So, this weekend I filled out an adoption letter of recommendation for a good friend of mine. Now, if you know me well, you know that I have a long, unbelievable, and painful history with adoption. Filling out the form was bittersweet. Sweet because I cannot truly think of someone who is more filled with love to give to a child. Bitter because it brought up memories that although buried deep (and often forgotten) when brought to the surface are incredibly and surprisingly hurtful.
Coincidentally I also attended a baby shower yesterday. Since I am Old I have few opportunities to attend showers anymore. Most of my friends are "done," so I often think the next shower I attend I will be throwing...for my girls. This baby shower was grand. It was for someone who has become a friend of our family. She and her husband are some of the most generous, kind, and loving people you will meet. She has a way with kids (especially mine) that I rarely witness. She is a teacher of the highest quality. All of that aside, I love baby showers. There is typically great food that you can eat without utensils, a chance to win prizes doing things I tend to be really good at (because I have a whole slew of kids of my own), yummy cake, and a little goodie bag for adults. What's not to like? Baby showers represent everything grand about parenthood - precisely because the kids are usually not there yet. Kidding! Kind of.
We also had some unexpected news this weekend. We found out someone we know is expecting possibly before it would be considered "appropriate." Again, this news was met in a bittersweet way. Sweet because I can think of few times that I would not welcome a pregnancy. Bitter because I know the news of the pregnancy and subsequent parenthood could be an uphill battle.
In a nutshell I was all wrapped up in babies and parenthood this weekend. These questions I either heard verbalized, or just had wandering around in my head. At the shower: Were the parents "ready" to be parents? Was the baby's room ready? Had they thought of everything? What else would need to be purchased? During the completion of the adoption paperwork: Did I know of any reasons why these people should not become parents? Were there any disturbing signs, for example, alcohol or narcotic use? Was this a "solid" marriage to the best of my knowledge? How do you know if someone is ready to be a parent?
Jeesh! This all got me thinking, and frankly, kinda panicked: With four kids, was I ready to be a parent? Was I ready to be a mom? After all, what were the signs you are ready? I don't remember seeing them. I could think of a fairly good list, but I thought I better do some research to find out what the experts were saying. Thank God, that if you have the Internet, it's not hard to find out if you are ready to be a parent. It's also great to read how to be a "bad parent". And perhaps we could have just avoided this Ready for Motherhood question by knowing if we are ready to have sex in the first place. Sounds reasonable. The experts seem to have a lot to tell me. Although I thoroughly enjoyed reading these articles and many others, I am not sure these lists are comprehensive enough, and I am not sure that some of these people are actual parents or mothers.
That is the history behind the list that follows. If you are thinking of becoming a parent - this is just a starting place. Because I am a woman, I decided to modify my list to prospective moms (mostly). I highly recommend reading ALL the lists you can get your hands on. After all, they are the experts (I only play one on my blog). The more information you can get, the better. At its best, information will help provide a small insight into parenting/motherhood, at its worst it will actually make you think you are ready.
Are You Ready for Motherhood/Parenthood? 10 Signs to Help You Know
1. You are not concerned with your boobs. During pregnancy your boobs will inflate to the size of life rafts. After pregnancy they will become milk jugs to perform the natural act of breast-feeding. After you are done with breast-feeding they will look like deflated tires and have stretch marks on them at which time you will say, "Honey, I think we're ready to have another baby!" Adoptive moms may avoid this pitfall (no pun intended), but there is the newer trend to breastfeed your adoptive child (a trend I do not fully understand). Husbands/Partners will need to know that for a good two years breasts will just be another body part that performs a function (much like a.........hand).
2. You are happy with the clothes you have right now in your closet. Know that these are the clothes and clothing trends that will take you well into the next century. Okay, not that far. But, you will be wearing these clothes for a good two years. Longer if you manage to get pregnant or adopt another child soon. As the first article states quite truthfully, "Parenting is all consuming." Read: You will not have a lot of time for fashion trends and shopping for them. You might want to make sure your partner is happy with seeing you look like this (don't worry too much, though, because lack of sleep makes you forget a lot of stuff that may seem important now).
