As I look down at my growing belly, I am still in awe of the experience that is motherhood. It’s been almost four years since the birth of my first born, Henry. And, in about 90 days we will be welcoming our second child – a little girl – to our family.
After giving birth to Henry, my first instinct was to hold him close to my chest and soothe him with my voice. The voice he had come to recognize over the last 9 months. My husband and I were exhausted and sleep deprived, but also full of joy, excitement and possibility. The little world we knew would never be the same, and now I was this little human’s entire world.
I took my prenatal experience seriously. I read books. I took my vitamins every day. I made sure to drink plenty of water. I ate nutritious meals. I exercised. I spent a lot of time being mindful that this would be one of the few opportunities as a mother in which my actions alone would set the course for his future. Soon there would be outside influences, people and events and I would no longer be in control.
Shortly after the high of the birth experience waned, we were discharged from the hospital and the reality of parenting began to settle in. I was still Henry’s primary source of everything – food, comfort, hygiene and his sense of safety in the world. But, with each passing day, each passing month, and each passing year, I noticed his growing need for things I could not give him – the need to explore, to experiment and to connect with others. In order for him to fully be himself, he must also differentiate.
This is the dichotomy of motherhood. You give it your all – your body, your attention and your love knowing that the goal in the end is to let go and set them free. And, if you did your job well, you are rewarded with an adult who will one day go bravely into the world with confidence and independence.
In my experience, being a mother is like playing a character in a movie of my child’s life in which my role is ever changing. One day I am the star, the only one he sees, wants and needs. And, in a blink of an eye, I find myself in a supportive position while he takes center stage and creates his own storyline. It is not easy. There is a part of me that always wants to be the one he needs because when you become a mother, and you give yourself fully to that role, it is hard to dream of anything different.
This Mother’s Day, I want to show gratitude to all of the mothers, grandmothers and those who are playing the role of mother in a child’s life. Those who understand that beyond
packing lunches, cleaning scraped knees and reading bedtime stories, the hardest part of motherhood is not the daily grind, but the deep knowing that all of this will come to an end someday and finding gratitude in the midst of it all.
So, while in the moment we are exhausted, overwhelmed and the world has us questioning every decision we make, know that the best gift we can give ourselves is to be right here, right now. Because that is all any of us ever have. And, if we can find that presence with each passing day, each passing month and each passing year, we will find ourselves with few regrets, an abundance of love and memories we will cherish forever.
Written by Heather Freed, LCSW
Heather Freed is the President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois and Contributing Columnist for the Edwardsville Intelligencer.
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