Monday, January 21, 2008

Motherhood is Bittersweet

Each moment of motherhood carries an array of emotions. It is the most difficult, most time-consuming, most challenging, most rewarding and most wonderful thing I have ever attempted.

All of my time, energy, and focus goes straight to my baby. She is my first thought in the morning and my last thought before going to bed at night. She has caused equal amounts of joy and panic, distress and elation, laughter and tears. There has not been a moment since Rachel has been born that has not been confusing emotionally.

When we brought her home from the hospital she had fallen asleep in the car so we wheeled the bassinet into our bedroom and put her down for a nap. She was all bundled up and looked so small, fragile, sweet, and perfect. Perhaps I should have been happy, and I'm sure I was somewhere deep down inside, but the minute I laid her down I broke into heaving sobs.

"What are we going to do?" I wailed into Andrew's shoulder.

Not knowing what to do, he did just the right thing and wrapped his arms around me and rubbed my back without saying anything. Five minutes later, when I had regained some sense of dignity, I looked up at him and smiled,

"She's beautiful, isn't she? I'm going to take a shower."

And that seems to be how my life has been going ever since.

Every milestone that Rachel reaches, I, too, am forced to greet. More often than not my emotions are at odds; my whole life is an oxymoron. For me, each moment of Rachel's life has been filled with both trepidation and euphoria.

Whenever Rachel falls asleep I think "Oh, good. Now I can relax." But in no more than five minutes I find myself wondering if she is alright. Is she breathing? Is she cold? So much for a moment to myself.

Each time Rachel learns a new skill, whatever it is, rolling over, crawling, spitting, she is thrilled with herself. I, too, find myself excited in spite of the nagging voice in the back of my mind, reminding me that we can never go back in time. She's growing up right before my eyes. But what kind of a mother would I be if, instead of encouraging and praising my daughter, I discouraged her from trying anything new and secretly rejoiced at her failures?

It probably doesn't help that I spend a large part of my time feeling like a bad mother. Well-meaning comments often miss their mark and make me feel like I'm not doing my job. Advice is sometimes helpful but often so trivial that I can do little but assume that the giver thinks I am a lost cause. I can't say no to advice though because I have learned a lot of helpful things from other mother's experiences.

I believe, though, that mothers are supposed to feel like this. We need to feel that we aren't doing a good job so that every good moment tastes sweeter, so that we remain humble and continue to seek assistance and strength from others. We need to love each moment of our child's life, looking forward to each day with excitement. We also need to mourn each passing stage.

Mothers are supposed to be there cheering and applauding their child as they take first step; when the training wheels come off; at each play, recital, and concert; as they leave for their first date; when they graduate; when they get married. We love our children passionately--every part of them. We love how they grow, how they learn from their mistakes and triumphs, how they find every part of life a mystery. We encourage them, we wipe their tears and put band-aides on their boo-boos, and we show them how to live life with strength.

Our acclamations are not accomplished easily. We hide our teary eyes beneath a smiling face as we send our children off into the world...or even just out of arm's reach.

1 comment:

rockflowerkrystal said...

I'm blaming this on raging post-pregnancy hormones, but I got teary-eyed reading this.