Thirteen years ago today, I became a mother.
And so began a transformation that continues to this day. That turning from my self toward another.
It started before she was even born, really. My months of planning. Reading and rereading of every Bradley childbirth method book. Making a birth plan and hiring a doula.
Oh, I knew the kind of mother I would be. This kind of woman, a new family, changing the history of the world one child at a time.
I was doing it my way. The perfect way. I had read books. All in scope and allegiance with my vast knowledge. At the ripe old age of 24.
And after 54 hours of back labor, after tears and two nights without sleep and my poor, kind doula telling me that things “were going quite as planned”, I gave up. I wired up and drugged up. Close to insanity, I imagined the L&D nurses huddling behind my hospital room door, snickering while reading my birth plan, as they revved up the workings for every sort of pain medication.
Childbirth is horrid, I say.
So, it all started there. A figurative representation of the next thirteen years. That, throughout this life of motherhood, I’ve have these grand, intricate and well-intentioned plans. And they promptly rearrange, throw themselves up in the air and land on the floor, a figurative 52-card pickup, looking nothing like what I had in mind.
You see, I very likely could have ended up like this woman. I could have easily chosen different paths, had a completely different life. Academic. Adventurous. Full of fine people and good wine and much travel. And no kids.
No doubt, I loved my family growing up. I liked little kids. Sorta. A babysat some, until I could find something better to do. But, when I was 17 and thought into the future, I didn’t see children. I saw marriage, because I was romantic… but I didn’t have visions of diapers and suburbia and fast food kids meals. It never crossed my mind.
And sometimes I wonder who I would have become had I taken that other route. Had I chosen my first-choice college, had I never tread on Aggieland soil, had I never walked into St. Mary’s that Sunday and heard a priest who woke up my soul.
If I had made different friends, met different men.
I could be a totally different woman today. Easily.
And yet, here I am. A mother to four, and one more in heaven. A wife to a great guy, who loves me. And I spend most of my days navigating messes of different sorts, mitigating arguments, checking homework, lecturing children on various lofty topics and making tons of peanut butter and nutella sandwiches.
I’m not very good. My house is rarely completely clean, if even moderately clean. I yell. About stupid stuff. I lose it EVERY time I step on a lego. every time. I have yet to conquer socks. The multitude of socks in this house. And four kids in one bathroom? It still disgusts me.
I have never been pulled, twisted and stretched more than I have through motherhood. Like those ‘firewalkers’ who tread burning coals as a rite of passage. Well, that’s insane. But motherhood hasn’t been much easier on me, I have to say. And yet, I am better because of it.
God does know what he’s doing, after all. Because there really isn’t any other way he could have achieved this in me. Maybe someone else, some better woman, but not me. The fact is, I really honestly just like doing mostly what I want to do in life. I generally think that my way is really the best. I’d rather not have to wait, to be inconvenienced, to go with someone else’s plan. I do, ultimately, want to do what I want to do, quickly and efficiently. Still. After thirteen years.
But, despite all that. Despite the challenges and stubbornness of being me (you’re thinking ‘Oh my GOSH Lauren. You’re really pitiful!’), it really is a beautiful thing, these having of children. Motherhood. And even though I have groaned and given up and had moments where I really thought I was going insane (I mean, really!), there is one thing that astonishes me and gives me peace:
I am more myself because of my motherhood than I ever could have become on my own.
It is precisely because of all these things, the challenges and sacrifices (and joys, too. The many many joys) that I have become “me”. That I feel my soul grow more solid. That I fill in my own skin.
Proof of the existence of God, right here. I’m not kidding.
In some way, despite my lack of sleep, time, resources or adventure, I am profusely happy. My life is good. These crazy kids steal my heart again and again. They are my beloveds. And I am so much better for having known them.
Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep