It begins at the moment those two faint pink lines appear on the fifth pregnancy stick we used that week. Sometimes, it starts earlier- as we spend hundreds of dollars on ovulation tests, Clomid, and IVF. It begins when we receive the news that our child will be born with what the doctors call a disorder or a syndrome. For others, it’s the moment when the doctor delivers the news that the heartbeat can’t be found. Or when we leave the hospital, postpartum and alone -returning with tear streaked cheeks to a waiting nursery. It starts when our partners eagerly and tenderly cut the umbilical cords to what has been our child’s only life source for nine months. And for more than a few, it starts when the family dossier is completed, sealed and carefully placed in the mailbox laden with hope.
The beginnings of this beautiful mess we call motherhood, albeit different and unique, share a similar thread that is interwoven into every story. It’s all about letting go.
What exactly are we letting go of? Expectations. Control. Fear. Selfishness.
And this quickly becomes a negative process of thought doesn’t it? That along with onesies, diapers, and wipes – our identity is shoved into a drawer never to be seen again. And I think that’s right. We do let go of ourselves when we become mothers. We do lose the sense of who we once were. However, I would argue that rather than mourning this loss- we should actually celebrate it. Motherhood may kill the women we were before children. But you know what? I think that the person who steps in her place is far more beautiful because of motherhood and not in spite of it; and here are a few reasons why.
We learn to ache for something much bigger than ourselves. To appreciate the miracle of life – from the moment of conception to a babies first cry. Where life used to be simple and clear, we now stand in awe of it.
We learn that our scarred and fierce bodies are actually memorials to the lives we helped create, and then sustain. And that we are far more capable than we often give ourselves credit, doing hard things for the sake of another, not just ourselves. We know sacrifice by name and we know that nothing matches the determination of the mother looking to finally meet her babe, to hold them in her arms.
We research, read, and converse with others gathering wisdom on cloth diapering, baby led weaning, positive discipline, and best preschools. We learn how to pack lunches and write encouraging notes to tuck discreetly in their lunch boxes. We accept when they don’t wave or hug us in front of their friends, knowing full well who we are to them – public display of affection or not. We become an anchor of safety; learning how to be calm and measured when it really counts.
We see that although our bodies are different, we have to find a way to accept all of ourselves for the sake of our children– so that when they look in the mirror they won’t imitate learned self-hatred and insecurities. We understand the importance and significance of remaining true to oneself – but know that it’s a lesson best lived, not taught.
And for that same reason, for those little eyes watching everything that we do- we begin to change so many things; from the shows we watch on television, to what we say to our partners when we are angry, to how we speak to people on the road, in the stores, and all around us. And we look to involve ourselves in our community, because we begin to see the world around us as more than just something to be consumed, but as something to build. Not for our sakes, but for theirs.
The emulation of our children pushes us to become fearless, driven, and creative. Maybe we go back to school, ask for a raise, and decide to be a stay at home mom. Then, we begin to do even more things that we are uncomfortable with. Learn how to french braid. Learn how to play football and video games. Let the dishes go undone, the floors un-mopped, and sometimes eat cake for breakfast. This is what it means to live in the moment; maybe something we never knew how to do before. And so we bend ourselves for love; and we see that our hearts can outgrow themselves, taking up every space available within us.
We have hard conversations. With our partners. Our parents. Our children. And sometimes with ourselves. We learn that sometimes conflict is necessary, especially when it means showing our children what is right, what is good, and what is honorable.
We learn that intimacy isn’t found in flowers, cards, and romantic gestures – but in the everlasting presence of a partner, and sometimes a community, who stands by us in the daily ins and outs of poopy diapers, toddler tantrums, first days of school, break-ups, graduations, college acceptances, and even one day – weddings. This is what they mean when they say it takes a village. And we learn that even though we know we can do it alone, we don’t want too.
We begin to see kindness as necessary; because it is what we ourselves need. We see the vulnerability of others – remembering that all of us once began as a naked babe placed in someone’s arms. We learn to nurture others for the sake of their humanity, not because of their familial status.
We recognize that we are better mothers when we are better women – from getting our hair done, to taking a girls night out, to soaking in a long bath with a glass of wine. It’s clear to us that our mental health impacts every single person in our household – and mostly it impacts us. We go to the gym. We read. We write. We work. We really aren’t loss after all; just in the thick of it. Just learning to thrive, and not just survive.
And that’s kind of the point. We aren’t lost. We’re simply being refound – in every single moment of eighteen years, and yes, longer still – we are rediscovering ourselves as women, as mothers, and as people. We are being restored to ourselves fully, wholly, and far more beautiful than we once were.