11 May 2014

the magic of motherhood


How appropriate for Mother's Day.  I know a couple that is deciding whether to keep or terminate an unplanned pregnancy, and I suddenly have all of these matronly things to say.

When I was twenty-four, I also had a boyfriend who wanted to get married and have babies, and it freaked me out.  I wanted freedom.  I wanted to travel.  I wanted to create a successful career.  I still had to grow up.  I wanted to be selfish for a little while longer.  I broke up with him and ran far, far away.

On the other hand, if you're with the man you want to spend your life with, and you know you want to have children with him eventually, then I'd also say it's never the perfect time to start a family.  You're never fully prepared to be a mother.  Your home is never ready.  Your work will most certainly suffer.  You won't get to sleep through one full night for almost three years (well, at least that's what it took me to get there, and I'm *just* getting there now, as my little one approaches her second birthday).  Your body will no longer belong to you.  In fact, nothing really belongs to you anymore-- but that's because you happily give everything to this little creature that invaded your life.

This little creature that you never believed was real, even as your belly grew larger and larger.  This little creature that you saw in the ultrasounds, moving around, that you could feel kicking inside your belly-- it all still seemed like this theoretical idea, until you heard its little cry after going through the most physically painful experience of your life.  Yet, after giving birth, you also felt like you were invincible, Godlike, and also humbled by the most amazing gift you ever received.

And more than anything, this tiny being, without a single word, completely changes how you see the world.  Everything else falls to the wayside, even the things you thought were so important-- all of the things you thought were sacred suddenly seem trivial next to this little helpless bundle of wriggles.

Freedom?  Why would you want freedom when you could be blessed with this amazing responsibility?  This little person who looks like you and your beloved is counting on you for her survival, and you want her to not only survive but thrive in this big world.  Nothing feels like a sacrifice; you simply want to give her everything you had and everything you never had.

Travel?  They may be fussy at times, but they are quite portable.  Traveling six thousand miles with a three-month-old?  No problem.  Just strap them on, nurse them a lot, and you're good to go.  Traveling nine thousand miles with a 22-month-old?  Also doable.  Just go on lots of escalators, find playgrounds wherever you can, and they'll have a blast.

For me, I always thought I was a loving person, but nothing prepares you for how much love your baby will inspire in you.  Your heart swells to what feels like you're encompassing the entire ocean, the entire world, and you're so full of love, it hurts-- but in the best way possible.  You're vulnerable at every moment, but every moment is huge, electrical, like that feeling when you first fell in love.

So, I still don't have a successful career, I struggle every day with being a more patient and loving mother, and I'm still a long ways from my ideal, but I now see my life through a completely different lens.  I'm not going to be one of those parents that defines myself through my children, pushing them to win science awards when they're three years old, but my life has so much more meaning now that I know I am leaving a legacy behind.  I have to be on every second, watching what I say, how I react, what example I'm setting.

Being a mom makes me a better person, it makes my husband and me delve into the questions we may not have given time or thought to if we weren't parents, and it makes us live our lives more mindfully, with an eye on the future we're creating for ourselves and for our daughter.

And even with a life full of everything I could have dreamed of-- a loving husband, world travel, fancy schools, incredible work experiences, great friends, etc.-- nothing even comes close to having a baby.

She is quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me.

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