The other day I read this article. Go read it. But if you don’t want to, here’s the gist: A mother chose a home birth for her delivery and it ended in near tragedy with a lifeless baby being rushed to the NICU. (Now I am not debating the pros or cons of home birth here.) These words, sprinkled throughout the article, caught my attention: glamorous, pretty, fairy tale, picture perfect. I found myself heartbroken by this mother’s experience, but also taken aback by her picture of what the beginnings of motherhood should be like. In her words: “I wanted to be that pretty momma — laughing during labor — sitting in the pool looking glamorous and happy.”
I read that, and I was sad. I was sad that we live in a world where photographs are more important than experience, a world where perception is paramount. And we are lying to each other. And we are doing it hourly through Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. We are tidying up our lives to appear glamorous and pretty and fun. I’m not concerned that this mama chose home birth over the hospital. I’m concerned that she mentioned being “picture perfect” before words like “best” or “good decision” or “good.” I am concerned that she entered the birth process believing a lie.
Here’s the truth about motherhood. It’s buried deep down, kept safe and quiet, where only our close friends and husbands can see. Motherhood is not glamorous. Motherhood is hard and often smells of spit up. The last time it was (possibly) glamorous was conception. From that point on, it’s often a war zone, clad with laundry and milk spills and stained onesies and sleepless nights. It’s fought with too much coffee and often desperate prayers.
Motherhood is a battle. A battle to replace your pre-kid self with selflessness and sacrifice, all while trying to maintain your identity, your femininity, your humor, and your joy.
Motherhood is grimy and exhausting. Sometimes it’s exasperating. Sometimes it’s ugly. And sometimes you meet a side of yourself you had no idea existed.
But deep deep down . . . if we stopped chasing “picture perfect” and “happy” and “glamorous,” if we relished the monotony of every nose wiped and bath given and tear wiped and little body hugged, we’d see a different kind of beauty. If we stopped taking (all the) pictures and started living in the moment, we’d realize that the memory is far more vibrant than the picture on Instagram. You know that time you snapped a picture of that sunset that couldn’t begin to showcase it’s magnificence? That’s motherhood.
I don’t remember my mother being glamorous when I was a kid. She wore flip flops and sundresses that she owned season after season. But I do remember the feeling of the skin between her fingers when I held her hands in church, her creativity, and her presence. I remember her reading to us. I remember her listening to us. I’m sure it was sometimes mundane and hard, but it was our life; she made it beautiful for us.
In three different delivery rooms, sweat mingled with placenta and blood and tears and power, I birthed four children into this world. Four children who throw up on me and talk back to me and poop all day long sometimes. And I am tired. And it is not glamorous. And I don’t do my hair anymore. But those four children also humble me and hug me and teach me what is important in life. Those four children stretch me and challenge me and make me laugh. And those four children are my legacy. What I teach them. How I model life for them. That is what is important, not whether our life is picture perfect or pretty.
Sister moms, you are courageous and lovely. You are strong and brave. Your children love you and you will be remembered not for being perfect or pretty but for being kind and present and good.