Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Goldie… yes, that one—of three bears fame. Only she was no longer a girl and that famous blonde hair had darkened into little more than faint summer highlights, at best. Yes, Goldie had grown. She was over fairy tale life and wanted to explore the real world, to be the author of her own story.
So she wandered out of the enchanted forest and into chaotic suburbia. Of course, she was quickly overwhelmed by all the choices, and it culminated in a stress-induced ugly cry at a Jimmy John’s counter when so many delicious sandwiches sent her into a tailspin. Please! she cried, how do I know which one is just right when they all smell so good?
(For the record, she went with the Beach Club, which was absolutely the right decision)
Eventually, she adjusted and one magical day she met her prince. He was handsome and kind, brave and true. Only he wasn’t a prince in the conventional sense—turns out, the real world doesn’t have many of those. He wore dress blues instead of a tuxedo, a patrol cap in place of a crown, and maneuvered Apache helicopters rather than a faithful steed.
Her knight in shining armor, it turned out, was an American soldier. Before long, they were riding off into the sunset together… in the sweltering cab of a budget moving van, headed for the middle-of-nowhere.
And though most fairy tales end with true love’s kiss, Goldie knew her adventure was just beginning.
Together, Goldie and her swoon-worthy soldier began a family. As her belly grew, the fairy tales that once littered her nightstand were replaced by What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the latest literary journals on infant development. Goldie studied and prepped, planned and slept… what? Pregnancy is exhausting!
Soon, every detail of baby’s nursery was just right, and the pair joyfully welcomed a baby girl into their lives.
And wouldn’t you know it, all of Goldie’s preparation seemed to pay off. There were ups and downs, periods of more sleep and less but, overall, motherhood seemed to fit her expectations.
Baby girl grew healthy and strong, not lacking for the headstrong curiosity clearly inherited from her mother. Sure, this sometimes manifested in epic tantrums and defiant power struggles. With the gift of speech came a love of hyperbole and all things dramatic. Baby girl had grown into an independent little thing, all spitfire and sweetness.
Goldie was exhausted but happy and, together, she and her prince—er, soldier—decided to add another bundle of joy to the family.
Only this time, things were not a fairy tale. They were rocky from the start. Baby boy was seemingly never happy. Everything was a struggle and, before long, her fairy-tale life had devolved into a nightmare.
He screamed. She wept. He puked. She stressed.
What spell has been set upon us? she wailed into the magic screen through which her husband appeared, for he was halfway across the world gallantly fighting ogres or some such thing with his fire-breathing dragon—er, helicopter.
My love, he replied, it’s not a spell, probably just colic and reflux. Let’s make him an appointment with the pediatrician.
So she did. And wouldn’t you know it…
…the problems didn’t magically go away.
It turns out, behind all the doctors and diagnoses, her baby boy was also just plain difficult. She loved him, of course, but he was completely different from his sister. He struggled to sleep, hated to eat, screamed for human touch, then screamed more when it became too much. There were many ways to describe him but, in the end, she often settled upon a single word: intense.
Poor Goldie scoured her ever-expanding library of baby books to no avail. Doctors spoke to her with condescension—simply sticking to a schedule works wonders, you know! Friends offered advice that never seemed to do the trick.
Goldie felt defeated, like a failure. Slowly, her boy grew and, with him, her resolve to try for one more baby.
She was nervous, of course. The storybook mirage of perfect motherhood had been irrevocably broken, but she hoped for the best.
And then, one magical day, baby number three came along to complete the family.
This time, there was no need for baby books, doctor’s opinions, or frantic midnight searches through online message boards. His appearance into their lives was seamless, as if he had always been there. He grinned and cooed, snuggled and snoozed.
This baby, Goldie mused to herself, is almost embarrassingly easy-going. I didn’t know this was even possible!
Perhaps it was the years of experience behind her, or maybe it was the obscene amounts of sleep she was offered this time around but, suddenly, all the guilt she had been carrying fell away and everything came into focus: one baby was easy, another was difficult, still another was just as expected, but they were all absolutely perfect. And nothing she could’ve read or done would’ve changed a thing.
Happily ever after, it turns out, is more complicated than fairy tales would lead us to believe.
But as Goldie knows, it’s well-worth the journey—warts and all.