Sunday, October 30, 2005

On Being a Mom...

It is often difficult to put into words the emotional/spiritual transition that changes a woman into a Mother. My cousin sent me this email this morning, and despite it's length it really nails it, so I am going to share it with you all.

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter
casually mentions that she and her husband are
thinking of "starting a family." "We're taking a
survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should
have a baby?" "It will change your life," I say,
carefully keeping my tone neutral. "I know," she
says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more
spontaneous vacations." But that is not what I meant
at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what
to tell her. I want her to know what she will never
learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child
bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave
her with an emotional wound so raw that she will
forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she
will never again read a newspaper without asking,
"What if that had been MY child?" That every plane
crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she
sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if
anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish
suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she
is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive
level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent
call of "Mum!" will cause her to drop a souffle or her
best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many
years she has invested in her career, she will be
professionally derailed by motherhood. She might
arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going
into an important business meeting and she will think
of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every
ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to
make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions
will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's
desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's
at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right
there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming
children, issues of independence and gender identity
will be weighed against the prospect that a child
molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will
second-guess herself constantly as a mother. Looking
at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that
eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but
she will never feel the same about herself.

That her life, now so important, will be of less value
to her once she has a child. That she would give
herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will
also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish
her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish
theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny
stretch marks will become badges of honor. My
daughter's relationship with her husband will change,
and not in the way she thinks. I wish she could
understand how much more you can love a man who is
careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to
play with his child. I think she should know that she
will fall in love with him again for reasons she would
now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel
with women throughout history who have tried to stop
war, prejudice and drunk driving. I want to describe
to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child
learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the
belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of
a dog or cat for the first time.

I want her to taste the joy that is so real it
actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that
tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret
it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table,
squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent
prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere
mortal women who stumble their way into this most
wonderful of callings.

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