In my ideal world, I would give birth to my firstborn, have her laid on my chest, and instantly fall in love. I would look in her eyes and see eternity. Our lives would be one and we'd have a bond that would never be broken.
After lying on sandpapery hospital sheets for 14 hours with tubes coming out every orifice of my body except maybe my ears, I was beyond ready to meet my daughter. If not just to relieve the insane amount of pressure placed on my uterus. After pushing for the longest 2 hours of my life, she was here. My perfect, 7 pound, 20 inch little girl was here. They laid her on my chest, I looked in her big, blue eyes, and…nothing.
I had no idea who this person was. I'd never met her before. The individual I had shared my body with for the last 9 months was just a tiny, newfound acquaintance. How was I going to bond with someone who couldn't even talk? What if the only thing we had in common was our DNA? It's like the apron strings were cut before I could even wear the apron. All my ideas of what made me a mother were dashed.
I fed her. Changed her. Swaddled her. Everything a good mother does. But I didn't feel like one. Instead, I felt guilt and anxiety. Fear that I was never meant to be a mother. That I would never be what she needed. I had failed. My vision of ideal motherhood was crumbling before me.
I can't pinpoint the moment when I started ignoring the fear, but it began to recede. So did the guilt. I stopped comparing my worst to someone else's best. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, I became a mother.
It took me a few years, and a few more children, to realize that being a mother isn't about instant, unconditional love. It's about pain, service, and sacrifice. It's about giving your heart to someone who won't fully appreciate it for a long while. It's knowing that you're doing all you can to make a difference in the lives of others.
In that respect, all of us are mothers—doing what comes naturally to parent not only children, but spouses, parents, friends, and strangers. Fixing the physical and emotional boo-boos of society is in our nature. So women, slap on those aprons, because we have a lot of work to do.
#Alt Summit believes every mother counts