I had parenting down.
My husband and I.
We had parenting down.
Three children in four years after a decade of marriage and five years of infertility meant we were more mature and ready for parenthood. We had read and dreamed for so long. We had time to watch our friends make the mistakes. We knew what to do and how to do it.
While I say that a bit tongue and cheek, I sort of mean it. While my kids weren’t perfect, for the most part, parenthood went the way I wanted it to. And while I never rubbed that in other’s people faces, and I knew deep down that most of the luckiness was simply due to winning the genetic lottery, I found myself feeling a desire to pat myself on the back now and then.
My kids were well-behaved. They listened. They didn’t get into things (at least not often).
In other words, they didn’t wander away when I turned my head for a mere moment and stumble into a gorilla enclosure.
Just as I was starting to pat myself on the back yet again, I reminded my husband of the embryos we had frozen during our long years of infertility. We decided to go back for the remaining two embryos.
One of those embryos was Hannah.
Hannah was difficult from the moment of conception. We wonder, probably daily, if the fact that she was on ice for eight years built up some sort of insanity within her. While my first pregnancies were not a walk in the park, I found myself violently ill with Hannah about three days before I think I even became pregnant. I stayed sick and pretty depressed for the entire forty weeks.
Hannah entered the delivery room to the words, “Congratulations! You have a toddler!” Ten pounds two ounces with thick jet black hair that nearly covered her shoulders, my naturally blonde self truly wondered if there had been a mix-up with the lab when they implanted the embryo.
People who know our family will ask me when I knew things with Hannah were going to be different, and truly it was when she started crawling. She would find her way out of any baby play yard I created. She would crawl upstairs or downstairs while grown adults were in the room watching her. She would find something that I know was not in the room and have it in her mouth before I could even contemplate how she found it.
(Did I tell you that my husband is an Emergency Room physician well aware of all the dangers we should avoid as parents?)
While tending to my three older children one day, I turned my back on Hannah. I was in the same room as her with my back turned for what felt like only moments. When I turned back around, I discovered my best steak knife being used to slice tomatoes.
I do not exaggerate when I say that this one daughter who was technically conceived eight years before my other three children were born finds her way into more things in one day than my other three children did, combined, in their entire childhood.
I do not jest.
Hannah humbled me.
Prior to Hannah I had pretend compassion for mothers whose child was constantly wandering away from them. I had fake compassion for fathers who needed leashes to contain their child. I had sort of understanding for children who ate medicine like it was candy while their parent was brushing their teeth a few feet away.
And now, this pretend compassion is what others have to have for me.
My husband, truly, never lost his cool before Hannah. He was calm and cool with my kiddos at all times.
Now when I come home after a short respite from motherhood, he will smile wearily when I ask him how it went and just mumble, “Hannah.”
She makes us laugh with her antics and her incredible vocabulary but there is a reason that her siblings call her “Hannah the Hurricane.”
Recently an old friend came to visit me. All of her children have been more of the Hannah variety, and we only lived by each other before Hannah was born. As I took her back to the airport, she hesitated before saying, “Please take this in the right way. But I’m really glad you had Hannah. She’s made you a more real mom.”
I understood what she meant.
Here’s the truth. I am a good mom. I try to be careful and think ahead and keep dangerous steak knives away from my children.
But at least once a day, Hannah outsmarts me. At least once a week I yell “Hannah alert!” and my older children and I feverishly race around the house trying to figure out where Hannah slipped off to and what she is destroying. Once a month, I call my husband in tears telling him about the near-death experience that just took place.
(Like the time she wandered into our second floor garage and hung herself out a door whose balcony was currently under construction. Yes. That happened to me.)
I like to think that I wouldn’t let my children wander into a gorilla enclosure. But I know better. I know that no matter how hard I try to out-think and out-smart and out-wit my little two-and-a-half-year-old, Hannah, she surprises me. I know the Internet is swirling with parents (or non-parents) who disagree. (A half a million people signed a petition calling the mother's actions in this case "grossly negligent.")
Poison control exists because we cannot, possibly, watch our children every second of every day. My husband works in an ER where he sees children every single shift who hurt themselves or get into things while their parents were close by. Have these naysayers ever babysat? Have they ever had more than one child? Have they ever found their child somewhere they shouldn't be?
Have they ever met a Hannah?