In recent months, I have taken to assessing times in which revelations have occurred—to show me that who I once was in life is no longer who I am currently.
This realization of sorts always seems to happen in big sweeping floods, not slow trickles. It happened when I graduated from Naropa University. It happened when my boyfriend went to a month long meditation retreat and came home with a new girlfriend and it most definitely happened when I peed my pants on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Really peed my pants.
Like I might do in first grade, in front of the whole class because I have waited too long and can no longer function, peed my pants. (Okay, so that also really happened but I digress.)
I blame my cousins.
And my son.
It was exactly three months after I had my first child. I was new to mothering and with all the women in my life helping me throughout the process, not one seemed to think it important to mention post partum concerns of the bodily type.
They talked blissfully about the wonders of motherhood and being pregnant. How giving birth to life is a magical thing and that the experience was not only life changing, but spiritually changing as well.
What they did not mention was that in some cases, the old grey mare just ain’t what she used to be.
This was one of those cases.
I was visiting my cousins in the great city of Chicago and we had decided to do some shopping and dinner and perhaps even an adult beverage, because I had also failed at breastfeeding and had since started my son on formula. My child was blissfully colicky with my parents back at the house and my mom had assured me “She could handle it.”
I will never forget stepping out of the restaurant and into the sun. A sense of wonder and freedom to do as I pleased enveloped me—a feeling that had long been forgotten since coming home from the hospital.
I began smiling at something one of my deftly hilarious cousins was saying and then laughing, really laughing, then obnoxiously guffawing there on the sidewalks with a million tourists, like we do.
(I should mention here that I had forgotten to go to the bathroom before leaving the aforementioned establishment and so I carried within my delicate bladder two waters and a margarita.)
Suddenly, everything was wet.
My cousins turned—shock and awe can only describe their faces as they looked to me and to the puddle on the sidewalk and to me again.
There was nothing I could say other than “I should have done more kegels!”
It was in this moment that I realized just how far from familiar I was and forever would be.
I should have understood long before this incident that my body was no longer my own and that things were on the verge of change as I became a mother. Instead I chose to ignore the warning signs—the 65 pounds I gained while pregnant, the bloating, the swelling, the gastrointestinal diversity.
I began to get a glimpse of what being a mother was and what it truly meant.
Motherhood was suddenly, unapologetically, in my face.
I realized, standing there, that my role, my identity, had changed wholly and completely. In short, post partum public urination taught me this:
Motherhood means taking the good with the bad, the laughter with the tears, and the love with the sorrow.
It means being embarrassed and shaking it off, falling and getting up, succeeding and failing on a daily basis.
Motherhood means giving up adjectives that no longer apply—like svelte, firm and bladder control.
It means taking that crying baby in your arms and holding him/her as the heat rises from their skin from hysteria and perhaps even crying with them for lack of a better idea.
It means knowing that no matter what lies ahead, I can handle it with attempted grace and perhaps a mishap or 20.
Motherhood is a balance and navigation.
Motherhood means learning and growing and missing and moving and above all: living.
Most of all, though, it means laughing, even if there is a risk of wetting your pants.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman