After a long sleepless night, I woke up to find my 1-year-old daughter cuddled up to me grabbing on to my shirt with both of her tiny hands.
I couldn't stop staring at her. I felt so much love and joy that I would have gladly spent the whole day doing nothing but that.
Motherhood can do that to you.
In between challenging and frustrating times you experience shining moments of pure love and joy that make it all worthwhile.
I've been lucky to have many of those beautiful moments. That doesn't mean I have been spared the difficult ones, though.
While labor and sleepless nights may top the list for many of us when we think of tough motherhood experiences, it's the emotional challenges that I've found to be the hardest.
After all, when you love someone the way you love a child, you become vulnerable in a way you never imagined possible.
Even though we don't talk as much about these challenges as we do others, they are still real.
So very real...
1. Not being able to take away the pain. When she had her first blood test, her first vaccine, and her first fever, when she fell and bumped her head, when she caught her finger in a drawer, and every other time she has cried because she was in pain, I would have given everything I owned to go through that pain instead of her. But I know I can't, and that breaks my heart into a million little pieces.
2. Constantly worrying. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I wanted to protect my girl. I worried about everything from what I ate to how often she kicked. When she was born, the worry didn't subside, it grew. Was she eating enough? Warm enough? Sleeping enough? As she grows up, I worry about different things. I know as a mother I am destined to worry for the rest of my life, and I know it won't be easy. But, I also know it means I will never be alone in my mind or my heart because I will always find my daughter there.
3. Realizing that you're not perfect. I would love to be a perfect mother and to never do wrong by my baby, but I am human and destined to make mistakes. As much as I want to always do the right thing, I know there will be times I will wish I could take something back. At the end of the day, though, I am doing my best to be a good mother. I just hope my best is good enough.
4. Living with uncertainty. I wish I could know why she's crying or refusing to eat. I wish I could know if it's her teeth that hurt or her tummy. I wish I could always know what book she wants to read or what song she wants to hear. I wish I could know for sure if I am doing the right thing. But most of all, I wish I could know if I am being a good mother. It's hard to always be questioning yourself, but they say a mother's instincts and intuition are stronger than any other. I just hope mine are right more often than they are wrong.
5. Learning to let go. I breastfed my daughter for the last time this week, and it broke my heart. It's not the first time, though, that it's been hard to let go. Children grow up way too fast, and every milestone -- from leaving her home for our first date night, to sending her to nursery for the first time, to not picking her up regularly because she walks - leaves pangs of nostalgia in my heart. I know that with each habit she outgrows, and each milestone she reaches, I feel a huge sense of pride in my blossoming daughter -- but somewhere in there, I also feel a little sense of loss.
6. Feeling that you've lost control. I miss the days when I woke up at a set time, slept when I got tired, went out spontaneously, shopped slowly, lingered over a cup of coffee with a friend, and made meetings when I said I would. I miss that sense of control. The harder part though, is realizing that giving that up doesn't mean you can now control life with your baby. I most certainly cannot -- not what she likes to eat, not how she sleeps, not how she always feels, and most certainly not how everything in our lives unfolds. Many times this can be sweet and enlightening. Sometimes though, it can be quite challenging.
7. Knowing you can't always be there. It's so satisfying to know I can make things better for my baby now -- comfort her when she cries, feed her when she's hungry, and protect her if she's in danger. Even though she will always be my little girl, I know that one day I won't be around all the time and I won't be the answer to everything anymore. I just pray that when that time comes, her upbringing will have provided her with what she needs to see anything through.
8. Crying... and I don't mean hers. I cried when I found out I was pregnant and I cried when I gave birth. I still cry when I look at her newborn pictures and notice how much she's grown. I cry when she gives me a hug, I cry when she does something for the first time, and I cry when she cries. I cry happy tears and worried tears, out of fear and out of joy. Mostly, the tears flow out because having a baby has made me feel things more deeply than I ever thought I could.
9. Knowing that many beautiful moments you experience could be the last. The last breastfeed before complete weaning, the last crawl before exclusive walking, the last babble before speaking in words, the last pureed meal before proper solids, and even the last nose scrunch before moving on to other cute habits -- I wish I had known every time it was going to be the last time. Every stage has its beautiful moments that replace the ones long gone, but it's so bittersweet when I realize how fast the years are flying by.
10. Living forever with your heart outside your body. This one may be the hardest, but it also leaves me with a sense of joy and connection that nothing can rival. That is why, in a heartbeat, I would do it all over again.
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