Here’s What I’ve Figured Out About Motherhood – SheKnows

Project of Identifying Motherhood

I became a mother on March 5, 2010 – 9 weeks earlier than planned. I had an emergency cesarean section for a baby girl who weighed 2 pounds but didn’t cry at birth. Who, according to the NICU doctors standing sullenly around my bed, might not make it through the night.

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She made it through the night, and when she was settled the next morning, a lactation consultant encouraged me to go to a meeting for new mothers. I went. I go because I’m a new mom and I think that’s what new moms do.

Being in that room was like scraping gravel on an intact wound. The other three new moms in the room had their baby next to them. Their babies were breathing on their own. Mine is in the NICU, connected to the machines that act as lifesavers. Immediately, I knew I had made a mistake. I’m not just a new mom. I was something else, and in trying to pretend I wasn’t, I broke my own heart.

Going to that meeting didn’t teach me how to breastfeed – looking back, I shouldn’t have gone. But going introduced me to the idea that “mom” was just the beginning. Beneath the mother’s umbrella, there are countless groups of children, and acknowledging their differences can be an act of kindness – or at least confirmation.

The next label I wear is more common than the preemie mom, but it’s also easier to write down. For a while, I even felt guilty about firing the stay-at-home mom.

The end of my maternity leave coincides with the end of my daughter’s NICU vacation. When the company called me back, I didn’t go as planned. How can I go home when she finally comes home? (I realize how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to stay home and am forever grateful.) The moment I traded my t-shirts for leggings, I found myself justifying my choice to leave my legitimate job. and ask questions about what I’ve been doing all day. in a way I’ve never had to when I walk into the office every day – as if my whole day is suddenly all about TV and stuff. As if I had to prove something. It’s as if I’ve taken off something now that I can’t bill for now.

Who do I justify myself the most? My self.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that work is only valuable if it is paid for, that success is only counted if it is verified from the outside. Somehow, I get the message that staying home is not enough. But taking care of my daughter’s hard work breastfeeding, napping, sleeping through the night, meeting timelines, I don’t feel like nothing. It feels like I’m giving more than I’ve ever had to before, and being able to give, for what she needs, feels like success. As a stay-at-home mom, I learned a new definition of success. More importantly, I learned that there is no hierarchy to motherhood, no title that indicates more respect than another.

Just a few years after I became a stay-at-home mom, as the wave of infant and toddler burnout began to clear, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. A year and a half later, he passed away, and I quietly and sadly opened a mother’s club that very few (thankfully) had ever seen: the widowed, single moms club. The price of joining this club is very expensive, the stakes are high, it is heartbreaking.

In the role of a single mother, I was called to fill a void that had been built for two. As a single parent, my relationship with the word “strength” has changed. I learned strength has nothing to do with being or feeling strong. When lifting heavy objects or even standing tall under pressure. I’ve learned that power is something much quieter. It’s sitting in a dark room trying to patch a child’s heart together while yours lies in pieces. It’s about creating space in your own grief storm to absorb some of your child’s. It was sitting alone at parent-teacher and graduation meetings and dinner tables and was brave enough to take up all the space.

As a widowed, single mother, I also learned the power of wearing a label and finding others who wear the same label. That lesson is priceless. In the community of single mothers, I find that normalized thoughts and feelings seem completely out of the ordinary. They can’t rebuild what’s broken, but I find that sometimes all we need is to know that we’re not rebuilding alone.

I never intended to wear preemie mom or stay-at-home mom or single mom labels. I think I’ll just be “Mom.” While I can’t say I’m grateful for wearing any of these brands – especially the widowed, single mom brand – I’m grateful to have learned this: there’s power when Wear this label, when you give yourself grace to become the version of “Mother” you are today.

But it can also be said that the label is not important. What’s more important is to remember that you are not defined by a headline that can burn the brightest at the moment. Because motherhood is more than a title, a role, a label. It’s been a journey, almost always with difficult parts, almost always tied with incredible parts.

What I learned is that motherhood is visceral, and that the only constant is light and love that accompanies the hearts of all. Here’s What I’ve Figured Out About Motherhood – SheKnows

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