Many summers ago, at my cousin’s baby shower, I stood in the back of the room with my toddler on my hip.
My aunt leaned over and whispered in my ear, “It is so sad; a part of her is dying and she has no idea.”
Feeling a pang in my heart, I understood exactly what she meant. Nothing can prepare us for motherhood. When we become mothers, we lose a piece of ourselves—motherhood is a place from which there is no return.
When we hold our newborn baby in our arms for the first time, this little human body that just came out of our own—we are blown away with love and a sense of responsibility.
Overwhelming love. A love so big it doesn’t fit in the room. We can no longer contain it or protect it.
And that is terrifying.
How will I ever be good enough for this magnificent little person?
I remember wanting to put her back inside of me. I wasn’t ready to let her start growing away from me.
Days and weeks pass. We nurse and we sleep. The moments are priceless. The love is profound. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was born to be a mother. This child completes me.
Then the day comes when we understand why some species eat their young.
Sometime around the toddler years, when they start voicing their own opinions, we begin flipping them off from the other room, while calling them an *sshole under our breath.
At night, we stare at them while they sleep, crying over how fast they are growing.
Motherhood is the ultimate paradox. We want them to stay little, but also we want them to grow up and get the f*ck out of our house. But at the end of the day, they throw their tiny little arms around us and say, “I love you, Mama.” And so the pendulum swings.
For years, we wake up every morning and tend to their needs, and then sometime near middle school they begin to resent us for it. They no longer want to snuggle, and never will again. They appear offended when we breathe.
They roll their eyes at everything we say.
“Ugh! Mother! Why are you doing that like that?“ has replaced, “I love you, Mama.”
Yet we still have to provide for their needs and guide them into adulthood, even as they resist it.
As the years pass, we drive them around like a chauffeur. As they shell out constant critiques and criticism, we endure unrelenting abuse. We have suddenly become the most disgusting and annoying people in the world, with poor taste in everything. Yet at the end of the day, our love for them is still too big to endure. It is a love so fierce that it hurts.
Even as they resent us, our hearts are full as we watch them become their own unique, independent, well-adjusted people. We watch in awe as they begin to pursue their own interests in the world.
By the time they are ready to leave home, we think we are ready to see them go; instead, we miss them terribly.
“Kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. It’s the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver
Another change that no one can prepare us for.
Motherhood is a rip-off…and the best thing that has ever happened to me.