This is the day. Ten years ago on this very day I became a mother. I remember so many details from this child coming into the world. I’d love to share them all here and regale you all with the details of her birth story, but I won’t. I realize that, apart from select circles of women, sharing birth stories is like sharing vacation photos. As you can imagine, I have been reflecting on the birth of my girl. I’ve been trying to figure out how much I’ve changed over the past ten years. I wonder this morning, if 28-year-old-me would recognize now-me?
It is safe to say that I did not navigate the first ten years of mothering only to get to this place unchanged. I not only mothered my baby girl, but when she was only a year and a half old our lives were changed forever. With that change came two children that I’ve had the privilege to take part in raising. Two kids who were barely 10 and 13 when my baby was not yet two. That alone has changed me more than I knew was possible. We’ve made two more babies and a home and a life in these years and when I look back I see only good.
So in all of this, what are my take-aways from ten years of mothering kids at every stage? I made a list and I think it’s the best way to share where I’m at mentally after all this time. First off; Things I learned from labor:
In the labor and delivery room as well as in life you must advocate for yourself. Everyone else in that room, and in life, believes that they know all of the things and that they have the best for you and your child in mind. When in actuality, only you know yourself, there is no one in this world who will have to deal with your decisions or their consequences more greatly than you. And so you must tell people what you know to be best for you. You must speak actual words and put all of your belief behind them. You can not, should not, allow others to make your choices. Not in labor and not in life.
You’ll throw up a lot. Okay, so maybe I knew this before labor, but the message was really driven home in the hours preceding the births of my children. When I was first in labor I had no idea that I would vomit, no one told me this was a possibility. This seems to be the story of my life! I had no idea that so many things were even possible for me when I was young, no one told me and so I believed my small world was all there was. Had someone just spoken a few well timed words to me, my life would have been filled with different experiences. This lesson is more that life is messy, there is sadness, and brokenness that must be lived through. It’s also a reminder to me to tell someone else that while life is full of hard things, they were made to do this exact hard thing! And then do it with them, because the people who hold your hair back, they are keepers.
You are stronger than you know. Laboring to bring a child into this world is easily the most difficult yet empowering thing that I’ve ever done. In delivering my babies I learned that I am capable, I have strength. Truly. In being a mother I’ve learned that mothering will open your eyes to how you don’t stop delivering your children. It’s not a single act. I feel like the strength found in me while laboring to bring babies earth-side sustains me through the early years. How else can one explain being able to mother (sorta) well on weeks of minimal sleep because a preschooler refuses rest?
Stubbornness is, like, a really good thing. During labor my stubbornness really came out. I wanted my babies to be birthed a certain way and I was determined to make that happen, regardless of how difficult it was. I can see how this stubbornness is all encompassing. It allows you to stand on your soapbox even when no one is listening. How you’ll press through all of the really hard years. How you will keep giving your best when you feel there is no more to give. Being stubborn, determined, strong-willed has carried me through the past ten years. I don’t doubt that it will serve me well in the years of mothering I have ahead of me.
The things I’ve learned from being a mom are no less meaningful. Jumping in at the midpoint of a child’s life is not easy, but it is educational. Homeschooling littles has its own way of teaching the teacher. The lessons from the last ten years could fill a book, and perhaps one day they will. Here are the most apparent to me as I look back.
Nothing goes as planned. Not one, teeny, tiny, microscopic thing. Every time I feel I have something figured out, that thing will flip inside out and I’ll be lost again. Babies sleep, you fall exhausted to your cozy bed, the babe wakes. Littles play sweetly together, you swap the laundry, littles are bashing each other with their toys. A teenager texts to get your opinion on a moral issue she’s facing, you cautiously reply, she does not speak to you for the next three days. I don’t get it, but I do understand that I will not “get it” and that it’s okay. One day, when I feel like everything is figured out, my children will likely all be grown. Change is the constant in mothering and I suppose out there in “real life” as well. Learning to live through all of the change and chaos makes me a stronger person.
Time is sketchy. You’ve heard it; “The days are long, but the years are short.” Sometimes a week with my children lasts 4,768 hours. Yet, as I look back at specific events that have happened over the last decade, some of them seem to have happened moments ago. How is this possible? There is only one reasonable explanation, time does not move in a straight line, it flows much more like a river. I believe this firmly, it’s a theory that you will not convince me to abandon. There is no other possible reason why four weeks of my tiny sleeping fitfully seems to have lasted more like four years, but I can recall holding her just-born self in my arms (what feels like) just this morning! If nothing else, I have learned that the time is fleeting and I can not cause it to be still during the good or hurry through the hard.
Lessons must be encountered repeatedly to be learned. My children have taught me this, I feel like every time we are working on a difficult life lesson, I have to be reminded that they will need to be told this same thing a minimum of 76 times before the lesson sticks.
Human children don’t seem to be able to master a concept until they have come across it multiple times and I have not yet been able to remember this either. In my mothering I am constantly reminded that I’ll be doing this again, whatever “this” may be. I read somewhere, more than once, that the things we most struggle to learn will continue to circle back to us as our struggles. Once we have learned what we need, a new challenge will present itself, but not until we are ready for it.
Stubbornness is, like, not a good thing at all. I know what I said before, but I was wrong! At least it’s not good when you mother many stubborn people who would sooner walk barefoot through the snow than put on their own shoes. When you have strong-willed children-and you don’t want to break them, you have to allow yourself to be broken a bit. This is hard, maybe harder than giving birth. Allowing your people to listen to their own internal voice, to follow what is right for them, to not give them the answers…this might just break me a lot. Some days I want to scream, some days I do. There are days though when I see that they are becoming, growing into themselves, exploring the bigger versions of who they are now, those brief glimpses make the tears worth it.
Finally the things I’ve learned about myself as I look back over the past ten years. These are things I’ve written about; I need white space; quiet, to be well. Seeking after God is the best choice, one that I make every day. Sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty, or; why gardening is awesome. The things that you bury deep will continue to call to you. So many more. I think that the person I was ten years ago would be proud to be the person I am now. While I’ve lived through the yuck, I’ve learned a lot and knowledge is not wasted on those who will listen.
A last thought if you’ll indulge me a few more words. With a large, blended together family things are not easy. We know that we have introduced a lot of the hard into our days, there is no need to tell us. The best things have also come through this joining of people. Last night we had birthday dinner. My big kids were home, we all took time. We sat together, deliberately. We avoided our smart phones, we laughed, we talked, we ate. This is the best lesson for me, one that I never thought I’d want or need. Bringing my people together is what brings me the absolute most joy. I pray that my kids will continue to come to my table as they grow and change and become, I pray it nearly every day. Family dinner can make all of the hard seem less than, it can bring some peace. And any peace found while mothering is a blessed relief and a true joy.