So much went through my head when I found out I was going to be a mom for the first time. I’d put money on the idea that most young mothers – not married, not financially secure, not planning on having a baby – feel somewhat the same. Mostly because of those things. The “nots”. The nots can ruin a perfectly laid plan. They can change the future. The nots are the reasons that sleep is elusive and hearts thump wildly and answers about the future are evasive.

But what happens when that pregnancy moves forward and that just turning 19 year old girl looks at herself sideways in a mirror and sees a change is that the nots slip away. 847 different things can happen. Paralyzing fear and amazement are two of them. Sadness for the what-ifs is another. Considerable anxiety about being responsible for someone else takes up about 823 of those things under different labels.

Then that baby is here. And nursing is like, whoa. Why won’t my milk come in. I read all those books. And then…Holy batman I can feed a starving third world country and how do I turn it off. Diapers. Trying cloth and realizing that can’t be right. Not sleeping. Playing when reading sounds better. Strollers and collapsing them and why did I tear my pants trying to get that thing in the trunk.

Time becomes a not. I did not prepare well for this walking baby thing. Or talking. I did not know that the end of a day can bring instant regret for harsh words and missed opportunities to hold that baby tighter for longer. Suddenly waking in the middle of the night is about less fear of the unknown and more about not losing time. Not skipping days and weeks that fly by while that baby boy becomes a big boy.

And praying. Pleading. Sneaking in there at night when the fever is raging and making sure he’s safe. Breathing. Sleeping. Praying and pleading for safety and making deals with that higher power and saying that anything can happen to me if you do not let anything happen to my sweet boy. Because these are nots I can live with. Not hurt. Not scared. Not lonely. Not teased. Not bullied. Not unhappy. Not.

What I was unaware of was that this wasn’t because I was 19 and shocked and not ready. It wasn’t because I had to throw that kid on my hip and pray for a parking spot on campus and dash to class and apologize 176 times to the hungover 20 year olds who were all scared of the chicken pox (it had totally scabbed over). It wasn’t because I counted dollars to pay rent when we needed milk, too, or I needed a supplementary text for psychology and how does that pay the electric bill and I’m still trying to mom over here.  It was all just part of being a mom.

It was the same when I was 29 and married and I was driving to the hospital and making deals that I would be better and do better in the world if this new baby could be okay. During that c section when that baby was yanked out and my eyes were wet with crazy happiness and crazy fear and crazy love, all I wanted was this one to be alive and healthy and have a good life, too. Then the nursing and the stupid stroller and the pleading that all would be well. And the sneaking in at night and when the ear infections set in and putting a hand ever so gently on that baby’s chest. Just a graze of the fingertips to ensure that all was well.

And it was not always well. There were not any guarantees. The deals were not real. But I woke up at night then and I wake up at night now and worry and hope and plead and pray, and I know that I could not have any of it any other way. I am me because of these babies. Life is not a series of planned events. It is not boring and steady. Instead it is filled with grass stains and love and bad jokes and giggles and worry. It is this. It is momming because not momming was never really an option.


This story is shared by Sarah Stalker. She is the mother of four kids with an irreverent take on parenting. She makes jewelry (Foxy Hardware) and does social media work here and there while spending as much time as possible with family and friends. Laughing is her favorite.

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