Mother Muse: The Virtue

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Want to know more about Leslie? Leslie Klipsch is a mother, writer, and educator. She enjoys the new lens through which she has looked at the world since becoming a mother. In the last half-dozen years, she has moved from a small town in Iowa to Chicago, married her husband, Jake, studied hard and received a master's degree in writing, taught English at an all-boys high school, read a lot of poetry, become a part-time stay-at-home mom/part-time freelance writer, and given birth to two boys, Oliver. She finds motherhood to be an incredible muse and hopes you enjoy reading her tiny insights on parenting and life.

Who can forget the wait?

Waiting to become a mother is an intense state of being that is unique to expectant women, and it's a perilous task. It's not at all like waiting for Friday and the work week to be over. It's not like counting down until the end of the school year when you are in the fifth grade and it's hot and all you want to do is run around outside and do canon balls off the diving board at the pool.
It's not like Christmas Eve with all of the gifts expected under the tree or your birthday and a bunch of your friends coming over to celebrate.

It's more pressing than the night before vacation with all of your clothes clean and tucked into a suitcase. It's bigger than turning sixteen and getting your drivers license and scarier than loading up the mini-van and heading off to college. The anticipation surrounding the birth of a child is in fact far greater, more anxiety-inducing, more blood-pressure-raising than all of that wrapped up in one. You find yourself at seven, eight, nine months pregnant, on the verge of meeting the person that you will call your son or your daughter -- someone you will know and who will know you for the rest of your life. You find yourself on the verge of greeting the life that will ultimately be entwined with your own forever.

We take the test, announce the news, marvel at our beautiful, bulging belly and then find ourselves in this awkward state: the state of the wait.

Perhaps my husband, Jake, and I were a little too gung-ho in our preparation. At barely eight months pregnant with our first son, the car seat was in place, the bassinette set-up next to our bed, the baby clothes washed and put away in a drawer. We even once went so far as to push the shiny, empty stroller down the street just to get the feel. This was too much.

At about thirty-seven weeks, I began moping around staring at the empty bassinette, thinking about how this baby was never going to come. Several weeks before the big day, I went on maternity leave. I had the time built up and the grandiose plan of transforming myself into an efficient worker bee. A one-hundred-seventy-five pound, swollen, anxious, arguably hormonal worker bee.

You can guess how the story ends. I did not clean. I did not freeze meals. I certainly did not yet have a baby. Instead, I landed on the couch numerous times a day and spent hours at a time enduring Clean Sweep and Barefoot Contessa because I couldn't muster the energy or ambition to do anything else.

I remember rousing myself for a trip to the stationary store and coming back disheartened. Why bother with baby announcements when we had nothing to announce? Even the vivacious name discussions that my husband and I engaged in throughout pregnancy lost their luster-it just did not seem all that urgent. And of course, I was still weeks from my due date.

Thirty-seven weeks and I was pulling out my hair waiting to meet our first son. A few years later I try to smile and relax as Oliver stops to pick up a rock on the sidewalk, even though we continually run about fifteen minutes late for everything we do. I've gone for walks with friends and my mother and they've commented on how much slower my pace is now compared to the way I used to quickly sashay down the sidewalk.

I'd like to say that after having gone through the experience once, my fortitude is great. But of course, at the end of my second pregnancy not only were Jake and I feeling antsy, but we'd dragged Oliver into the frenzy, too.

"I want to kiss you, baby!Come on!" I would whine, looking down at the not-so-subtle protrusion from my midsection, in all its pregnant prominence.

"Come out and play!" Oliver would screech, lips pressed against the bump.

Today, with two boys in tow, I break into a sweat each time I try to pack everyone up for even the simplest outing and the clock that we operate by runs even slower. But, I have great hope. I've noticed that sometimes it's the women with the most children who embody the calmest spirit.

My neighbor has three children (under the age of three, I might add) and I've never heard her raise her voice. I recently spotted a quadruple stroller in a coffee shop. The mother simply ambled up to the counter and placed her enormous order without causing any sort of the scene. I buy home-made granola from a mother of seven. Seven children and time to cook and sell her goods.

Perhaps it's purely a matter of mathematics. Nine months of swollen ankles, heartburn, and anxiety equates a bit of patience, eighteen months buys a more transcendent peace, sixty-three (that's over five years, mind you) and you've earned super hero powers and a Zen-like state of being.

Maybe while the finishing touches are being put on the baby in utero, the universe is conspiring, making sure that the woman is really, truly ready for motherhood, or at least as ready as she ever can be. Reminding her that this, as anything else, will not happen on her time but in its own. We are forced to be patient. And perhaps that's all part of the wait. We need to learn the virtue first.