I have come to see them both–the light and dark sides of this role I get to play–but only one has surprised me.
I was not surprised to weep with joy and limitless love when all 8lbs 6oz of her was laid on my chest for the first time. I was not surprised at how I could just stare at her for minutes, neither of us doing anything of wonder at all. I wasn’t surprised at the pride I felt, it almost hurt from bursting through my chest, when she rolled over, slept through the night, said mama and dada, smiled, or took those wobbly steps all for the first time. Doing exactly what she was developmentally supposed to be doing and still being the most magical thing I’d ever witnessed.
I wasn’t surprised by my love not dividing but multiplying when my eyes caught first sight of him, a head of dark dark hair soon turned blonde from months of living in the light. I wasn’t surprised at the joy found in my tiny brown house day after day after the day we brought him home, all four of us learning to live and love and know one another. Watching my two beautiful babies fall for one another with laughter and silly games and a language all their own did not take catch me off guard. I could feel it coming from his very first kick, from the day I stuck her in a pink Big Sister t-shirt and paraded her around to our families.
I’m still not surprised by my thumb instinctively pulling up old videos and photos of them when they’re sleeping, my heart always longing to be near to them. Or when butterflies dance in my stomach when I first hear them stirring in the morning. A whole night apart is sometimes too long. I haven’t been caught off guard by the way their smiles and laughs make me do the same or how I feel being the only one they want, all that they need wrapped up in the whole of me.
What has surprised me, what has knocked me off my feet day after day after day is the suffering of motherhood, the pain of it, the grief wrapped up in every single joy.
I became a mother at twenty two. Old enough to have already suffered the disappointment of expectations unmet, a heart broken by my family falling apart, but young and naive enough to believe that my suffering would stop there. That I could avoid it from then on out, not knowing that much of life is suffering.
So I did not see it coming, how my own heart would balk at rearranging my entire life for this tiny, mewling creature I had created. How I would mourn the simplicity of the days I just left behind. How I would sometimes wish for them back. I didn’t understand the suffering that would come from my need to control or how the uncertainty of not being able to would drive me to weep until I was handed that bundle of uncontrollable crying, the one that grew and grew and grew until he became an uncontrollable fist shaking, head shaking, body shaking little force of a boy. I couldn’t have known the fear that would grip me when doctors whispered about something possibly being wrong with him, that little shaking head not growing as it should. Or of the guilt I would feel when days had gone by since I last read a book or prepared a craft for my three year old. Guilt is the suffering most talked about in the motherhood realm and yet it surprised me still–feeling guilty ALL THE TIME surprises me still. I couldn’t have known I would never be alone and yet the loneliest I’d ever been.
Motherhood–light and dark. Easy and joyful and full, hard and unbearable and empty. A both/and kinda thing.