the backseat, thinking that our mom was definitely the coolest, the most beautiful mother in all the world. She swore often and with a certain glamour, smoked cigarettes (that was still a thing in the early nineties) and more importantly, she was authentic, fun, trustworthy. She was honest. These are the things I value in my own parenting and they are also my goals for my blog. I hope that reading it will feel like a small escape with an authentic, fun, trustworthy friend, windows down, music blaring, laughing (or maybe crying) about the work of mothering, honestly.