Motherhood was a complete surprise and changed everything.
My first pregnancy was a surprise.
My second pregnancy was twins, which was a surprise.
My third pregnancy was when my twins were 2 months old… that was a surprise, for sure.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
The first time I got pregnant, Jason – my boyfriend turned baby daddy turned husband – and I were living an insanely fun life in the fast lane. One day I didn’t feel right, so I walked to the 7-11 to buy a pregnancy test. I peed on a stick, gasped, and had to turn off the California Party Girl, just like that.
My lifestyle was getting old, and it was time to grow up.
I tried to switch gears and went full on “mom.” I purged my closet of mini-skirts and tried to turn rocky road into vanilla. Then one day when my first child was about a year old, my husband and I decided to try and smoke a little pot for old time’s sake. Before I knew it my little one came running to me with his golden curls and bright blue eyes, and I freeeaaaaaked out. Panic mode. Heart flying, I threw up in the bathroom, took 2 shots of whiskey to avoid the heart attack I was sure I was about to have, and passed out on the couch (don’t worry my husband was in control). I woke up, looked at Jason, and said, “I am NEVER doing that again.”
I have never been a good pot smoker, but for some reason I wanted to smoke that day. I had been trying to live up to the perfect, no-fun mom role, and when you try to be something you’re not, you eventually crack. The fact that I felt I had to completely change myself was holding me back, and not fair to my husband either. He didn’t fall in love with vanilla, after all.
Motherhood is about making it work for everyone. I’m still a good time, and I choose wine over weed. I’m not perfect but I prioritize my family, and have found that I am at my best when I can balance mom with rocky road.
Before children I didn’t take myself too seriously. But motherhood opened my eyes to how important it is for me to trust myself and my intuition.
Two years ago my daughter Landon started having these strange spells where she would inexplicably pass out. A friend of mine mentioned that these were seizures, so we ran an MRI. We were told that she was fine – the MRI was clear, and she would outgrow the spells. But I kept thinking something wasn’t right. I kept calling the doctors who repeatedly brushed me off because I just KNEW something wasn’t right.
She continued to have strange symptoms; all summer we rushed her to the ER when her arm or leg went numb. My husband would return irritated with me after wasting 6 hours in the ER just to be sent home. At one point, all 6 of us piled into a car and drove up to NYC for a second opinion and still had no answers. She cried to us every morning, saying that her head hurt and she felt weird, and we would yell at her and tell her she was nuts. We would literally say, “Landon you’re insane. We’ve been to the doctor a million times,” and force her onto the bus.
Finally, after a YEAR of this nonsense, I packed my bags, had my husband drop my daughter and I off at the Children’s Hospital ER and announced that I was NOT leaving until tests were run. They were surprised to find that she was seizing every 30 minutes. Thirty flippin’ minutes. A seizure every 30 minutes and we were forcing her to go to school! We were admitted and they discovered that the MRI from a year earlier was misread. She was born with an abnormality in her brain. She needed brain surgery.
I felt terrible. She had suffered for a year with massive headaches and seizures. I knew deep down that something wasn’t right, but I let the rest of the world tell me I was crazy. And instead of trusting myself, I told my daughter she was crazy. Before kids I would second guess myself and ditz my way out of things to avoid confrontation. But I lost a whole year that way. Landon has since gotten the attention she deserves, including brain surgery, but I wish I had trusted my instinct that year. We’ll never get that year back.
From that point on, you better believe I was on fire. Ever since that day, I trust that I will always know best. No matter how many letters you have after your name, I am her mother and I will fight for her like the freaking Phoenix. A mother has got to be her child’s advocate.
Being the MOM is a challenge sometimes.
It’s way more fun to be the child and have everyone take care of you! The worst is when mom is sick, and can barely function. Even then it is our job to take care of everyone.
We recently had the stomach flu. The stomach flu is remarkable because not only is everyone feeling bad, but you are also dealing with projectile vomit. The bedding is the worst – laundry piling up for days. You just can’t spot treat puke. So, at about the point where I couldn’t remember the last day I had showered, or how many weeks we had been doing this, I had the most brilliant idea… probably the best idea I have ever had in my entire life.
I said, “Every time you puke… if you puke in this bucket… and ONLY this bucket…IF YOU GET ALL YOUR PUKE IN THIS BUCKET…I will give you $10…EVERY SINGLE TIME.” I’m telling you this is a win-win situation. There was no more laundry for me, and it became a lucrative challenge for them. Winning in the Rickel house!
Tucking them in at night with love and patience and a warm smile, that’s a challenge too. It doesn’t happen often. Wine helps. The showers, the jammies, the teeth, the books, the STAYING IN BED… Bedtime here is typically a circus of kids laughing, screaming, slipping, crying, running into walls, throwing school artwork in my face that was nonexistent when repeatedly requested 5 hours earlier… everyone is starving and neglected, and I obviously don’t care about anyone… and oh, homework… that homework that didn’t exist either… that is suddenly the end all. Then I’m cursing and threatening everyone’s lives, and my promises to be the best mom ever are out the window. “Love and patience” expires at 7pm.
I love motherhood, though. I do. It’s those little things that I missed so much when my daughter and I had to stay at Children’s Hospital. When you can’t do those things like wrangle four children to bed, you realize how much they mean to you.
I’ve learned that motherhood doesn’t have to change you, just your priorities.
I now value the important things. I find magic in the little things. My heart is fuller than I would ever think possible, and it also breaks harder than I ever imagined. I was wild and reckless before kids. My motto could’ve been “Why not?” Now I’ll give you every answer under the sun as to why NOT. It’s been challenging, but I try to behave the way I want my kids to behave when they are adults… I hope they are more successful at acting like an adult than I am!
Still, being a mom constantly inspires me to be a better version of myself. If I don’t take care of myself or respect myself, what am I teaching them? If I let people disrespect me, they will find that acceptable. On the other hand, if I fail, and get back up, they will see me trying and learning and growing.
I am their example. I am teaching them how to treat themselves and others. I want them to be fun and free, but also honest, inspiring, charitable, and successful. I believe that if they try their best without the fear of failure, are true to themselves and also kind to others, everything’s gonna be alright.
Lindsay Rickel is a professional photographer who has worked in New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and now Pittsburgh. She lives an exciting life with her husband, 4 children, 5 cats, 2 dogs, and 6 birds.