If you’re anything like me — and you’re honest with yourself – you may have imagined motherhood as a magical land of matching outfits and snuggles.
Its residents include healthy, well-behaved children with manners and charm. They grow up to be caring, smart and successful humans because, well, that’s what you are.
Or what you think you should be.
And you, of course, are stylish and fit. You plan the best vacations and create lasting family traditions. And you’re completely satisfied with your life because motherhood is the ultimate calling and nothing could possibly be more perfect.
Cue the now-knowing mom eye roll here.
I’m not quite sure why I created this fairytale or expected motherhood to be so idealistic. It’s not like anyone gave me these ideas. In fact, I’m pretty sure every mom I ever talked to told me it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done.
Now that I’ve been living this gig for five years, I’ve learned a few things about what it’s really like to be a mom. And I’m finally coming to terms with some hard truths about myself.
I was entitled.
In many ways, my life prior to motherhood helped establish this subconscious way of relating to the world. I made good choices, and those choices typically led to good outcomes. I’m a nice person, and therefore deserved to be happy. I took good care of my body, and so I should be healthy.
You get the idea.
So when my healthy full-term daughter was diagnosed with a devastating genetic disease at 11 weeks old, my perfect world – and the way I related to it – shattered. I quit the job I loved, became a stay-at-home medical mom, and struggled to process the seeming injustice of it all.
Please don’t get me wrong. My life is not a tragedy.
But the reality of a different motherhood has changed me.
I’ve been forever altered by the pain of loving my child so deeply, thinking she may not live long enough to love me in return.
And I’ve been stripped of the pursuit of perfection in raising a daughter who has to work unbelievably hard to do some of the simplest tasks, like eating and breathing and holding up her head.
Acknowledging my sense of entitlement has been an uncomfortable, humbling experience. But in doing so, I’ve become more in touch with suffering in the world around me. I’m empathetic to others, and kinder to myself. And I’ve stopped asking so many questions about why bad things happen, instead just accepting that sometimes, they do.
I have also been released to mourn that ridiculous fantasy I created and accept my future for what it’s really always been – a completely ambiguous journey full of everything.
Joy. Loss. Love. And heartache.
No, motherhood is not a fairytale. And happy endings are not always guaranteed. But if we let it, motherhood will find a way to refine us all. And then, just maybe, we can become the mom – and person – we always dreamed we could be.