“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.” Jodi Picoult
Motherhood. So many things are wrapped up in that word. All of life and love begins and ends there.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother. As a child, every time we went to the toy store, my brothers raced for the ninja turtles and the nerf guns while I, knowing long before we ever got there where I was headed, would aim straight for the baby strollers and the newest life like baby doll on the market. I was fascinated with all things mom…to include my own.
My mom had it all. She was beautiful, loving, strong and caring. She knew exactly what to do and what to say in every situation, and she could heal my wounds, both internal and external, with just a hug and a kiss. Still can. Sometimes all I needed was a look. She did everything right and she was the only one I wanted to do it all. She was the one who could fix my wild hair, she was the one who got us all where we needed to be (and that was always a million different places, seemingly at the same time). She was the one who fed us the right foods, she was the one who knew how and when to wake us up in the morning and the routine of what we did and said each night. No morning, no evening, no day felt right or complete without her in it. She was like magic. Still is. In her, I found myself. I was safe, I was loved, I was cherished, I was enough. I was her child and she was my hero. And she still is.
When I look at my mom, it’s not necessarily all the big things she has done that mean the most; although those are all mind blowing and inspiring, humbling and ridiculous! Its the small memories that hold so much love and the essence of her as my mom. Its the butterfly and eskimo kisses we got each night; the never-ending series of “good night…I love you…I’ll see you in the morning…” we repeated each night until we could no longer hear her voice from down the hall; the little $.99 tights she bought me and surprised me with after school for no reason. It’s the fixing my hair perfectly before dance recitals (which was no easy task for a perfectionistic child who panicked if a hair was out of place) and teaching me how to put on my mascara, sewing my dance shoes and costumes, and cheering at every single performance. Its the favorite meals, the kissed boo boos, the letting me sit in the front seat, the waking me up to go shopping with her at 4 am on black Friday, and our little inside jokes. It’s our daily long talks, her intuitively knowing something is wrong when all I’ve said is “hi,” and then knowing exactly what to say to me while listening to every word I said no matter how many there were. Life begins and ends in my mom. Everything I am is wrapped up in her.
Becoming a mother myself has made me realize that while the truth that life begins and ends with moms is an absolute honor, it’s also a lot of responsibility, both to carry and to place on someone. It’s not necessarily even a role or duty that we purposely assign to women when they become mothers, or something that they pick up or create on their own. It just sort of is.
I think it’s a concept that applies as much to womanhood as it does to motherhood. Women are life givers. Whether or not they are a mother in the traditional sense of the word, all women encompass motherhood within themselves.
The journey and circle of life is so interesting and confusing. I said earlier I found myself in my own mom, and that’s true. As I grew up and tried to find my own way, I stumbled a lot and I eventually lost myself completely. It was through my mother that I ever found anything good inside me. It was because of her that I ever began to believe in myself, and it was only when I came back home to my mother’s heart that I knew who I could be. She believed in me when I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, much less believe in myself. She, with God’s help, restored me to wholeness after several years of wandering and brokenness. It was toward the end of that journey (although truthfully it’s a never-ending journey and in many ways has only just begun) that I found out I was going to be a mother.
Me! The broken, messy, twisted, sick, lost girl who didn’t trust herself to make good decisions, and many times didn’t, and who didn’t even know who she was, much less how to teach another little life how to find their way. I remember thinking, “How could God possibly think this is a good idea!? Does he not know who I am?”
Since then, I have both learned that God knows exactly who I am and he knows exactly what He is doing, AND at times questioned His judgement in giving me three lives to lead. My sons are all very young so I’m still at the beginning of this inspiring calling of motherhood, but in the 2 years, almost to the day, since my twins were born, I have felt things and accomplished things I never knew were inside of me. When I look at my sons, I find myself. Nothing in my life has ever made me feel as confident and sure of myself as a person while also making me doubt everything I am and everything I do as being a mother. I never knew there were so many feelings and emotions inside our bodies, and I never knew how deeply I could feel each one of them every day until I became a mom.
“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
When I look at my sons, I see my heart. I find my soul. They confirm that I in fact have a soul. My heart isn’t divided into thirds, it has multiplied 3 times; and each day, 24/7, I am acutely aware of the fact that my heart, now multiplied by three, is living outside my body. Every day as a mother is a gift in which I find new pieces of myself, both good and bad. It stretches me to lengths I didn’t know a person could be stretched…and I’ve only been a mom for 2 years! The older they get, the more I realize how much I don’t know and the more I realize my heart is now beating outside my chest. It’s scary and it’s beautiful.
There’s a saying that says something like, “Moms of boys work from son up to son down.” Truth is ALL moms work from Sun up to Sun down and everything in between. There are no breaks. Even when all the kids are asleep, a mother’s brain never stops. Whether it’s replaying the day and the mistakes made; worrying if they’re really asleep or if they’re quiet because they’re suffocating in their sleep; wondering if you should check on them but fearing if you do you’ll wake them up; thinking abut how you’ll fill the day tomorrow (although that’s never difficult because days as a mom fill themselves); researching each new behavior and milestone trying to figure out if you’re on track with the rest of the world; watching them sleep because no matter how long the day was, you miss them when the day is over; washing and preparing sippy cups and snack bags for the next day’s adventures; cleaning sticky surfaces and washing stained clothes; dreaming way too far into the future and wondering what they will be when they grow up, praying you don’t do anything to screw that up along the way…. whatever the activities and thoughts are, they are endless.
Though I’ve always appreciated my mom, I have an ever growing and deepening love, understanding and appreciation for her now than ever before. Literally everything about everything changes when you become a mom. I view nothing the same way I used to. How could you view life the same way when your heart and pieces of your body are walking around and living outside of you? I had felt unconditional love from my parents growing up on the outside, but I now understand it from the inside and feel it in my bones. Its a vulnerable place to be allowing yourself to feel and love that much. But I am grateful beyond measure for the opportunity to be that vulnerable.
If it weren’t for my own mother, I don’t know if I would have survived this life long enough to experience being a mother myself. Had her body not been my home, I may never have found myself in order to now provide a forever home for my son’s within my own body. Even though my heart runs around beating outside my chest, inside me is where it finds it’s home. I know that from the way my sons celebrate when I return from being away, even for only a few minutes; from the way they randomly come and wrap their whole selves around whatever part of me they can access; the way their eyes sparkle when I look at them and smile; the way everything is ok in their world just because they’re in my arms; the way they look at me and say “Mommy, I yub ou;” and even the way they respond and seem comforted by discipline and rules I enforce. God chose me to be their mom and them to be my sons knowing that we were a perfect fit for each other. No one knows them like I do, no one loves them like I do; just as no one knows and loves me like my mom does. It’s a never-ending job and a never-ending love.
People tell you being a mom is the hardest job in the world, and you believe them; but you don’t really understand it until you enter this unique, messy, thankless, wonderful, tiresome, beautiful world of motherhood yourself. I have loved my sons since I was a child, but I had no idea how much. No matter how stretched I’ve been; no matter how exhausted, stressed, doubtful, fearful, angry, or temporarily insane I have felt at times throughout this two year journey, I have also never felt so blessed, humbled, joyful, loved, loving, compassionate, forgiving, excited, happy, proud and inspired as I have since the birth of those three angels. They have made me a better person and have helped me find my true self. While it’s strange to have my heart multiplied by 3 and walking around outside my body, I can’t imagine life any other way.
I love you Ethan, Connor and Lucas! You guys are my heart, times three! 😘