In the last 5 years, my body has grown, housed and evicted three beautiful children. I’ve nourished them with my breasts, held them in my arms, and smothered them with my kisses. Yet there are still moments when I can’t believe that this is my life.
When did I become somebody’s mom?
It seems like only yesterday I was just a girl driving home from the hospital with a strange, mewling lump in the back seat, my body bent and broken in ways I’d never imagined, and completely terrified about how I would ever be able to live up to that lump’s expectations. After all, mothers are goddesses; they always know the right words to calm a child, where to kiss booboos, and how to identify at least 14 different kinds of rashes. I knew none of those things.
Five years ago I became a mother, but I was not yet a mom. It would be years before I would have the perspective to look back and wonder when I earned that coveted title.
What is that magical moment we go from a new mother to a full-fledged mom?
Is it sitting, paralyzed on the toilet, dreading that first poop after a vaginal birth?
Is it shuffling like a zombie down the hallway night after night for feedings, sleeping in spit-up because you’re too tired to change the sheets for the third time that night?
Is it waking up in the night to pump, just to keep up your milk supply?
Is it nursing with cracked nipples, tucking in muffin tops, or plucking endless stray hairs that have suddenly sprouted all over your body?
Is it the first time you rock them for an entire night while they sleep, even though you can feel the bones of your neck fusing into a crick from contorting your body like a circus performer, trying to get a half hour of rest?
Is it their first smile, the first time they reach up for you to hold them, or the first time they say “mama”?
Is it the first trip to the ER in the middle of the night, or the first time your hands are soaked in their blood after they fall and split their gums on the corner of the bathtub?
Is it holding them while they cry, and sobbing silently along with them, your face buried in their hair, so you won’t frighten them with your tears?
Is it cutting food into ever-tinier pieces, or buying five of the same cup so no one needs to fight over the pink one?
Is it the first time they tell you they love you? (Or is it the first time they tell you they hate you?)
Is it picking them up when they fall, or building them back up when their friends let them down?
Is it cursing at them behind their backs and feeling sorry about it later, or is it bragging about them to your friends and family?
Is it displaying bad artwork, color coding calendars, or spending a fortune on gas driving them to their various activities?
Is it packing lunches for school, policing homework, or chaperoning dances?
Is it worrying the first time they go out without you and calling fourteen times in one night just to check they are ok?
Is it saying “yes” when you really don’t want to, or saying “no” when you know you have to?
Is it sacrificing your night life, social life and sex life?
Or is it learning to accept the fact that they are inevitably going to want to have a night life, a social life and a sex life?
Of course it’s all of these things and none of them at the same time. Being a mom isn’t a box you can check or a quantity of love you can measure. It’s as mysterious and intangible as a baby’s first giggle. It grows and changes with the children, glancing back but always moving forward. It’s sharing your life with another perfectly imperfect creature like yourself who, on a daily basis, awes, disappoints, infuriates and surprises you.
And if you’re like me, it’s staying up late the night before your oldest child’s fifth birthday wondering where the time went and feeling grateful and humbled that such an amazing person helped make you a mom.