The Making of a Mother

February 23, 2024
February 23, 2024 Betsy Voreacos

The Making of a Mother

“Exactly 32 years ago, you were ABOUT TO BECOME A MOTHER!” the daughter texted me last night. “What are your reflections on your performance so far?”

I sat with that one for a minute.

My water broke on a Saturday morning, a week before my due date, a day before her eventual birth. I called my doctor who said to wait a couple of hours (finishing up the back nine?) and to meet him at the hospital in the afternoon.

I know I was nervous. But I also knew that I had a better chance of being a good copywriter than being a good mother, so did what any model employee would have done. I drove the two miles up the hill to CNBC, dropped off copy for a brochure and left notes for all my friends and bosses on their desks apologizing that I wouldn’t be in on Monday. Then I came home, grabbed my overnight bag (with a baby-sized baseball uniform for the son I was convinced I was having) and, along with my ever-loving spouse, headed to the hospital.

Thirty some hours later, the daughter was born by c-section. I called my sister who was pregnant with number two and had had number one surgically removed a year and a half earlier.

“I don’t know why EVERYONE doesn’t request a caesarian!” I gushed from the recovery room. “I  feel great.”

“Wait until tomorrow,” was all she said.

She was right. That belly slice pain, especially if I had to cough, or poop, or feed a baby or talk on the phone or lean to the right, lean to the left, was well … suffice it to say, I felt every tug on every stitch and deep beyond into my womb.

But that proved to be the least of my parenting pains.

The daughter was perfect for the first week. She was adorable, alert, ate well, slept well, was oh, so smart, and she let anyone hold her without a single fuss. Our apartment was filled with flowers and food and friends and we were boiling over with love.

Week two was when it hit hard: life as we knew it was gone for good.

That perfect daughter picked up a case of colic that lasted an eternity. She cried every night for hours and hours and hours and then more hours. In the midst of this brutal betrayal, we had planned to drive to Philadelphia to introduce our darling to a group of our besties. I argued that it wasn’t fair to our still childless friends to bring such a loud and obnoxious thing into their home.

“Oh, she’ll be fine,” the ever-loving father said.

And once again, he was right. She was delightful. Somehow, that month old daughter inherently knew how to work the room.

And that’s kind of how it’s been for the past 32 years. She tested her mother, mesmerized her father, tortured her brothers, and totally enchanted the rest of the world.

We went on to create two more kids in rapid succession which resulted in the kind of chaos I still can’t believe I survived. I continued working part time until the youngest was three and a half and the creative services department at CNBC was dissolved. I wholeheartedly believed I could have a lucrative freelance career working from home while raising three young children.

As the ever-working spouse worked ever-longer hours, the under-working me was completely and utterly overwhelmed. Yet we plodded along.

The Lion King which played on a perpetual loop in the basement eventually morphed into mommy and me classes, swim lessons, dance classes, soccer games and ice hockey tournaments. There was Sunday school, summer camp, cheerleading competitions, basketball games and football combines. Baseball, baseball, and more baseball. We drove in the old minivan to vacation spots in pretty places (scheduled around sports of course). With my friend and savior, Claire, at my side, we became PTA presidents and the motivating mothers behind every sports team in town. I spent and hours and hours driving kids around, feeding strays, turning a blind eye to things they thought I didn’t see, sitting on rain-splashed bleachers, helping friends of friends of friends with college essays and offering refuge on our basement couch to those who needed it.

I battled through without ever once, not even for a split second, thinking that I had mastered this mothering thing.

But when the daughter asked for a self-evaluation of my parenting skills, I thought about how far we’ve come. All three of my kids are now launched, out in the world, doing good things. They are honest, responsible and kind humans who are well loved and (mostly) do the right thing.

“I think in my early years my performance was sketchy,” I responded. “But the overall rating is an A+, because well, look at what you’ve become”

I then thought about last August when the daughter and I went to Los Angeles together to see Taylor Swift . She told me I had to dress up in concert garb which we both knew was way beyond my capabilities. And so I comprised and wore a T-shirt with the title of one of Taylor’s songs on it:

this is me trying

There’s so much I should have done but didn’t. I spewed words in rage that I’ll forever regret and left unsaid things that could have made all the difference. I should have taken more deep breaths and offered less bribes. Worried less about mess and more about fun. (Though this is my solemn vow, I will never, not even with grandchildren whom I will undoubtedly adore, ever allow finger painting or grape popsicles inside my house).

I could have said yes when I said no and should have said no when yes made it easier for me. I could go on and on with my coulda, shoulda, woulda.

All that aside, I know that I always, always tried.

And now, thirty-two years into this journey, I can say with confidence that sometimes simply trying ends up yielding pretty good results.

Happy Birthday, to the beautiful daughter who made me a mother.