Hello Thirteen

My oldest daughter turns 13 tomorrow. 

How that happened I cannot say, one day she was a toddler and then I was dropping her off at middle school last August. In the blink of an eye is an understatement.

I've been thinking about this day thirteen years ago when I was forty pounds heavier with swollen ankles and an endless supply of rocky road ice cream. Thirteen years ago it was a Monday night, and I was ten days past my due date. It was torturous as I had already had one induction cancelled, and my sweet doctor looked at me with sympathetic eyes that Monday morning and said, "Everything looks great. Baby is just comfortable and not ready to leave the nest". Sure it was good news to know we weren't in distress, but also could I please have my baby because she was supposed to be born almost ten days ago? I went home from that appointment with strict orders from my doctor to wake up at six the next morning, head to the ER and tell them my "water broke", because they would have to check, and then when they called my doctor, he said he would come over and break my water. Typing it makes it sound like something out of a slapstick comedy, but the local hospital had been hit with a baby boom and I wasn't emergent. 

John and I went home. I made my nest on the couch, complaining of lower abdominal pain, that the doctor had earlier assured me was "pressure from the baby". I lounged on the couch eating ice cream and watching tv and the clock. Six a.m. couldn't get here fast enough. 

Then it was six the next morning and I was silently crying because holy shit I was about to become a mother. At some point on this day, this baby was going to be outside of my body, and I would be in charge of another life. I felt like there should have been a test for that. 

Long story short, that pressure in my abdominal area, those were labor pains and even though my water had yet to break, my contractions were eight minutes apart. I honestly had no idea. Approximately ten hours later, Caitlin made her debut. 

I'd like to say it was mushy and Instagram worthy, but to be honest it was an out of body experience. I felt like I was watching someone else be simultaneously over joyed and scared out of their damn mind. I was a mother, but also I wanted my mother, because who was going to raise this baby? Oh yeah, me.

If you have been a guest here for any amount of time in the past, you know that motherhood was no easy task for me. I worked and fought really hard to become a solid mother. Not the best and not the worst, but some balance in the middle that prays my daughters future heath care plans include coverage for therapy. Motherhood for me didn't feel natural, and it took me a long time to figure out what motherhood looked like for me. Thank God Facebook was in its infancy and Instagram had yet to be birthed, because I was already comparing myself to other mothers in real life. Who knows if I could have survived the mommy wars over social media.

Thirteen years later, I am an adolescent mother. 

I'm also going through an awkward and gawky phase. I finally figured out how to mother small children, and now I'm trying to figure out how to navigate teenagers. Adolescence is a transitional phase where a person grows and develops from a child to an adult. I didn't know that parents will do this too. I'm now trying to find my space in between TikTok videos and Instagram filters. I'm now told which photos I can posts and which I cannot. I'm required to be the expert on acne and body odor, but I'm not allowed to make recommendations on such things. Shorts are getting shorter, bathing suits have extra lining, and holy crap we have a stash of "woman supplies". I'm also transitioning and learning how to discipline mini adults who think they know more than me. I've turned into both my mother and my father as I've caught myself saying, "I've been alive 42 years, don't you think I know more about this than you". Not my finest moments, but seriously. I've been alive 42 years, I had the worst acne that required prescription drugs, I know what to put on your face and it's not that stuff you saw on TikTok!

I've always known the dynamics of motherhood. In the beginning it seemed like an endless loop. Early motherhood was like a scene from Groundhog's Day, where you just do the same feeding, diapering, and sleeping for days on end. Then one day you wake up and they don't like that binky or bottle. One day they wake up and they can crawl or walk or feed themselves. They grow and so do you, but nothing ever really prepares you for the day they don't need to cling to your body like a wet t-shirt. Nothing prepares you for the day they don't want to hold your hand in Target. The day they don't want to change in front of you. The day they absolutely do not want you to dance to that song on Spotify because how embarrassing

Recently the transition from having a child to having a teenager looks like stolen moments. For Caitlin and I its laughing at memes before bed. Memes that maybe she shouldn't laugh at, but the kid has got a wicked sense of humor. It looks like secret trips to Starbucks where sometimes she treats me to a drink because I'm driving. Mom I'll buy your Starbucks if you drive. Our transition into adolescence looks like the two of us realizing that neither one of us is perfect and maybe neither one of us has all the answers. It looks like the two of us realizing that none of that means we don't love each other so fiercely that it hurts sometimes. Now that we are thirteen we can say those things to each other, planting better roots as we grow. 

Thirteen is awfully close to fifteen which is awfully close to other teens that I cannot discuss because I'm not emotionally prepared in any way at this time. What I wouldn't give to be up at 4 am with that tiny, sliver, of a human. That little slice of heaven who kept me up until sunrise, who never wanted to sleep, who confused me and made me second guess every single move I made. I'd do it all over again and not change a thing. I sometimes wish I wouldn't have rolled my eyes when people said that it happens so fast. I didn't understand in those wee morning hours that once the days were gone, they were gone. I used to think that it would be so much easier when she was just a little bigger. Big enough for solids. Big enough to walk and talk. Big enough to feed herself. Big enough to... grow up before my eyes. Just one more thing that I could not control as a mother. Once I gave up trying to control every aspect of motherhood I was finally able to enjoy it. Thank God for that. 

Let me tell you how much control I don't have. We ate dinner at 8:45 tonight after a late swim at my moms. The girls are now watching make up tutorials on YouTube and I'm writing this. We will most likely stay up late and I'll set my alarm to go to Starbucks in my pajamas to get the birthday girl her favorite. Her gifts are not wrapped, the house isn't decorated let alone clean, and I still have to make her cake. This is my evolution you guys, this is how I learned to enjoy motherhood. 

Twelve years ago on the eve of Caitlin's first birthday I was prepping food and making sure I had enough balloons. I had her clothes all laid out, the cutest dress, which she took off twenty minutes into the party to run around in the sprinkler in her diaper. Best laid plans let me tell you. Tomorrow will be filled with as much birthday as you can expect in a pandemic. Curbside order at Chik-Fil-A; homemade cake, a parade of cars in our front yard. 

It will be as exactly as motherhood intended. 

Unorganized. Messy. Imperfectly full of love. 

I just wish I could tell that laboring mom on the couch thirteen years ago.

She kind of needed to know.