Friday, April 11, 2008

A great lesson learned over time

The recent meme I did asked me to reflect on what I was doing 10 years ago.

While I answered it truthfully, there is one big thing about my life in 1998 that I didn’t share because it is a little too complicated to boil down into one simple statement in a meme.

Ten years ago, I was 100% determined to never be a mother. I “decided” back in high school not to have children and I stuck to my conviction through college and many years beyond.

My reasons for not wanting children ranged from the selfish (I like being able to pick up and go, and I like my sleep too much) to the profound (This world has too many problems; why bring an innocent life into it?)

I had a hard time envisioning myself happy as the full-time caregiver to another person. I was too self-centered, I reasoned. I wanted to travel and eat in nice restaurants. I wanted to spend my money on clothing and cars, not diapers or toys. I wanted to be able to pick up and move where ever, whenever.

I did not believe that a life involving children – a life that required constant giving to another human being – could be one of true happiness for me.

But sometime after getting married, my attitude began to shift. It was subtle of course – like watching the tide come in on a rocky shoreline. The sea slowly takes over the beach until the jagged rocks are no longer visible under the turbulent water. Like those rocks, my resolve not to have a baby was slowly and surely drowned under the deeper desire to be a mother. And once my fears and doubts were drowned out, they could not be resuscitated.

Today, almost five years after giving birth to my first child, I find myself unable to imagine what my world would be like without them – my daughters – my blood, my flesh.

Which is not to say that raising children is easy. I get up in the pre-dawn hours several nights a week to comfort a crying child. I sweep the hair out of tear-rimmed eyes and kiss boo-boos. I find myself frustrated when my requests are ignored and when bad behavior takes over. I clean up puke and poop and fetch milk and sweep countless pieces of O-shaped cereal off my floor. I drop whatever I’m doing to read the same mindless stories over and over again. It takes me half an hour to leave the house for even the most routine errands.

Yet I am happy. Truly.

Each day, I give and receive endless bear hugs and kisses. I’m awed by my daughters’ amazing growth and development. My heart swells with joy watching them play and learn. I sneak into their rooms and watch them sleep, overwhelmed by how peaceful they are and the limitless love I feel for them. The highlight of a long day at work comes at the end when I walk through the door and hear, “Mommy!” followed by a cavalcade of racing footsteps and a rush of sticky fingers.

I am settled and complete in the decision to become a mother. It has made me a better person – less selfish and more centered.

Yesterday, on a gorgeous spring day the three of us picnicked together in our yard. The air was warm and full of the promise of summer. We sat together eating pretzels and grapes and then lay back to watch the clouds pass overhead. We snuggled and daydreamed and laughed.

Ten years ago I thought becoming a mother was solely about giving – giving life, giving up your dreams, giving, giving, giving.

But my children have added more love and joy to my life than I ever imagined. The gifts they give me are too numerous to tally. I am so grateful that I had the chance to figure that out.

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Blogger Rocas said...

My best friend and his wife decided to not have children, and I am often envious of their ability to just pick up and go, when and where they please.
At the same time I feel very sorry for them, as they will never experience what as a parent, can only be felt and never quite verbalized.

I just could not ever imagine my life as ever being whole without them

1:20 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Head-to-toe chills and core-deep gratitude to be a mom as I read this exquisite post.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Aunt Kath said...

I always wanted to ask you why you changed your mind about having kids. Now I know.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

You spoke your thoughts so beautifully. I loved reading that post. It's amazing that we can feel more whole and alive by having somebody who is always asking and taking. I love my 3 babies, too, and we are so blessed to be Mommas!!


3:17 PM  
Blogger Woman with a Hatchet said...

That was lovely! I felt the same way. I think it may even have been in HS that I swore to my mother that as 2 of 4 children that *I* would never have kids.

Years and years and 5 years into my marriage later? Our first was born. That was a serious kick in the pants, but a beautiful, heart-filling one at the same time.

Motherhood (and fatherhood) is hard as hell, but those little buggers make it worthwhile. Most days! : )

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Shirley said...

Boy, are you gonna love nana-hood. For me, graduating motherhood was kinda like leaving high school/college - Were those really the best years of my life? But somewhere along the way the children become adults you admire and love and then - whammo - they present you with the greatest gift of all.

You truly have given yourself a present (pun intended) that keeps on giving (if you wait long enough).

7:16 PM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

It's so hard to put this in words, and yet you did, beautifully!

1:30 PM  

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