March 24, 2014
On February 21, 2013, at dinnertime, after 22 hours of labor, I gave birth to my first child, a son, Silas Emmanuel. In that specific moment in history, I became a mother. The weights and measurements were taken, the name was given, the Social Security papers were filled out, and we left the hospital a couple days afterwards. It’s true, his birth story was a lot more dramatic than that (at least to me and Justin) but that’s the official record of how we became parents and that’s what all the papers say.
But truly *becoming* a mother – a parent – is something that doesn’t happen all at once. It’s less of a moment and more of a story. An evolution. A shifting shoreline of expectations and revelations. Something that’s never quite finished, nor should we expect it to be. The experience of motherhood begins with a positive pregnancy test, the beautiful quietest of secrets. It begins with the anticipation, the preparation, imagining of the tiny one inside you whose life and days you do not yet know. Then there is the climactic, dramatic birth scene. Your child fully enters the world of men, and you fully enter the world of parenthood. The breathless pink creature is thrust into your arms and you, too, are breathless with amazement and wonder and exhaustion. There’s the rush of emotion and hormones and visitors and flowers and gifts and meals, all the chaos and the celebration and the wonder that is wrapped up in those first weeks. And motherhood feels sudden, and grand, and momentous.
But motherhood also happens more slowly. It happens once the visitors trickle off and don’t bring food anymore. It happens in the wee morning hours when you’re bone tired, in the moments and days of emotional struggle, and so many snuggles and quiet cuddles in the dark, the many new anxieties, and first smiles and steps and teeth and illnesses. All the small milestones and mundane details your life now orbits.
Motherhood happens in a series of realizations. Like when you realize that this helpless, awkward person is completely vulnerable and dependent on YOU for its very life. Like the awareness that your old non-parent self has been swallowed up into a new one, and that you aren’t quite sure if you like or even want the new self or not. That gloriously HUGE love, stretching out your heart, sometimes painfully, to places it’s never been. The realization that your deepest identity is changing (and already has changed!), no matter how hard you try and patch the old and the new together. When “the two shall become one” turns into “the two shall become three” and you find your relationship with your spouse will never be quite the same. (I promise you, your marriage CAN get deeper and more beautiful and just plain better because of this parenting journey!) When you become aware that your own mama went through all these same loving and hard and sacrificing things for you, that she also wondered at your tiny beauty, and struggled to fit her life around you. How you are increasingly awestruck by this child, who is quite certainly the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. How sometimes you wonder – in the darker parts of your soul – if you did the right thing, if you are really cut out for this mothering thing. When the spoken-of “shift in priorities” is more of an earthquake of the greatest magnitude, tectonic plates shaking and heaving and creating a new landscape altogether.
That same shoreline again, always changing. Do we expect a waterfront or an island atoll to someday be “done” or “completed”? That’s really missing the point, isn’t it? Motherhood isn’t something you “become” at a moment in time. It’s not something that can ever be all the way done or completely learned or fully experienced. It is an identity and a story, all the moments put together, strung up in a history.
Motherhood is the most beautiful, difficult, breathtakingly wonderful story I’ve ever begun.
So then – a child’s birthday is partly about the child, and also about the parents. Because it’s a milestone for them too, a landmark in their own journey.
Here’s to celebrating OUR milestone – one year of Silas growing and changing and learning, and one year of this mama doing the same.
(This is a photo shoot I did in Silas’ room on his first birthday.)
[ By Nikki Moore ]