Before my oldest son was born, I took both Lamaze and Bradley Method classes to prepare for a medication-free childbirth. Even so, I was blown away by the pain of labor--and its complete irrelevance. No sacrifice or inconvenience mattered one whit compared with this child’s well-being. The jewel of his tiny face was like a universe to me. I loved him not for who he was, or what he did, or any other measure. Motherhood is loving a person for the pure fact of their existence.
Our second son was born at nine pounds and came with an out-sized personality to match. Though I dream of being a mother whose radiant love brings cooperation from grateful children, with him I’ve learned to outline limits and consequences. When he was small, we told him that bad behavior would result in a three-minute time-out. If he refused to go to time-out when asked or to sit quietly for the duration, another minute would be added. That day, he earned three hours of time-out. One minute at a time. But every day thereafter, he went to time-out as asked. Motherhood is playing bad cop to the person you wish only to please.
My mother says that child number three is where the fun starts. No longer are parents worrying about rules or developmental milestones. My third son is bright like the sun. He teaches me to let go of schedules, rules, and expectations. To enjoy whatever unfolds. Motherhood is throwing up your arms as you ride the roller coaster.
My first daughter came to us as a foster child when she was two years old. Her birth mother loved her deeply but failed, repeatedly, to provide basic care. After shuttling from place to place before finally arriving on our doorstep, this daughter struggles to accept my love and limits. But to my dying breath I will fight to give her everything good I can muster, no matter how it is received. Motherhood is giving good gifts, free of charge.
My fourth pregnancy was a miscarriage, and my fifth was a fiasco. When this son was born with a head full of curly red hair, his one-in-a-million appearance pointed up the one-in-a-million good fortune of his safe arrival. I’ve never gotten over the feeling that every day in a world with him is infinitely better than any day without him. Motherhood is winning the lottery.
When I was thirty-eight, I became pregnant one last time. After giving birth to four boys in a row, I laughed in glee when the ultrasound tech showed us those pretty little girl parts on the screen. God sent me five beautiful children, each in His own time and in His own way. And then He added a sixth, the cherry on top. Motherhood is a blessing.
* Written for NieNie's Mother's Day essay contest.