I never knew that motherhood would be this way.
I never knew the extremes of joy and pain in childbirth. I never knew that I would have two Caesareans. I never knew that I would be in so much pain. I never knew that I would fear for my baby’s life or for mine. I never knew that when I first held my babies in my arms it was the most beautiful life-giving moment of my entire life; when I thought I was hardened to the ways of the world. These bundles of joy are gifts to me that teach me about real life, and I have been called to nurture them and show them the way to live their lives.
After childbirth I believe in miracles and that God really does exist: for who could create something so ingenious and exquisite but the hand of God?
I was scared to become a mother. I knew it would change my life forever. But I never thought it would change me like this. I thought that my life would come to an end and that this person I was would no longer exist: that I would have to devote my whole life to someone else and that was it for me.
And yet it didn’t happen that way. It is a new beginning. I’m singing and laughing again and finding joy in the simplest of things. I’m daring to dream again. What is it that I really want for me? How do I really want to live my life? What is really important to me? What are my dreams?
I never knew that having children would make me question my life, the really big questions. It’s a scary thing to do, with my mind going places I’d rather not go, but God and my children give me strength. I want so much for them: a good education, happiness and good health, joy, good morals, the resources to make their dreams come true, and the skills needed to live a satisfying life. But most of all I want them to have a mum who loves life and is present in their lives.
I never knew that having children would mean that I’d lose the friends I thought I had and find the ones I thought I’d lost. I guess people come in and out of your life in different times and although it is painful to lose a friend, it’s great to meet new people who share your experiences and to enjoy each other’s company. But the greatest find was to know that a friend I thought I had lost is in fact a friend for life. She has no children and I have two and yet our friendship extends beyond our circumstances, but meets at a point of mutual respect and acceptance for who we are. I realised I do need my girlfriends, to share those things that only women know.
I never knew that motherhood would be so labour intensive. I never knew that I would have to be so fit and strong. Taking care of myself means something different to me now – it isn’t just about me anymore. I never knew how sleep and good health would be so important. I never knew that life was so precious.
I never knew that I needed support. I thought I was someone who could do everything on my own. I was the one who people called for help. I was the one people called in a time of crisis. But when my body broke down I struggled, I couldn’t do it alone. I realised that I am human too and sometimes I too need help. No one can exist in this world alone, at some point in time we have to let people in and ask for a helping hand.
I never knew that I would be so passionate about children and their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I never knew that a feminist like me who was so ambitious and career minded would turn 180 degrees and find myself staying home caring for my children. I never knew that I could be so selfless and so selfish at the same time. I make sure I have my Saturday mornings to do the things I love to do, for no other reason than because I love to do it. I’m not wasting my time anymore striving to ‘be somebody’ when I was always ‘someone’. I just didn’t know.
I never knew what really mattered to me. That happiness is just a feeling and that what really matters is a sense of peace in one’s life. And what makes me happy? A loving family, a place to call home, real friends, my children’s smiles, and watching them discover the world with such delight. Here I am witnessing life unfold before my very eyes.
I never knew that motherhood would give me the chance to express myself and fill my soul once again. To be writing, singing, drawing, designing has reconnected me to the real me I once knew – before ‘life’ intervened. I’ve realised now that yes motherhood has changed my life. Like life itself, I am ever-changing and evolving, but no matter where I am, in my life, I am still me.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem