“This too shall pass, Heather.” I repeated this mantra to myself just like Rain Man. I would come to truly appreciate my mother’s finest words of wisdom as I lay on the couch wreaking of baby puke with a t-shirt saturated with breast milk, overly frustrated with my nursing difficulties and fighting back involuntary tears from sleep deprivation under the demands of two babies spaced only 18 months apart. It was irony at its best, since my mother had my brother and me within just the same spacing. Who better to listen to for advice than a woman who had been there?
I recall finally getting my infant to latch on that day, just as I glanced up to see my older 18-month-old shoving her tiny Keds into the slats of our then apartment balcony and precariously leaning over. I grew wings and flew to her rescue while never losing my precious latch with my newborn. Hyperventilating, I threw myself on the rug with both girls clenched tightly to my chest. At that moment I knew. I could handle it—every challenging moment that motherhood threw at me. I was strong enough to make it work. It would get ugly sometimes… but when one difficult thing presented itself, another would pass. I would learn from each one. It’s been a rhythm I slowly grew to embrace.
Motherhood is hard, but also a gift. While these two statements don’t seem to go together, they absolutely do. Motherhood feels like a series of battles at times, and the gift seems to fade into the background if you allow it to. Being a mom entails many battles: second guessing yourself, battles with your kids, battles with your spouse, battles with playmates, other mothers, teachers, friends, between your kids’ friends, illnesses, bullying, homework. The key is to stop and remember the gift despite all the battles. Like the shining moment I remember when my baby’s eyes met mine as she peacefully nursed for the first time. There was a smile in her eyes. There it was—her gift to me.
When my first baby was born I remember purchasing this piece of art. It really called out to me as a mother. It was of a young girl, perched on the edge of a cliff, looking to leap to the other side (which symbolized adulthood) and above her was a beautiful starry sky of possibilities. Below her were all the dark, scary things in life (symbolizing the things we fear) and the very things that we must risk to meet our life’s purpose so we can share our unique gifts with the world. No Winnie the Pooh here, I thought to myself. I bought it and immediately hung it in her room.
Motherhood and parenting feel very much the same. Fast-forward to today as we are raising teen girls. I, too, find myself standing on the cliff looking down—at sex, pregnancy, drugs, people who will hurt them, people who will take advantage of them, situations that will be difficult for them. I am looking across the cavern to high school, college, exchange student programs, first apartments, first loves, jobs, and all of their first forays into life while trying not to look down. “One day at a time,” I tell myself—another line my mother said frequently. She’s right. Looking at everything in the cavern below is just too overwhelming. Take one thing as it comes and see it out the other side.
My girls, they have outgrown the image of the little girl on the cliff. It’s been replaced with Taylor Swift paraphernalia, life mementos and photos of their friends. I simply cannot part with it though. In fact, I think it has a place in our master bedroom so I can remember we are their shepherds. We are there to see them to the other side.
What an incredible journey parenting is—like giving your most precious people to the universe after carefully (and painfully) seeing them through each and every trial and heartache and building them up so they can be good, strong and fully themselves.
My heart hurts. Motherhood is indeed a leap of faith. Before you know it you will be letting go of their hands and hoping that all the love you have poured into them will carry them safely wherever they want to go. No matter what your current parenting battle is—know that it’s a fluid process so try to embrace the ride and appreciate the gift.
As I am writing this, my oldest daughter enters my office—long legs, braces—a young woman getting ready for high school, stepping ever-closer to the edge every single day. Once again, I find myself repeating silent mantras in my head like Rain Man. “This too shall pass. So very, very quickly.”