Finding Joy In The Mess Of Motherhood

by Nina Parrish
Chubykin Arkady / Shutterstock

Motherhood is messy.

It’s a belly that strains the buttons on pants until they pop off and nothing in your closet fits anymore. Stretch marks appear on hips, white and purple lines like the rivers on a map.

It’s a stranger at Walmart who insists that you are having twins, tomorrow, when you are not due for three more months.

It’s the constant worry of eat this, not that and the struggle of cutting everything that brings you joy from your diet — coffee, soft cheese, lunch meat, and sushi.

It’s when your doctor says to exercise, but not so much that you can’t carry on a normal conversation. You give her a confused look because up to this point you thought that being out of breath was how you knew that you were actually exercising.

It’s being told to make a detailed birth plan, then ending up with an unexpected C-section instead of that all-natural birth with a doula.

It’s feeling like a failure because this is not how you expected it all to go.

It’s realizing that delivered baby plus water weight only equals 12 pounds and with 25 extra pounds still glued to your hips, butt, stomach, and pretty much everywhere else those elastic-waist maternity pants will be your only pants for a long while. And then you look at the covers of those magazines you brought with you to the hospital, only to see smiling celebrities claiming to be back to their pre-baby weight in three weeks, and you hate those liars.

It’s sitting with the doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant and thinking that months spent reading baby books didn’t prepare you for things like nursing, lice, or viruses with names like hand, foot, and mouth disease.

It’s a constant stream of unsolicited advice. Every small piece contradicting the next until you desperately wish that you lived in the ‘70s — a time when problems were solved by telling your kids to go outside and play, then giving them red Kool-Aid to hydrate while you looked up all of their issues in the Dr. Spock parenting manual.

It’s realizing that your toddler no longer wears a size 5 diaper by having poop explode out of the sides, soak through her pants, and run down her leg.

It’s accepting that you will never be at home when this happens. No, that would be too easy. Most likely, you are at church during the silent prayer meditation or a fancy brunch your mother-in-law planned.

It’s looking in the diaper bag only to realize you forgot to replace that change of clothes, again.

It’s floors covered in tiny bristle blocks, Legos, and Barbies that you step on with bare feet at 2 a.m. while you muffle curse words with your hand so that your toddler won’t hear and repeat them back during the aforementioned quiet prayer time at church or at that fancy brunch with your mother-in-law.

It’s looking down at that Barbie and her unrealistically skinny posse of girlfriends — a post-midnight reminder from Mattel that you used to be skinny with boobs that didn’t sag before motherhood brought you a muffin top and nursing made your chest deflate.

But motherhood is also filled with joy.

It’s hearing the sweet sounds of that first cry and watching tiny hands reach for you.

It’s finally seeing the little person you have known for so many months, holding their body against your chest, and hearing the sound of their breathing.

It’s pressing your lips against their soft curls to smell that sweet new baby scent.

It’s seeing their eyes finally close and watching them sleep peacefully.

It’s little onesies with ruffles and hairbows on small heads.

It’s that first baby smile that sneaks across their lips at 3 a.m. after a really long night.

It’s hearing their first word and the sound of their sweet voice.

It’s watching them eat that first smushy spoonful of cereal while it squirts out both sides of their lips.

It’s the opportunity to share in the joy of learning something new like putting on shoes or mastering subtraction.

It’s realizing the peace that can be found from being present in this moment and the happiness revealed in simple pleasures like a cardboard box or the musical chime of spoons against pots and pans.

It’s discovering everything again through the eyes of a child who stops to watch the birds fly by overhead and listen to their chirping or holds up the gravel from the parking lot to see it sparkle in the bright sunshine.

It’s closing the door, finally turning off the light, and hearing, “Love you, too, Mama” echo back from the darkness for the first time.

It’s a toddler who says, “I need Mommy,” with outstretched arms.

It’s small hands that wave in the air and eyes that light up when they see you walk in the door after a long day.

It’s understanding that the mess of motherhood is what gives depth to its joy. That there is happiness to be found in the midst of the mess if you just embrace it instead of constantly struggling to cover, straighten it up, or fix it.

It’s the realization that maybe motherhood was never about controlling every detail, but instead more of an exercise in letting go.

Letting go of your plan.

Letting go of perfection, of order, of the opinions of others.

Letting go of expectations and sometimes of personal wants and needs.

Letting go of certainty and embracing change.

Letting go of what on some days feels like yourself and your last shred of sanity.

In order to make room for a love that knows no boundaries.

So hold those little babies tight. Enjoy this moment remembering that this mess is only temporary but it is this love that endures.