28 December 2010

Reflections on Motherhood

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." 

Last night as I lay in bed with Ellie, patting her back while she fell asleep, I thought about what I always do when she sleeps: her.  She once was this little mystery growing inside of me, then my infant who didn't sleep at night and who giggled and cooed, who I could hold in my arms and protect.  Now she's so big. The tiny baby who used to fit in my arms is gone, and I have a beautiful little girl who carries conversations with me and asks me about the world and death---things for which I have no answer.

 When I first found out I was going to be a mother  I was terrified. Like most women, I worried that I would do something wrong, that I wouldn't be qualified to care for a little person, that I didn't have the knowledge or skills to raise a child.  I was afraid that I would lose my patience, or feel confused, or cry because of frustration. The only thing I really knew was that I would love the little soul growing inside of me unconditionally.

Now that my Ellie is 3 1/2, I think I've finally realized that I was right:  I didn't have the knowledge or skills---nobody does. We develop them as we go.  We learn how to care for babies, how to breastfeed, change diapers, soothe them when they're sick, and teach them right from wrong.  There's a bit of instinct that guides and helpful books and advice, but mostly our experience teaches us what to do. 

Sometimes I lose my patience, sometimes I get confused when she doesn't listen, sometimes I cry because I'm tired.  And that's okay, too. I've realized that I'm human, I'm a mother, and we do those things from time to time. 

What I knew about love transformed in so many ways. I thought I knew about unconditional love, but I didn't realize how far love can reach.  After being cut open (c-section), pooped on, thrown up on, kept up all night for nights on end, dealing with tantrums and fits, there is still a strong, powerful love.  In fact, I think I love her more and more every day. I always thought that parents love their children as much as they did they day they were born, but I'm pretty sure I love her more now than I did then.

The woman I am today is different than the girl I was when I had her. There's a transformation that happens when we become parents. We realize that we aren't the only things in this world-- there are others who are far more important.  With the birth of a child, we instantly grow old knowing that in this little baby we have a successor, someone who will remain after we are gone.

When I wake her in the morning and when I kiss her at night, I realize how blessed I am to have this beautiful little girl and that my life is wonderful because of her presence.

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