This time last year, I was alone in a hotel room contemplating how dramatically my Mother’s Day experience had changed. For years, Mother’s Day reminded me of our failure to build a family and the years and years I’d been waiting, even before Dave, to have kids. Suddenly, motherhood came early. This wasn’t the soft focus image of cooing over a swaddled baby I’d envisioned. (Does anyone actually experience the Hallmark moments?! If you did, don’t tell me. Let me keep the shreds of my sanity.) We’d become seasoned NICU parents, which forces you to fight for your kid really early. So by Mother’s Day, I truly felt like a mom – but not the way I’d expected to.
This year, we woke up to two sleepy and sweet kiddos, who wanted a snuggle with mom before splitting off to conquer any objects that offered a standing challenge (Tess) and passing out in a milk coma (Remy). Dave made me coffee and we hung out, enjoying the Sunday morning parenting experience. People, being a mom really is that incredible – and undefinable. There’s no way to describe this; it’s like trying to describe epic lifetime love to someone who’s only experienced a short infatuation – no context.
Last night, Dave and I talked about that alchemical moment when a little alien is assigned to you. I have to imagine biological parents feel this too, as I will never forget my friend, the mom of a 4-month old, saying,
I keep waiting for the parents to come and collect their child, all these months later.
These little aliens are put into your arms and lives, and you love them madly, despite their complete foreignness. Each day, you feel gratitude for their presence and marvel at everything: that warm weight in your arms, the tiny hands and feet, their cries and first smiles and little pouts. Then one day you realize the alien is gone, and in its stead is your child, an individual different from every other child; a little person with preferences and quirks, a person who is yours. You alone know everything about them – that this child loves to lie against your shoulder more than to be cradled or vice versa, that he snores a little when he’s sound asleep, that she looks drugged when she’s tired and you can ignore her protests based on the level of her eyelids, that she loves sweet potatoes and hates avocado, that he responds to swaddling the way I respond to chocolate, that blowing lightly on her neck will stop any tantrum dead in its tracks. You know these people better than you know anyone in the world, and the little aliens have become your most precious cargo in life. You would truly do anything for them, and know exactly what they need without a moment’s pause.
This is motherhood, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other mothering experience in the world. These kids are our kids, and we are so incredibly fortunate to be their parents. This fierce, bottomless love catches me by surprise from time to time, as it’s usually quietly curled up in my heart. Still, when Tess pulls herself up on my knee, or Remy snuggles into my arms, that loves explodes out of my chest and takes my breath away. As desperately as I wanted to be a mom, I worried that I wouldn’t be equal to the task, or I’d regret the loss of my freedom. As I sit here, glowing with happiness, I can tell you that I haven’t felt anything like that even at 3 AM with two screaming babies. Knowing I share this feeling with every mom I know makes it even more special, and I celebrate Mother’s Day with all of you.
As a side note to those who’ve lost children, you are every inch the mom I’m describing, if not more so. We mourn with you as you reflect back on the limited time, however long, you had with your beautiful little people.
For those who haven’t found theirs yet, don’t despair. Part of being a mom is the before part. The heartache and stubbornness just prepare you for the different struggles you’ll go through when your kids are here, needing medical attention or requiring every ounce of patience you didn’t know you had. If you want to be a mom, you will be, one way or another. I look forward to watching families sprout up all around us.
To all the moms who read this, thank you for all of the energy you pour into your little aliens. I’m in awe of your strength, love, patience and humor. We learn from you every day, and feel so lucky to have you to steer by! Happy Mother’s Day.