Before I became a mother, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. No one does. No one can. Perhaps someone tried to explain it to me. But, like a sound emitted beyond the register of my ears, I would not have heard it. You cannot, after all, explain what it is like to grow into a different version of your own self.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And no idea what I would get out of it.
I am stronger than I had ever imagined. I am able to carry babies in my belly, and carry the grief when one left too soon. Strong enough to carry babies around the house, then children on my back around the block. I am strong enough to carry my love for them alongside my worries for them. And recently, I began carrying the worries they have for themselves.
I wear my strength on a stretched version of myself. I am stretched. My skin and my patience and my attention are stretched. So is the size of my heart, and of my comfort zone. The role I play for them, of anticipating and meeting the needs of another person, then two, now three, takes up space. I have grown into it.
I am strong and stretched and agile. My fingers can quickly finesse the straps of three different car seats while my mind and voice pivot among three separate conversations. I can board a plane with a toddler strapped to me and I can get on board with speech therapy treatment plans. I can hold my breath as I creep out after rocking someone to sleep. And I can hold space for a tantrum, a pocket full of meaningful rocks, a secret fear whispered in the dark.
I am strong and stretched and agile and full. I am full of love, sure, but more useful these days is the trust that fills me. I trust that they are okay and that I am enough. I am full of confidence that am the only person qualified to be their mother. It is a role that I did not know I could do, not because no one explained it to me, but because it did not exist before they came along and before I came along with them, with my strength and my abundance and my agility in tow.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that witnessing the lives of other people from the very start would feel like seeing the world from space. It is vast and complex and beautiful. It is difficult to understand and impossible to explain.
Motherhood: if you know, you know.
I am so glad that I do.