On Becoming a Mother
Like many young women out there today, I always assumed I'd be a mom one day, but not because I was specifically dying to be one. It was more like only a small number of people actively choose never to have kids, and I didn't see myself being one of those people. So I figured I'd just become a mom by default. I'm eventually going to write a whole post on ambivalence toward becoming a parent, but this part is relevant to the story I want to share today.
Before I became a mom (and even throughout my pregnancy, which was planned!), I had mixed feelings about the whole parenthood thing. My entire life, I had worked really hard toward my own goals. I wanted to go to great schools, have an impressive career, make a difference in this world. Develop deep friendships. Cultivate my talents. Have fun experiences. And curate a nice Instagram feed to go along with it (ugh, yes, this will be the downfall of civilization, but it is what it is). I didn't know much, but I was sure that having kids would disrupt all that, and I wasn't sure if I would ever get back to my "true self" again.
I figured I would have kids, because that's just what people do, but I wasn't expecting to enjoy it until my kids were older and were actual thinking human people with minds I could reason with. To put it bluntly: I never wanted to be the mom of a baby or toddler, and wasn't quite sure how it was going to play out. It's safe to say that I only viewed motherhood through the lens of me, my own life, and how that would be affected by having a child. I totally discounted all the beautiful aspects of the parent-child relationship. What I failed to realize is that motherhood isn't and shouldn't be synonymous with self-obliteration and martyrdom, even though there are elements of that in there.
Of course, since having Theo almost 16 months ago, my views have radically changed. But I heard something yesterday that took everything to the next level, and I'd like to share it with you.
Yesterday, a friend shared with me something that I’ll never forget. It moved me to tears and gave me the sharpest clarity of purpose that I’ve had since becoming a mom.
She told me that the mother of a woman she knows just passed away, and on her deathbed, the last thing she did was cry out for her own mother. My friend followed up with a story about her own grandfather, who died several years ago. Even though his mom had been gone for decades, she was the last person he cried out for just before he passed.
Cue the tears!
What I took away from these stories is this: as a mother, I am my child’s alpha and omega. I gave Theo life and still nourish him from my own body. I worry about every little detail of his existence. I’m an expert on him in his totality. I know, inside and out, his moods, temperament, body rhythms, and patterns. I feel so connected to him that sometimes in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up only to hear him start to cry a minute later.
This connection, in my estimation, has little to do with the fact that I stay home with him. I believe that all mothers are given a gift of intuition that can be strengthened with desire, receptivity, and time.
So we develop the deepest of relationships with these human beings. When they are babies, we are their entire galaxy. Even as they get older and their universe expands, we are their soft spot to fall.
I can’t get over the weight of what it means to be a mother, and frankly, this is what scared me about having kids in the first place. The stories my friend told me yesterday make me think that as mothers, our relationship with our children is the closest approximation of their relationship with a higher power. It’s ok if you don’t believe in one, but just bear with me. These innocent beings don’t know a single thing about the world when they come in. But we become their universe. And our patience, kindness, love, forgiveness, and generosity helps them to shape their view of what this world is. The unconditional bond that we have with our children is something they fall back on their whole lives, even long after we’re gone.
Realizing all this has only deepened the feelings I wrote down about motherhood on my first Mother’s Day this past year, which I've shared below.
Ultimately, I hope that I’ll remember all this when I’m faced with the horrible moments of motherhood. When I’m exhausted, run ragged, pushed to the edges of sanity, hanging on to my last thread of patience. I hope that I’ll remember how strong my bond is with my child and that the love I show him now may be the last comfort he has in this world.
Written on May 14, 2017
I still can't believe I'm a mom! This is one of the first pictures of me and Theo, taken about 40 minutes after he was born. I'm truly amazed at how quickly the minutes, hours, days, and months have passed since this moment. I didn't believe it was possible until I experienced it for myself, but I love him more every single day. It's beyond comprehension how you can pour your entire being into another person without wanting a thing in return, and be sincerely grateful to do it.
Guiding my sweet boy through the world over the past nine months has been the hardest, most revelatory, and happiest time of my life. Never before have I had to give unrelentingly so much of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But I have also found a deeper understanding of my capacity for patience and sacrifice that has surprised me. Having a child leaves you no option but to give, and though it is objectively challenging, it has been a beautiful experience.
Now, for the first time, I'm beginning to understand the depths of sacrifice my mom has made for me. No force on earth is more powerful than a mother's love — it can change the world!
Thanks for reading!
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