For Me, Nothing Compares To Being A Mom
It is the least glorifying, most gratifying, soul-swelling, heart-scraping mission.
Before my first child was born, I had already failed as a mother. I was 39 weeks pregnant and fell ill over the weekend. By Tuesday, I was worse and called in sick to work. Feeling defeated and depressed, I reached out to my best friend for much-needed encouragement. She told me I needed to go to the doctor and make sure my baby was okay. I explained I had an appointment in two days and I felt so sick, I just wanted to stay home and rest. But my best friend persisted, so I relented and called my doctor to make an appointment.
Once my husband and I arrived at the office, they said my doctor was at the hospital with a delivery, and it would be a few hours before she’d be available to see me. I was exasperated, exhausted, and had no patience in the state I was in, so I said I would just see the doctor at my regularly scheduled appointment. They insisted I stay and let the nurse do a quick check on the baby. After calling me back and hooking up my belly to the monitor, my husband and I watched my baby’s heart rate plummet, then very slowly climb back up. It dove down again when the nurse came in and told us another doctor wanted to see us right away.
Sitting in his office, baffled by it all, the doctor explained that my baby had been suffering but he wasn’t sure for how long. With her heart rate dropping and struggling to recover, he couldn’t promise us she was okay. Then he said the words that haunt me to this day…
“You may have saved your baby’s life by coming in today.”
We rushed straight to the hospital where I gave birth. It was terrifying and traumatizing, filled with the agonizing dread of uncertainty. Had it not been for my best friend insisting I go; my baby might not have survived.
I was 35 years old when my first child made her dramatic entrance into the world. I had been working with kids my entire adult life, but I was oblivious to all that parenting entailed. No matter how old you are when you become a mother, you still go on the journey naïve of it all. And from that first day of my baby’s life, I felt utterly unqualified to be a mom. Why didn’t I know my baby was struggling? Where was my natural “mom instinct”? How on earth do I care for this baby who needs me to know what I clearly don’t know?
The first 10 years of my child’s life were wrought with ongoing medical issues, diagnoses, treatments, procedures, hospitalizations, therapies, and medications to help make my baby well. I constantly struggled with crushing anxiety, sheer exhaustion, and debilitating insecurity, while struggling to survive the constant care for my daughter. I had no idea being a mom would bring me to my knees with desperate pleas, questioning everything I did and worrying I was failing over and over again.
I learned very quickly the truth about motherhood, which I believe every mom experiences too. Being a mom is all-consuming, totally terrifying, and more self-sacrificing than anything anyone could ever do. You’re forced to face an unpredictable terrain littered with landmines that can explode anytime as you trek through each day of raising your child, just trying the best you possibly can with what you don’t know. You can’t train or study or prepare for this mission because you learn how to be a mom as you go.
I’ve grown so much wiser and more confident through all the years I wrestled with my own self-worth as a mom. I learned how motherhood can leave you dangling off the end of you, as you release your grip in full surrender. It can rip off all the protective layers you once had and leave you raw and ragged until you slowly begin to rebuild stronger skin.
But it’s in those shredding moments where something extraordinary occurs; where your love for your child supersedes your own needs and somehow, a new and improved you emerges. This paradoxical paradigm astounds me as I discover the truth of it more and more. These infants we bring into the world, evolve right along with us, as we navigate through the never-ending, painstaking decisions we make as mothers. We fail, we learn. They fail, they learn. And eventually, these lessons bring a lifelong story full of suffering and redemption, and the fullness of fruition, over and over again.
And this dance we do comes with twists and turns and dips and falls and continues until our kids are full-grown. Then our hands let go when they leave our home, but we still dance from a distance until we grow old. And if you have the fortunate fate where you get to this stage, a new dance begins and it’s their turn to step in while caring for your needs that surpass their own. They give you back all you once gave them as the circle of motherhood rounds out its end in the most powerful, beautiful, and sorrowful completion.
I’m living in each phase of motherhood right now. My firstborn is healthy and living on her own, while I'm still raising my second child at home, and caring for my mom who's 82-years old. I’m still failing, still learning, still evolving, as a mom, and a daughter- both intertwined in me. And although life is full of so many great things, there is nothing that compares to being a mother. It is the least glorifying, most gratifying, soul-swelling, heart-scraping mission, that a mother’s been given. And I thank God for the chance to do this miraculous dance every day.
And for all the mothers who've lost a child and the daughters who've lost their mother that are reading this right now while living under the crushing weight of grief and loss ..... I mourn with you.