3. You are comfortable with all bodily functions. And if you are not, you can fake it appropriately. As a pregnant mom or as the husband of a pregnant woman you will come face to face (and often literally) with some body parts and functions you never knew were a part of life. Or, if you knew they were a part of life, you tried to ignore it. Now, if you are adopting, don't think you are off the hook. Know that babies can do some pretty funky things......that are not in the Parenting Books. GET TO KNOW IT. These "things" go under the names of: Projectile vomiting, reflux, meconium (if you are not familiar with that - you may want to look it up...STAT!), diarrhea, etc., etc.
4. You function adequately on zero to two hours of sleep. Some babies don't sleep. They are not sick, they are not colicky, they are not crazy. They just don't sleep. It will be your job to take care of that baby should they be yours. Make sure you are up to it.
5. You have a partner you trust through and through and who will tell you if you are going insane. Babies are a lot of work. This can really not be emphasized enough. The amount of work does not decrease as the baby grows. It just changes and morphs into another kind of work. I recommend you have a partner/a husband/a soul mate. I also recommend you truly know this person because you may go several weeks without actually speaking to your partner (depending on what The Baby is doing) except in passing or on the phone. If this should happen to you, it's helpful to know and trust your partner so that you are not surprised or offended (for example) when the person who was Pre-children immensely concerned with personal hygiene has forgotten to brush his/her teeth for two days. It is also incredibly helpful to have someone who will gently (or forcefully - depending on the circumstances) tell you (or vice versa): YOU ARE CRAZY TOWN.
6. You can imagine baby's pee, poop, vomit, spit-up, or any other secretion that might come out of baby on your favorite _____________________________ (fill in the blank, for example: leather couch, seat of your clean car, favorite silk blouse, white carpet, draperies that cost $1000/panel, etc.). And after imagining this you will not want to cry and lose all control. If you think I am kidding - - I am not.
7. You can go a while without a pedicure, a manicure, teeth whitening, botox injections, a decent hair-cut, or eyebrow waxing. Now, with most my list I am talking to The Masses - not Angelina Jolie. So, if you are Angelina Jolie - don't read my list. If you aren't - read on! It's not that you won't get these personal hygiene things, it just might not be on the timeline you had before baby. So, for example, you may be more concerned with BRUSHING your hair than actually having a great hair style (that's just an example - I can think of many, many more).
8. You can dumb down your vocabulary and your topic of conversation at any time for any reason. Quite honestly a lot of your early parenting will focus on pee and poop. If you are unable to sustain a conversation about theses topics for about 30 minutes than you may want to consider that. You will also find yourself muttering things that are just.........insane to people who do not have children. Sample conversation of actual parents (with actual college degrees):
Husband: Did she just say da? I think she just said da? Honey, did you hear that?
Wife: She sure did. Did you just say "da"??? Oh yes you did. You are the smartest baby.
Husband: There! She said it again! I'm sure now. Call my dad. SHE JUST SAID DA!!!
Wife: Do you think she said "DA?" Or was it "DOG?" OH MY GOSH!!! She's only TWO WEEKS. DID SHE JUST SAY DOG???
Husband: My God! Forget my dad - call the paper!
9. You are able to delay your own personal needs temporarily (or sometimes permanently - depending on how many kids you have) for the needs of your children. Example: You are going to need a lot of caffeine in the first weeks of parenthood (see #4). Sometimes it's impossible to get the caffeine down in a timely or urgent enough manner. You need to be okay with that. Imagine you are headed downstairs to get your coffee and baby (upon hearing you trying to have a peacful cup of coffee) wakes up an hour early and starts crying wanting to be fed. You go back upstairs and cheerfully (that's important) get baby and go to either breast feed her or bottle feed her. This requires use of your hands (as does changing her poopy diaper) which you realize (after trying!) you cannot do while holding your cup of steaming hot coffee. I hope I have illustrated that appropriately (this is just ONE of a million examples).
10. Last, but not least. You are willing to love another being so much that it will hurt your heart, widen your smile, and make you want to be a much, much better person each and every second of each and every day that you are blessed with being together.
That's my list. I wish the very best of luck and many, many blessings to all prospective parents out there! Parenthood continues to be the best ride of my life.