I didn’t awaken that morning expecting my life to change. I knew some things would be different. There would be diapers to change, extra laundry to wash, another mouth to feed. But true change? As in a shift in perspective change? As in a how-did-I-ever-make-it-without-you change? Yet there it was, covering me like a warm sweater. Fitting perfectly.
And I almost missed the significance of it.
My first day of motherhood.
Like many young girls, I had often dreamed of marrying my prince charming. Together we would create the perfect family which would, no doubt, include an adorable baby girl with a closet full of pink dresses and lacy hair bows.
In this dream, my prince charming and I never disagreed. The sweet baby never cried. Money was never scarce. I always looked put-together in my career suit, high heel shoes, and polished fingernails.
It now occurs to me how this childhood fantasy skipped from the start of marriage, family, and career and sprinted straight into a never-ending state of bliss. Never once did I consider the life destined to take place between the beginning and the end.
So there we were, my beau and I, planning for parenthood as best we could. Early November would bring with it a small bundle of joy. I would stay home with our baby girl for two months, and then return to work. Life would carry on much the same as it had.
And then she arrived.
To this day, I’m not certain exactly what happened.
This everything-must-go-according-to-plan woman was knocked off track by a 7 pound, 5 ounce baby girl packaged in pink.
I never saw it coming.
Not through years of dreaming and planning. Not through nine months of loving her through pregnancy. Not through hours of laboring to get her here. Not until I held her in my arms for the first time.
I had become a mother.
It was within that moment I began to see life differently. I began to sense the call to motherhood, and in accepting that call, new experiences became the norm.
Motherhood brought with it much learning. I quickly realized not every little girl is fond of pink and lace. And that some two-year-old boys can easily outrun their mothers despite their tiny legs. That even the youngest of children can struggle with shyness. That some toddlers have a will stronger than their adult counter-parts. And that an ordinary rock or weed can become a special gift when given from the lovely heart of a child.
If not for mothering, I may have never become an expert at capturing crickets, toads, and frogs. I most certainly would have never owned a pet rat (affectionately known as Mr. Rat), nor would I have willingly housed lizards, guinea pigs, or hamsters (or the babies they were never supposed to birth).
I’m sure I would have never carried on a conversation with the one lone fish who lived on my kitchen counter. Nor would I have taken on the large number of dogs and cats we’ve loved through the years. No, my entourage of pets would have been much less if not for motherhood.
Living as a mother has also stretched me in more important ways. It has caused me to question, at times, much of what I thought to be true. It has forced me to think hard, and to pray more. What has worked with one child has not worked with another.
And the heartaches, oh how deeply they hurt. I wonder whether a deeper pain exists than that felt by a mother whose child is struggling, or rebelling, or hurting, or leaving, or one who has already gone.
From the first child of my dreams, to the two boys who followed, on to a second daughter, and then finally, a baby boy. Five children. Five blessings. All with similar traits, yet uniquely themselves. All very much loved. Each one an important, vital piece of the life nestled between my start and finish. The in-between part I never considered as a dreamy little girl.
This is my motherhood.
Yours may look completely different. Regardless of how it looks -whether your expression of a mother’s love is given to your own children or to others who need it- please know you are making a difference. And, in turn, you are being made different, too.