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The Journey of Motherhood

No one can prepare you for the constantly shifting experience of motherhood.

Tetiana Garkusha/iStock
Source: Tetiana Garkusha/iStock

When this post is published in early June, my oldest daughter will turn 25 years old – the age at which I married her father and bought my first home. This significant birthday for her encourages me to reflect on my own journey into motherhood and through two-and-a-half decades now.

When you first become a mother, if you are given the gift of motherhood to begin with, you aren’t prepared for the sheer volume of what you are supposed to know, and be able to adeptly deal with. Here is this tiny life in your hands. There is nothing she (or he) can do without your help. It is daunting.

No one warns you about the lack of sleep you will endure. My daughter got kicked out of a couple of home daycares because, not only would she not sleep at night, she wouldn’t nap during the day. As a working mother with a very demanding job, I learned quickly how to seem “on” even when all I wanted to do was take a nap myself.

When your child gets to toddlerhood, there is more to worry about. Now, she or he moves around on their own and can get out of your sight very quickly. My daughter became separated from me in the biggest public transportation area in our large city on an outing with other members of my family when she was only about 4 years old. No one could have prepared me for the sheer panic I experienced when she was nowhere to be found, and with buses and trains leaving the station from every angle. It was also during the holidays, and large volumes of people were moving in and out. The fear. The panic. The helplessness.

Toddlerhood is also the time your child needs more interaction – and mothers are more tired. Answering those “why?” questions and working hard not to just plop your child down in front of some “electronic babysitter” at this stage is really tough. Navigating restaurants and trips out of town and visits to houses where everything is breakable is exhausting.

So many memories. The first day she stepped onto the bus. The pride coupled with the sadness – the start of school and entering a new phase. When she started complaining about the bus ride, we learned quickly how to be an advocate for someone so small who couldn’t advocate for herself. She was right about her observations, but it took months and many phone calls to get someone to listen.

In junior high came the call from the school nurse, saying they think she has Lyme disease. I can’t forgive myself, because when she complained about how much her knee hurt on the nights she had dance, I told her to suck it up and dance through the pain, having no idea we would wind up in Children’s Hospital with the threat of her knee having to be replaced because the Lyme had done so much damage.

The hours and hours in middle school and high school sitting on the stairs outside of her room, listening to her cry her heart out because she was being bullied, or a friend betrayed her, or a boyfriend cheated on her. Listening while my own heart was being destroyed and knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do about it but pray she would have the strength to get through it.

The concussions, the car that was totaled, the call from the hospital the night she was attacked and physically abused. The recurrence of Lyme and trying to find answers for how to get her some sort of relief.

The migration a mother is asked to take, and the on-the-job learning is something no one – not even another mother, or even your own mother – can prepare you for. It is a constantly shifting and changing journey where you have to pull on inner resources you had no idea you even possessed.

Then no one prepares you for the day the child leaves your home. All of the worry, the staying up late, the navigating phone calls from school, the planning of doctor’s appointments, the shopping for food she (or he) likes – all of a sudden it stops. It just stops. Now the emptiness sets in. Her room is silent. There is no crying but there is no laughing, there are none of the friends I have come to care about popping in and out, there is no checking in every day about what’s happening in her world. It’s the natural evolution and a well-raised child is ready to go on their own – but a mother’s heart hurts adjusting to the silence.

And throughout this entire journey, of course, there is joy. Her smile lit up my world when she was 2 years old and it still lights up my world today at 25. Talking to her, listening to her and learning about her is still a blessing 25 years later. Watching her grow and change and become a confident woman with an admirable reserve of strength and perseverance, coupled with a kind heart and a caring soul, keeps me in awe every single day.

Happy birthday to my amazing firstborn, and thank you for letting me learn along with you and take this journey of motherhood.

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