What Made Me a Mother

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.

Or not.

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.

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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