Get ready. This is a deep one.
My feelings about the concept of “Motherhood” have always been a little bit complicated.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Geez, Nikki. What the heck does that mean? How complicated could it be? Moms are awesome. That’s why athletes say “Hi Mom!” during their brief interviews on the news broadcast. It’s why celebrities MUST thank their moms within their award show speeches. For heaven’s sake, it’s why we have an upcoming holiday that rivals the commercial importance of both Easter and Valentine’s Day!”
I get it. Moms, have been the backbone of any high functioning family for the history of humankind. Unfortunately, my first experience of motherhood was not as typically supportive, loving and nurturing (ie. NORMAL) as it seems to be for most folks.
While my biological mother did manage to carry me to term and birth a healthy baby girl, that’s pretty much where the nurturing ended and the dysfunction began. I don’t know too much about her, but I do know that she had struggled with various disordered tendencies over the course of her adult life and some serious problems came to a head after my infancy. Simply put, my mom was (is) an alcoholic. So much so that her next pregnancy was not healthy for her or her baby and was riddled with complications beyond birth. Her addiction ran so deep that ultimately my Father was awarded full custody of my brother and me. My earliest memories of her are during our court-ordered and monitored visits. The rest of the memories are full of feelings of disappointment, shame, and abandonment. Certainly not your typical warm, fuzzy mommy feelings.
So as I look towards my due date in July, I often find myself wrestling with the concept of myself becoming a Mother.
The fortunate part of my story is that it doesn’t end with a terribly equipped mom. Not only was I blessed with a very stable and supportive mother throughout the remainder of my childhood and into adulthood, but I’ve also grown up around many loving and wonderful women who have modeled healthy mom behaviors.
Unfortunately, there was some significant damage done in those first years as I desperately looked for love, attention, and acceptance from the one person who is “supposed” to provide it, only to end up with a whole host of shattered expectations and a lifetime of healing from them.
So, here I go. Venturing into a role that holds some severe emotional baggage. As I’ve walked through my healing process and I’ve witnessed the love and sacrifice of other moms, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what that role requires.
In direct contrast to the example first set by my own mother, here are some ideas of what I believe motherhood should be like.
Motherhood is transformative.
If the physical change of pregnancy is any indication, it appears that motherhood transforms your heart and mind even more so than your body. The heart swells to accommodate the single largest love you will ever experience on this green Earth and you are never the same.
Motherhood is sacrificial.
That overwhelming love compels radical sacrifice. Of body, sleep, money, freedom, and certainty. Basically everything that we as single or childless people hoard and take great pains to protect. Once children enter, our hands and hearts open into a space of supreme generosity and a willingness to let go.
Motherhood is painful.
There’s very little control over how your children grow up or their ultimate safety. You can steer them in a good direction and do your best to impart wisdom, manners, and confidence, but ultimately each child is an autonomous human being and they will decide the kind of life they want. Additionally, there’s the harsh reality of tragedy that can slowly or instantly take children away from this earth before the parents. A pain that is unknowable, inconsolable, and enduring.
Motherhood is fulfilling.
You can’t have the extreme lows without extreme highs. You can’t underestimate the supreme amount of joy and victory experienced when raising a child. While not a journey undertaken by every woman, it seems that there is a very established female desire to “mother”. As hard as it can be to constantly give of yourself, enforce discipline, and support your children, the untamable joy of watching them learn how to read, graduate from high school, or get married makes the hard times feel completely worth it.
I can’t fully understand all these concepts right now, and I’m sure over the course of my journey as a mother, they will change and intensify. But I do know that I am fully equipped to be a good mother. I can look back at my mom’s choices with understanding and acceptance while also looking forward to a life spent doing things better for my kids. I am incredibly grateful for all the women in my life who have taught me who a mother is and was she does.
I’m also grateful to my mother, for loving me enough to give me life so that I could ultimately create another.