Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, the woman who has showed me day in and day out for the last 29.5 years what it means to be a mom.
I was very excited for my first Mother’s Day.
Last night I prepared a bottle for Will to give to Natalie, which meant that I’d be able to stay in bed all night while he got up with her for her one remaining feeding (which she’s holding onto for dear life, but that’s a story for another post).
But the one reliable thing about babies is how totally unreliable they are. Natalie really underscored that when she woke up at 1:30 a.m. and cried straight through until 3:30, despite getting the bottle and a diaper change and an outfit change and sitting with me in the rocking chair and unlatching her a few times from the crib rail and performing magic spells to get her to sleep. We finally gave her Motrin around 3 a.m. after three or four rounds of watching on the monitor while she fell asleep, only to wake up sobbing three minutes later.
It was a rough night for all of us, cats included. Not quite what I had pictured for my first Mother’s Day.
It reminds me of a few summers ago when I was at the beach with my family and bodysurfing the small waves. We stood in waist-deep water, looking over our shoulders and tensing with each swell, waiting to jump and let the right wave lift us and carry us back to the shore, just to slog back out and do it all again.
I was ready. A wave was coming, a good one. Wait for it, wait for it…and, jump!
I leapt. Poorly timed. Instead of bearing me aloft and delivering me gracefully, weightlessly, back to the beach, the water crashed into me and knocked me right off my feet. For a few terrifying seconds I spun in a tumble of sand and seawater under the surface, no idea which was way up, sure that I would meet my end in less than four feet of water.
And then the ocean spat me out a few feet from the beach. I crouched in the water while I rearranged my bathing suit, feeling thoroughly exfoliated by the sand that had scoured my whole body and horribly embarrassed by the whole ordeal.
I rose and stalked out of the water in the way of a cat that has just fallen off the window ledge gets up and walks away, first checking if anyone was around to witness their moment of clumsiness. I totally meant to do that.
Motherhood has bowled me over, again and again, both in ways that I kind of guessed at and those that I never saw coming. It’s certainly easier now that Natalie isn’t a newborn, but I still have days where I feel like I just break the surface and find air for only a moment before the next wave knocks me back down.
But then I catch the wave and find moments of such joy and exhilaration when she smiles at me that my heart is full and overflowing. Sometimes her hurricane clobbers me and I must be the eye of the storm, a place of calm while she rages around me until she is spent. And then when the surf is still and she is sleeping, I look at her and think, my god, she is perfect.
Because she is, and that’s the part that no one can prepare you for. That your love for your child will be as deep as the ocean and as certain as the tides.
And so I leap. Again and again and again. Sometimes riding the wave and sometimes being scrubbed raw by the sandy bottom.