The Experience of Motherhood
Ann Arbor MI USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 5, September-October 2004, p. 168
One night I was nursing my son, TJ, as usual during our bedtime ritual. As I sat there in the darkened room, holding him close and stroking his hair, I marveled at what a contrast this was to his usual self. Instead of running around the room as he usually does, babbling up a storm and testing every limit he encounters, here he lay, eyes closed, quietly nursing, tiny hands peacefully resting on my bosom. Contented to rest in my arms for as long as I was willing to hold him.
As I was savoring the moment, I began to think. I am willing to hold TJ forever, but for how much longer will he want to be held? Time passes so quickly. Too quickly, it seems. Before long my sleeping baby will be a little boy, then a teenager, then a man.
My eyes started to water as I sat there and rocked my son. I wanted to preserve that moment forever. As I lingered over thoughts of how happy TJ has made me and my husband, I remember thinking that parenthood is both beautiful and bittersweet. Parents are capable of loving their children so much that it hurts.
It wasn't long before a stray teardrop fell and landed on TJ's little cheek. His eyes slowly fluttered open. He flashed me a sleepy, gap-toothed grin, then gently reached out and touched my face, as if to reassure me that no matter what, he would always be my baby.
Overwhelmed, I began to sob. As my chest heaved, he paused, startled, and then burst out laughing. I continued to sob and TJ continued to laugh heartily. I realized that he thought I was laughing, too. Every time my chest heaved, he chuckled gleefully. This made me laugh so hard that my sides began to ache. I can only imagine what my husband was thinking when he heard us from the other room.
As we laughed together, TJ gingerly, yet deliberately, reached for me. The powerful rush of emotions that followed completely captures the poignant experience of motherhood. The excruciating pain heralding the unspeakable joy of his arrival. The nonstop motion machine morphing into the peaceful sleeping child. The ache in my arms to hold him tightly forever, yet the need to loosen my embrace gradually to accommodate my growing son. Mother soothing baby and baby soothing mother. The sting of salty tears commingling with the tender brush of his fingers against my cheek. The victory of innocent laughter over bittersweet tears.
Yes, for me motherhood has been a mix of salt and sweet. A combination of intense and exquisite feelings beyond belief. It is an experience I would have no other way.