I had my first child just one month after my eighteenth birthday, in some ways, though, I became a mother much later. This weekend, as I’ve cared for three of you with the stomach virus, I’ve thought about how far I’ve come in my journey as a mother and I’ve thought how much I want to pass on my limited wisdom to you. This, of course, led me to thinking about “the talk” and just what I’d tell you about becoming a parent. To your oldest brother I’ve already said, “don’t have sex until you’re ready to be a parent and don’t be with anyone that you can’t see being the mother of your kids.” But what might be easier to tell you guys is this: don’t have sex until you’re no longer embarrassed.
You see, too many people in my generation, including myself at times, have gotten it wrong. We seem to believe that sex is the inevitable result of following your animalistic impulses and to expect one to avoid intercourse is akin to asking a dog to refrain from jumping up on the counter to eat the turkey: admirable when it happens, but unreasonable to expect. When this belief is indulged, however, we’re given what I see now: a generation of the most selfish and terrible parents yet.
This is how I began. When I started having sex, I did it mostly to keep my partner around and because it was what you were supposed to do. Though I knew I might get pregnant, the thought was slightly thrilling because, after all, what could be better than a baby who thinks you’re the best thing ever? Yeah…cause it’s about you…not!
When I thought I was pregnant the first time, I drove to a neighborhood Walgreen’s nearly thirty minutes from my house and with extreme embarrassment bought my first pregnancy test. Everything involving sex and pregnancy was awkward and embarrassing. Why was that? Because I wasn’t ready. Because I was doing what I thought I should instead of what was right.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you may say. Heard it all before, whatevs. But hear me out on this one. My journey to becoming a mom, you know, the one I hope you remember, the one who wipes all the noses, holds your hair and rubs your back when you’re vomiting, cuddles you in a hug even though every part of her body is asleep or aching, started when I stopped thinking of myself first. As I am a pretty selfish person, this took a long time. But what is embarrassment if not a direct sign of narcissism? Embarrassment only happens to those who are ashamed or uncomfortable with how something reflects on THEMSELVES. But a real parent, a good parent, doesn’t let embarrassment drive their daily lives. If I have a sick kid I hug them, I don’t hold them at armslength and say, “don’t get me all snotty, I’ve got to go to work.” When they throw up in your hair, you don’t scream and drop them and jump in the shower, you hug them until they are done retching, clean up as best you can while comforting them, and then jump in the shower when you have made sure they’re ok. Real parents get that.
When I taught, students would say, “I could not have kids. I can’t imagine having to clean up puke.” To this I say, “good, don’t have kids until you can imagine it.” Because like it or not, having kids means yuck. They’re born and they are slimy and gooey. They expect the world of you every moment of their lives, even when they’re 33. They expect you to have all the answers, to fix all the boo-boos, and to help with everything they need. In short, they expect you to put yourself on the line, no matter the cost. Hence, the embarrassed need not apply.
This is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about NFP. When I first started looking into doing it I thought it would be impossible to check mucus. I mean, eww. I even had a conversation about it with a work colleague who said, “yeah, that wouldn’t happen.” But the thing is, if you can’t even handle the fact that your body discharges mucus as a regular sign of your fertility, if you can’t touch test that mucus for its stretchability, then you’re embarrassed of your body and how it was designed to work. Because what’s so gross about the way God made us? What poor reflection on our society that our own bodies disgust us. And if you don’t like the idea that you have gooey mucus, how comfortable are you going to be with your partners? Your kid’s?
When I grew up and got over it, suddenly, I had arrived. I became a real mom. And now I appologize for how long it took. Hopefully, you get more years of me being unembarrassed than you did of me being embarrassed. I hope you begin your journey they way I finally arrived: comfortable with the seemingly gross.