Sunday, May 11, 2014

Celebrating motherhood

Today is a celebration of moms, and brings back the memories of the days we became moms.  Three times in my life I've been subjected to excruciating, gut-splitting pain.  And each time I chose to endure that pain, for some reason refusing an epidural or anything that would relieve the feeling of being turned inside out from my bellybutton.  I didn't scream; I didn't swear; and I didn't blame Jeff for "causing" the misery. Even the delivery nurse suggested i could let out a holler or two, and even as I heard some ear-rattling, haunting screams from adjacent rooms, I hardly uttered a word.  Just once when I was in labor with Matthew, I did ask Jeff to leave the room while he ate the cookies that I baked for him in anticipation of a long night.  The smell of them was more than I could tolerate.   From those three "episodes" of pain came beautiful little people -- a boy and 2 girls -- who've grown to be beautiful big people and my best handiwork.

Motherhood is the most powerful, life-changing thing that has ever happened to me, and I'm sure most moms would agree.  It's strange that moments after childbirth, when they put that little naked being on your chest, you forget the torture you just experienced.  Maybe it's the joy of motherhood that makes you forget -- that same joy that enables you to endure the worst moments.  Like when your kids are sad; when their hearts are broken; when they are sick and nothing you do makes them better; when they get so mad at you they say things they don't really mean but that hurt you anyway.  The joys of motherhood far outweigh the difficult moments.

For at least a few years motherhood lets you feel like the most important person in the world to someone.  Then the little someone grows up, and you wonder sometimes how important you are to them anymore -- until they surprise you with a simple hug, a random "i love you," a thank you, or a surprise letter (even if the letter was prompted by a school project) telling you how much you mean to them.  It's the little things that can make my heart melt.

Growing up the youngest of 12 kids, I had a lot of mother figures to learn from, and of course my own mom.  Each of us 12 has different memories of our mom when we were little -- probably because each of our relationships with her was unlike the others.  She's 92 now, and while her body remains mostly fit,  her mind fails consistently.  Instead of wondering when the time will come that she'll forget who I am, I try to remember when she looked forward to seeing me come home from college, often enticing me to make the 4-hour drive with a shopping trip and lunch at our favorite restaurant followed by ice cream.  Now she doesn't remember that she just saw me, often asks me what happened to Jeff, and doesn't remember how many kids I have, their names, or how old they are.  It's as frustrating to her as it is sad to us.

I'm grateful to my mom for showing me the right and wrong, the good and not-so-good parts of mothering, and to my sisters, especially the older ones who felt like a mom to me.  As crazy as it was growing up in our house, it has helped me become the mom that I am.  I definitely acknowledge my "failures," but I hope my kids learn from me what being a mom is all about. And I hope they realize they are the best part of my life.

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