Nobody ever told me… the journey of motherhood

Nobody ever told me, when I be­came the moth­er of a new­born, that I would carry her home from the hos­pit­al trem­bling in ter­ror, won­der­ing how in the world I’d know what to do with her. She seemed like a tiny, help­less vic­tim of my gross in­eptitude.

When I di­apered Jill, back in the days of cloth di­apers and di­aper pins, and I once clum­sily stuck a pin in­to her vel­vety-soft body. I wept with shame.

When I bathed her, I was pos­it­ive she would drown. And when she cried, I felt pangs of guilt that I couldn’t fig­ure out what was wrong.

Nobody ever told me that des­pite all the sleep­less nights, the high anxi­ety, the de­form­ing fears that I would drop her or starve her or over­feed her, I would fall madly, hope­lessly in love with this per­fect mini­ature who some­how sur­vived all my first-baby fumbles.

Nobody ever told me when our second daugh­ter was born that I would feel slightly more con­fid­ent, but just as over­whelmed. Bring­ing Amy home from the hos­pit­al was a bit less trau­mat­ic and more routine — but it also taught one young and still-novice moth­er that two ba­bies some­how ad­ded up to more than twice as much work and ex­haus­tion and worry. Nobody can ex­plain the math. 

Nobody ever told me that some­how, a moth­er’s love mul­ti­plies eas­ily, and that there’s more than enough to go around.

Then along came a third baby — and an­oth­er daugh­ter.

Nobody ever told me that as much as I’d yearned for a son, a little boy we planned to name Jonath­an, I’d cradle a six-pound won­der named Nancy and lose my heart to her the mo­ment her tiny hand curled it­self around mine.

I had only two hands, and needed six.

I had only 24 hours, and needed at least 10 more.

I fi­nally knew ex­actly how to bathe and di­aper and burp a baby — but I didn’t know how to push down the feel­ings of des­per­a­tion when Nancy, cursed by col­ic, screamed in pain.

Nobody told me that col­ic passes, and that I was ac­tu­ally de­vel­op­ing that elu­sive, amaz­ing, power­ful thing called ma­ter­nal in­stinct, even though I was the last to know it.

In­fants turn in­to ba­bies, ba­bies turn in­to tod­dlers, and tod­dlers pick them­selves up one day and walk away, right out in­to the world.

Nobody told me how it would feel to walk three little girls in turn to “big school.”

I man­aged that feat three times, blink­ing back tears on each mo­ment­ous walk to the kinder­garten door. Nobody told me that those school years would tumble onto one an­oth­er, leav­ing this moth­er won­der­ing how those little girls in their plaid dresses had grown in­to teen­agers who thought I was stu­pid, mean and a gen­er­al em­bar­rass­ment. 

But those years passed, too, and sud­denly, I was walk­ing Jill, then Amy, then Nancy in­to dorm­it­or­ies on col­lege cam­puses. I was the one who sobbed as I hugged them good­bye. 

Nobody ever told me that yes, everything changes when kids leave home. That it gets bet­ter in some ways, and in­ef­fably sad in oth­ers.

Then each of our daugh­ters took a dif­fer­ent walk, this one down a path in our garden to meet their grooms in three mem­or­able home wed­dings.

Nobody ever told me that there would be room in my heart for sons-in-law, young men who would forever change our fam­ily con­stel­la­tion — and make it bet­ter. And then my daugh­ters — wo­men now — had chil­dren of their own. Nobody ever told me what it would feel like to look down at a child of my child — and glimpse etern­ity.

Nobody ever told me that the longer I live, the more humbled I feel by how little I know, but how much I love.

Nobody ever told me that moth­ers and grand­moth­ers grow second hearts just to store up all that love.

And now, at last, nobody has to tell me that moth­er­hood/grand­moth­er­hood is my most pro­found, most mo­nu­ment­al gift. That I know every single day of my life. ••

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