Bringing Up Baby

Mr. Handsome and I got hitched back in 1991, another lifetime or two ago really. Boy, those were the days, when we could stay in bed all weekend, work lots of overtime during the week, and go for chicken wings and beer every night of the week if we wanted to, and we often did.

Then I had the bright idea to have a kid. Yup, my internal clock was ticking, hemorrhaging actually, and I had to have a baby. There was really no logic involved, as there often isn't with anything 'family'. Seriously, why would I want to give up the life we had going for us: total freedom, a nice house, lots of food, parties, shopping sprees, and various vacations. Who in their right mind would want to lose what I would call heaven on earth? Well, I did, I guess. It took some convincing on my part, since Mr. Handsome and I never really got around to discussing the whole 'how many children do you want to have' when we were just hanging out together and living in sin. I didn't bring it up out of fear, really, knowing there was a chance he wouldn't want any kids at all. He was quite happy with life the way it was. I didn't want to lose him either, because I was madly in love (and still am, usually!). Hard decisions.

Anyway, as luck would have it, Mr. Handsome said yeah, ok, let's go for it. I went off the Pill, and that month, I was pregnant. Yup, it was that easy, which was very surprising, seeing as I am not the healthiest of people, and most things do not come easily to me. Of course, getting pregnant was the easiest part. It went downhill from there. I had the worst morning sickness on earth. It started at Week Five, and went on until my sixth month. I survived on black plums and Tropicana orange juice. Mr. Handsome had to drive me into work every morning, and I would go to my desk (I was a magazine editor at the time for a national organization), being careful not to open my mouth to say "good morning" or "hello" to anyone lest the vomit that was sitting in my throat, beckoning me, begging to come out, would spurt out like a scene out of The Exorcist. I would sit down very slowly, careful not to further upset the sensitive inner eco-system, and I would close my eyes and sit like that for however long it took for the lurching in my stomach to subside. Sometimes I was better in an hour, sometimes not until noon or later. I have to say, my boss, who was normally quite a nasty lady, was amazingly patient with me during this time, and never once reprimanded me or gave me the slightest look of disgust. Thank you, Karen!

Once the nausea subsided and I could again eat and actually look forward to being awake again, my worries were oriented to the future, to actually having the baby and being a mom. I hadn't yet had the chance to think that far ahead, and since that time was quickly coming upon us, I began to think about nothing BUT that. I'm a little anal that way, I suppose, not that there's anything wrong with it.

The concern that kept coming back to haunt me was that I would repeat history and raise my child the same way my mother had raised me. Let's just say she wouldn't have won Best Parent of the Year Award. My mother, I have deduced, was suffering from mental illness that had not (and still hasn't been) diagnosed. I have long forgiven her, but I will never forget, and I believe shouldn't forget, what she did all those years ago. She was physically and mentally abusive, and chose me as the only daughter in the family as her main scapegoat. There was a lot of verbal name-calling, ignoring, and hitting with dog chains. It affected me deeply then and it still does, although I've worked hard to get through it in one piece, and to learn from it so that I wouldn't repeat the same mistakes she made. I didn't want to repeat the cycle. I have also thanked her for what she did, because it actually made me realize early on in my life what was truly important, and how NOT to raise a child.

The thought of harming my child as I had been harmed haunted me. Sometimes it was all I thought about. And I read books about abuse, and I knew that although you could consciously choose NOT to harm your child, emotions could take over, and then it was too late. And it could take a split second. That's all it ever took when I was a kid.

I can truthfully say that, although there have been plenty of moments and days when I was on the brink of doing something to myself or to Milly that would be considered very illegal and terribly serious and final, I didn't, and I can proudly sit here and say that I have broken the cycle. It stopped with me and my children. And although I know I am not perfect, I can say my kids have only gotten the best of me, and when I couldn't give them that, I knew when to step back. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, this mothering thing, but it's also been the absolutely most rewarding, most heavenly, most happy-making thing I've ever done in my entire life, and I'd do it over again in a second.

It sure beats chicken wings and beer!


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