When you are praying desperately for a baby after years of trying, it can seem like every day is like walking through a land mine. You never know when you are going to come face to face with a reminder of exactly what it is you are missing out on.
One such day occurred just under a month before I found out I was pregnant with my now five year old. It was an anniversary of 9/11, and the college I was teaching at had a guest speaker come in who was a survivor of the 9/11 attacks. I cancelled our regular class for that day and had my students all meet in the auditorium where the speaker was going to be.
His discussion was heart wrenching. He described the moment he found out what had happened, his journey out of the building, and the long walk home. What touched me the most was his reunion with his family.
His wife and children had gathered at his parents' home because it was closer to the attacks and they figured he would go there first. He said he remembered walking up the drive and seeing his whole family. He said he walked straight into his mother’s arms. At that point, he said, there was no place in the world that he wanted to be more than in the safety of his mother’s embrace. He went on to talk at length about how it doesn’t matter how old you are or what you have been through, after facing a trauma, people feel safest with the one they knew first: their mama.
Hearing that at the time broke my heart. Just like the poetic Mother’s Day sentiments and the touching Chicken Soup type stories that we hear everywhere, this man was celebrating motherhood. It’s not a surprise. After all, we live in a culture that idolizes and glorifies mothers.
The irony is that any mother will tell you that the gifts she receives far outweigh the gifts she gives.
And I guess it’s easy to see why non-mothers might glorify what a mother does. After all, what people see are mothers who wake up at all hours, calming fevers and easing fears. They see selflessness and the sometimes overwhelming energy and sacrifice it takes to raise a family.
But we mothers know that while we may be sacrificing sleep, the reimbursement we are given is eyes that look up at us with unadulterated trust. Our payment might not mean much to others, but the look of appreciation in a feverish child’s eyes or the way her head rests on your shoulder as she finally drifts into sleep make it all worth it.
When I walk down the stairs after sleeping in on a weekend morning, or when I walk in the door after a trip to the grocery store, the look on my two year old's face as she frantically races to greet me makes the tantrums worth it.
When I look in the backseat and I see my five year old screaming the lyrics to my favorite songs while clapping along and swaying to the music, the whines I dealt with all day don’t seem so grating.
There’s a glory in being Mom to a little child. It’s a once in a lifetime chance of being the whole world to another person at the same time that you get the privilege of introducing the world to her. You are always wanted and always needed. Sometimes you are the only one to calm a fear or ease the pain of a boo boo. You give your whole heart, and the payment received is a heart that is so full you sometimes feel it couldn’t possibly fit in your chest. Because in this world, it is amazing to be loved, but it’s even more amazing to love.
Motherhood is tiring. It is difficult and sometimes lonely despite the fact that we are never really alone. But perhaps the greatest thing motherhood teaches us is to pay attention to the little things. Because that is the currency in which we deal. Little people, little moments, large blessings. And memories to last a lifetime.
This post originally appeared on my blog in August 2012.
Amanda Knapp writes about her experiences with motherhood on her blog, Indisposable Mama.