In the grocery store checkout line with my newborn in tow, the clerk smiles and coos and asks if this is my first. They all do. When I tell her no, I pause and wait for it but it doesn't come. "YOU have two kids?" I expect her to say. YOU who is so youthful and vibrant and not mommyish at all? But she sees my dark circles and messy hair. She see half of my groceries are some variety of snack food and that spit up permanently stains my shoulder. I get the once over while she silently confirms indeed, I look very much like a mom and then trails off into stories about her grandchildren.
I'm 34 and I look like a mom. Two months ago I gave birth to my second little boy and he has a two year old brother. For the first time in my life I wear concealer under my eyes because I actually need it. My favorite outfit involves a new comfy sweater I purchased from the Hanna Anderson catalog when I was shopping for some pajamas for my boys. It can be washed and dried with any load of laundry and looks presentable combined with the Spanx leggings I bought out of the catalog that appeared in my mailbox almost the same day I arrived home from the hospital with my newest bundle of joy. Does Spanx buy our information from our healthcare providers? I didn't want to give in to their marketing but the leggings really do work miracles on the squishy skin surrounding my midsection.
In my mind I do not look like a mom at all. I still look somewhat cool. I do wear cool earrings for example, and underneath my Spanx there are some pretty underwear made with black lace that make me feel edgy. I can wear a thong again now that my hemorrhoids from the birth are gone. My babysitter told me I was cool last week even though she witnessed me walk out my door forgetting I had a nursing pillow called My Breast Friend fastened around my waist. Then again, I pay her.
I'm waiting for my hair to start falling out in clumps when I take a shower just like it did after my first son was born. That hair has been growing back for over two years and it still looks like I have two different haircuts going on. Soon to be three. My body looks and feels surprisingly okay two months after growing and delivering an 8.5 pound baby. But what is left of my body does not look like it did a year ago. My backside appears to be deflated and my front full of extra puff. How does this happen? Wouldn't it make more sense that our bodies would be stronger and leaner after growing a baby? Haven't we been through enough?
When I met my partner Alex I felt beautiful and free and down for an adventure at any given moment. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks I'm still fun and if my mom body is attractive to him. My second pregnancy was filled with all of those things that nobody tells you will happen because they are so awful and I was sure he would be repulsed by me forever. If you also have survived vulvar varicosities, I'm so sorry. He seems pretty happy just to have even a child free minute to touch my mom body at all so I guess I'm doing okay. If he says HE's tired one more time I swear he's never touching this mom body again.
Sometimes I'm in awe of how truly selfless mothers are required to be. Just think about how many times we don't go to the bathroom when we really have to. Who has the time when small children need us for survival? And let's be real, you know you look like a mom when you've mastered the art of going to the bathroom with a sleeping baby strapped to the front of you, and can exit the restroom with the sweat dried off your brow like it was not the struggle of your life. Sometimes I know I look most like a mom when I'm carrying my infant in the Ergo and my toddler just won't leave the park so I pick him up, kicking and screaming and bopping his tiny brother on the head. We make a run for the car and by the time they are both secured in their seats I'm sweating (again) and anxious and crying and telling myself it won't be like this forever. My two year old is still back there screaming he wanted to do it "all by myself." I worry I'm the only mom not having fun all the time.
I look like a mom when I'm doing it all--making dinner, changing diapers, playing the "boo" game with my toddler and somehow running my business out of our home at the same time. Why did I think working from home was a good idea again? Sometimes I wish I had an excuse to go to work too.
I look like a mom when I routinely suck snot out of my baby's nose and am totally okay letting my toddler eat the food he spilled off the floor. I know it's cleaner than a great majority of other things he's put in his mouth today. He won't take a good nap if he doesn't eat. Sometimes when he wakes from his nap and calls for me to lift him out of his crib I don't rush right in. He can hang out in there for a while, right? Mom needs a break. I wonder if I"m the only mom that does this.
I look like a mom when I catch my toddler painting the floor with my precious concealer and get angry. "Made this for you" he says, and I melt and give him a warm embrace because that is all he wanted anyway. I remind myself these moments are fleeting and soon he will be too heavy to lift and cuddle. And when my infant is wailing in the back of my car and won't even let me get to the grocery store without crying and causing my breasts to leak all over my one clean shirt, I look like a mom when I pick him up gently and nurse him for the twentieth time today. I call my own mom a lot and ask her how she did it. I"m so grateful that she did.
It's 6 a.m. and I"m just trying to squeeze in a quick shower to start my day when one kid wakes, then the other. "Mommy mommy" I hear. I know there will be no shower this morning. I scoop up the baby, then walk down the hall to my toddler's room. I enter and see his little face peering out from beneath a mound of quilts. There's a woman standing in his room who's tired and needs coffee and just wanted a shower and we both smile because she looks like his mom.