If you listen to the media, motherhood is a giant Hallmark card filled with flowers, hugs, and sweet moments. And, in some cases, it is. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the overwhelming joy and love that I have for my children. I could never have imagined the indescribable beauty of a little one nestled in my arms whether nursing or sleeping, the uplifting power of a child's laughter, or the playful curiousity you see in the eyes of a babe. But I could also never have imagined the challenges of years of chronic sleep deprivation, the anxiety of hearing my child cry, or the uncertainty of losing myself and my identity through motherhood.
My motherhood experience has not been an easy one. But in each event, I have learned, grown, and discovered new abilities - and failings. My first child was (and is) intense. From birth on, he has presented challenges and gifts. Unwavering passion and spirit guide him. As a two year old, that meant tantrums, screaming, and aggression. He has struggled with food allergies and sensory issues, yet displays social ease and an intelligence that boarders on remarkable. We never slept (despite bed-sharing) and he nursed with a ferocity that shocked me. We woke at 4 a.m. for nearly a year, gave up naps at 18 months old, and by age three we were spending our days reciting scientific trivia about dinosaurs and pondering the mysteries of outer space. Attachment parenting saved us, but through it I lost the boundaries between self and child and my identity collapsed. Motherhood was lonely, frustrating, and exhausting. Family members exiled us for our holistic choices and pointed fingers at our lifestyle options whenever something "wrong" happened. My marriage suffered and at times, I felt like I was drowning.
By the second child, I had started to regain identity and realized that motherhood was the hardest job I would ever love (to borrow a phrase). I could never have imagined moterhood being more challenging than I had experienced with my first child. But the universe had another plan. I was blessed with a child with special needs, presenting new mountains to climb from a near-death crisis right a birth to ongoing developmental challenges that have added a while new vocabulary to my world (IEPs, OT, PT, and more). I simulateously found a new respect for allopathic medicine and an amazing distrust of it, as my child's life was saved and then misdiagnosed and mistreated with arrogance and callousness. I learned enormous patience from my children and a sense of connection and empathy that far surpassed what I had known before. I became aware - aware of the power of the choices that I made every day for the health and well-being of my family, whether it pertained to what we ate, how we lived, or what we did. Motherhood helped me learn to stand my ground in tough times and find a way through, rather than out. I stood with vomit in my hair, with strong-willed children, and through many days of preschool to ensure that separation anxiety was not part of our life. There were Hallmark moments, to be sure, but there were more painful, powerful, transformative moments as well. Moments that shook my core and took me to a new level of beingness. And moments where being connected to other moms and knowing that they were out there made it all possible.
This Mother's Day had its "Hallmark moments" and made me smile. But reflecting on the harsher side of motherhood made me truly, sincerely grateful for the experience and filled me with excitement for how much more I will learn in the future. Okay, in all honesty, a bit of dread there too for what may come, but mostly excitement. Motherhood has redefined me - for good and for ill - and has helped me grow in ways I never thought possible. Motherhood isn't all sweet smiles and roses, and having other mothers confirm that sentiment is life-affirming and reassuring on many levels. Having the tenacity and passion to find your way through is what makes motherhood worth celebrating and honoring - not just for a day, but every day. Happy Mothering!