I was twenty-one years old when I held my son for the first time. I hadn’t yet a enjoyed a single legal drink and my idea of cleaning house was to not to. He was red and wrinkly and his cry echoed down the hospital hallways. He was perfect. I looked into his wide eyes and I saw the weight of eternity in his fragile being. What a responsibility, what an honor. Fear hit, because suddenly I was vulnerable. Suddenly my actions mattered. Suddenly I had to grow up and to know what I didn’t know.
Never have I been so inspired to step up to the plate – to be all that I am and more. Within the first hours of that twilight zone called motherhood, I realized that my reality had been completely changed. I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes.
The nurses shipped us off with a smile and a bag of diaper cream samples, and Graham I looked at each other and we understood. We were nervous, we were uncomfortable, and we were scared. We both tried to pretend we knew how to be grown ups, except we didn’t feel grown up.
I felt like a kid playing house. I still do sometimes.
It turns out parents aren’t all that special. We haven’t been imparted with the wisdom of the ages; we didn’t grow up in a moment. We are just some scared people who were called up to bat for the very first time and not showing up wasn’t an option.
That first night home I sat cross legged in my dark room as my boy screamed and tears streamed down my face. My new enormous boobs and I tried to figure out how to feed a baby. At one in the morning I called the nurses sobbing. Gently they told me to bring baby to breast and it worked. I wanted to ask if I could come back please, but I didn’t. I didn’t because I guessed that was against the rules of motherhood.
My deepest fear was that I would mess it up. My ache was that I already knew that I would. Again and again and again. But still I knew I would show up. I would take the bat, I’d plant my feet, and I’d look at my kids and say this is for you. I will learn this FOR YOU. Although it isn’t perfect and I wasn’t born with all the skills, I will still show up and give it my best. And I will get better with time.
I had two babies, and then I lost two. That’s when the lights went out. That’s when darkness came. I was devastated and I didn’t think that the sun would rise again. But it did. Somehow it did. Even though my time with them was brief they changed me. They taught me about love and loss and that it is truly better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
Every child has changed me, every one has pushed me higher, and because of them I will keep going high. Because of them I know that there’s a reason to not stoop low.
When I had my third and fourth healthy babies, something sacred had happened. I wasn’t the same as I had been two miscarriages ago. My loss had pushed my love deeper. I held them tighter. I understood to a greater level what an honor and a gift it is to hold the future in your arms.
Every day I am called up to be more than I already am. I am just one extremely normal person, but these are my chosen ones and they are worth every ounce of drive that I possess. They are worth my yes.
I can’t stop and I won’t stop.
I will bat after a streak of misses, and have thousands of apologies for making mistakes. I will be there the next day. Wounded, but fierce because I’ve never had anything that called me the way that they do.
The thing is that motherhood did slow me down. Maybe I would have traveled more before this, maybe my writing career would have been further. Maybe I would have gone to college and have been more educated that I am today. Maybe our house would be bigger, and our cars with less crumbs and stains. Maybe Graham and I would have had more uninterrupted conversations and we’d have gone on more fancy dates.
But nothing in all the world is worth what they have taught me. Nothing in all the world is worth how my heart has been broken and expanded to six times its size. Because of them I understand a love that might crush me. Because of them I know that when life insists that I grow and be more, that I can and I am able. Because of them, I understand what it means to live for something more than just myself.
So this decision? This decision to have them and to tie myself down? This decision has been the greatest education and the greatest honor of my life.
I am changed.
Motherhood has changed me.
And to them, my loves, I am eternally grateful.