We are all pretty ex****ted today. My fifteen month old has been battling an ear infection, and when little ears hurt, mamas don’t get much sleep. So after I dropped my oldest at kindergarten, we trudged back into the house, and I turned on some cartoons and cuddled on the couch with my two toddlers.
As I was sitting there with them, half asleep and half awake, I remembered back about ten years. I remember that I would see mothers with their babies all nestled on their shoulders, and to be honest, part of my then infertile mind thought it was unfair. Already these women got to be mothers, they got all those perks, but they also got to be the owners of the only shoulders those little heads wanted to rest on.
At times, my entire body would be consumed with envy. I so desperately wanted to be the one who crying eyes sought out, who skinned knees ran to for comfort, and who weary eyes looked for as they fell into slumber.
I would see mothers trying to pass off their infants into the loving arms of family members, and I would see the infants burst into tears, begging for their mamas back, and yea… it all seemed unfair. I wanted to be that wanted. I wanted to be that mother.
These women had it all and I wanted it. They already got to be mothers, I thought, why do they also get to be the only ones these infants want? Why can’t I have a little piece?
Granted, those thoughts were probably grasping desperately to rationality and were losing the fight, but it’s how I felt. I think it’s how many women, infertile or fertile, feel when they want a child. They see all those perks, all that love, and they want a piece of it.
What I didn’t see at that time, however, was that freely given though they were, those baby snuggles were earned. Of course, there is an immense biological connection between a birth mother and a child, but as any adoptive mother will surely tell you, the bond is not merely physical. It might be what initially draws the baby to the mother, but it’s not what keeps him or her there. At least not for long.
For every snuggle you see at church or at a park or in the mall, there are hundreds of others — in the wee hours of the morning, in the doctor’s office, in the middle of much-wished-for date nights. For every hug, there are tears. For every kiss, there are diapers changed. For every high five, there are feedings given and outfits changed and baths given. For every look of love, there are untold moments of duty and affection and service freely given, both day and night.
Before we have kids, I think many of us see mothering as a title, a role, a relationship. But what we perhaps overlook is that more than anything, mothering is an act.
It’s the acts of love we perform whether we want to or not.
It’s in cradling weary heads though ours may be just as heavy.
It’s in holding scared hands while ours tremble silently.
It’s in giving of our last so someone else can experience their first.
It’s in giving and sharing and comforting and holding and encouraging and guiding and directing and molding and modeling. It’s in showing up. Whether we want to or not.
There are billions of people in this world. There are hundreds surrounding our babies in their little lives. But in the end there are two (a mother and a father) who are called to show up when no one else will. Who are called to be the final and the ultimate safety net. Who have no choice but to never, ever give up.
No, at the time I didn’t understand that those outstretched arms, reaching desperately for a mama were a well earned reward for thousands upon thousands of answered calls and needs met.
Now I understand it. And even more than before, I appreciate it.
Mothering is hard. But the reward is oh so great.
About Amanda Knapp
Amanda Knapp is a writer and a stay at home mom to her three little girls. She blogs about life and motherhood at www.indisposablemama.com