When my son was born, I was instantly bombarded with this seemingly never-ending list of things I wanted to give him. I wanted to provide unconditional love, everything he could ever need, everything I was unable to have as a child myself, and boundless support. Little did I know, of course, that he would be giving me so many things simply by allowing me to be his mom, too. In fact, the times motherhood gave me the most amazing experiences of my life are proof positive that, when it comes to my relationship with my son, it's a 50/50 split of giving and taking. He provides me with as many incredible moments as I hope I am providing him. He is teaching me just as often as I am teaching him.
So, yes, this is all going to sound like one long, shameless brag session. I'm sure I should apologize, however, how often do mothers sit back and take stock of all the incredible things they've experienced or accomplished? I mean, honestly. When was the last time you, dear reader, sat back and wrote a list of all the things you've done, the places you've been, the things you've accomplished, and the moments that have changed your life since you brought your kid into the world? It's so easy to get bombarded and weighed down by the responsibilities of motherhood, or to simply lose sight of just how much you're doing, not only for your children but for yourself.
So, it's in that spirit that I am finally sitting down and writing out just how many incredible experiences motherhood has given me. Whether it's my son simply existing in my world, or the work I have done as a result of being a mom and feeling a rejuvenated sense of purpose, I'm not sure I would have all I enjoy now if it wasn't for the choice to become a mother.
When I Brought Another Human Being Into The World
I mean, I guess we might as well start with the moment I became a mother, and just how truly incredible that moment was. While I'm not shy about the fact that I really disliked pregnancy, and wasn't a fan of the whole contracting-every-two-minutes-feeling-intense-pain-puking-and-pooping thing, there's nothing like bringing another human being into the world. I was exhausted, I was uncomfortable, and I was scared out of my damn mind, but it was truly an amazing moment I will never, ever forget.
When I Bonded With Women I Wouldn't Otherwise Know
I can't lie: I was one of those not-so-understanding child-free women prior to becoming a mother. It's not that I was rude to parents in public, or even that I didn't particularly like kids, I just didn't want any of my own and didn't really see the allure of motherhood. I loved my life as it was, and I liked spending time with other child-free women who were more focused on their careers than the number of baby carseats they had in the back of their cars.
However, that all changed when I became a mom. While I still love and cherish my friendships with child-free women (my best friend and absolute soulmate doesn't want and will never have children), motherhood forced me to think outside the box, meet new people I may not have otherwise had the pleasure of meeting, and form new friendships. The women I have met because I'm a mother are truly incredible, and have changed my life for the better. I wouldn't have it any other way.
When It Rejuvenated My Activism
Becoming a mother made me even more pro-choice, and reignited a fire in me that may have dimmed thanks to time and exhaustion. The moment my son was born I knew I had a purpose greater than myself, and it wasn't just to be his mother. I wanted to make the world a better place for everyone, my son included, and especially women who may not have access to reproductive health care, safe, legal, and affordable abortions, or contraception.
My son did that. His presence in the world, and the pregnancy and childbirth that brought him into the world, was a gigantic reminder that no one should be forced into motherhood. Pregnancy shouldn't be a punishment and motherhood shouldn't be a consequence. It should all be a choice. So, I started writing and working and ended up lobbying in Washington, D.C. on two separate occasions, meeting my hero and president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, and volunteering at Planned Parenthood clinics and battered women's shelters. In everything I do, I remember I am setting an example and that my son is paying attention.
When It Gave Me The Strength To Advance In My Career...
Of course, there are plenty of successful child-free women who don't need to procreate in order to advance in their careers and become as successful as they have set out to be. In fact, I'm not so sure that if I hadn't of had my son, I wouldn't be as "successful" as I am now.
However, my son's presence in my life re-focused me. Not only did I want to be able to provide for him, I (selfishly, I am sure) wanted to prove people wrong. You know, the kind of people who essentially told me my "life was over" the moment I had a child. I am a woman who decided to have a baby. That's not a death sentence, it's a life choice. I knew I could still be a successful writer and editor, so that's who I set out to be. That's who I am now.
...And Brought Me To Another City Across The Country
I grew up in Eagle River, Alaska, a relatively small town outside of Anchorage. Since I was little I have dreamed of living and writing in New York City. However, being so far away (literally on the opposite end of the country), that dream seemed unlikely if not impossible.
Then, my son was born.
Suddenly, and after doing something as taxing as birthing a human being, nothing was impossible. A year after my son was born, I accepted a full-time editorial job in New York City. I packed up my family, drove across the country, and settled into our new home; the home I always knew I wanted, but didn't necessarily believe I could have or even deserved. It was an incredible feeling, flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport and seeing the city skyline outside the tiny airplane window. I wouldn't be visiting New York City, I would be living there. I wouldn't be showing my son a new place, I would be introducing him to his new home. It was marvelous and everything I had ever wanted.
When We Traveled So Our Son Could "See The World"
Yes, we have brought our son to some pretty incredible places for his benefit. Then again, the kid is only 2 years old. He won't necessarily remember the time he went to the Empire State Building or Ellis Island or Mount Rushmore or the beaches of San Diego. As a family of three, we've been to so many places and experienced so many different things, and while I didn't need to have a child to travel, he has certainly given us a reason to get out of our comfort zone and see the world (or at least, for now, other parts of this country).
We plan on tackling Europe next, and we cannot wait.
When My Other Friends Became Moms, Too
While I couldn't stand going through pregnancy (one that was riddled with complications and a twin loss at 19 weeks) it was a complete joy to watch my best friend go through pregnancy right around the same time. Our experiences were incredibly different, and in a way that bonded us. I was able to lean on her for advice, she was able to commiserate with me, and we were both going through this incredible change knowing we weren't entirely alone.
We were great friends before our babies were born, don't get me wrong, but motherhood altered our friendship in a way that only solidified it.
When I Started Writing About Motherhood Honestly
Some pretty incredible things happened when I started opening up and writing about motherhood from a truthful, and unapologetic, place. Women across the country (and even some parts of the world) messaged me or emailed me and started sharing their stories, too. Suddenly I felt connected to complete strangers, less alone, and more understood than I have ever felt before.
Say what you will about the #mommywars, and yes, they are real and they are the worst, but sometimes motherhood can connect you to people thousands of miles away, and remind you of just how powerful your own voice and your own experiences truly are.
When I First Realized My Son Loves Me Unconditionally
I remember this day vividly, and have a feeling I always will.
Right after my son turned 2, he started this "hitting phase." It was incredibly frustrating, not to mention triggering as I am a survivor of domestic violence. Still, I don't believe in spanking (and how hypocritical of me to tell my son we don't hit by hitting him, right?) so my partner and I looked for alternatives. The "time out chair" has proved beneficial, but my son hates it and rarely will he plop himself in that chair without crying. One particular day, he was crying especially hard and giving me this, "I absolutely hate you look." After five minutes of crying he calmed down, he said he was sorry, and he came running over to me after I gave him permission to leave the chair.
"I love you, mommy," were the next words out of his mouth, even though I knew he was upset with me.
When your child is a baby, it's easy to pass off their affections as simple, natural, and instinctual need. My baby needs me for food and shelter and comfort. However, to see my son turn to me for comfort so quickly and after I was essentially the source of his grievance, was an incredible reminder that my son will always love me. What a marvelous gift. What a beautiful responsibility.