When I was a freshman in college I took guitar lessons. Slowly but surely I learned my chords, strumming pattens and even some picking patterns a la Dust in the Wind. After playing for about a year I thought I had arrived. I truly thought I was an amazing guitar player. It was only as I continued to play and improve, I mean actually getting better, that I realized how terribly average and inadequate I was. Having no experience at all made me think I was amazing. It was only by getting better and better, becoming more familiar with other people who played, that I humbly realized I was just OK.
So it has been with motherhood (and many things in my life actually). While I don't remember the day specifically I can sorta see myself that first year celebrating Mother's Day as a new mom, with only months of mothering under my belt thinking, OK, bring on the gifts and the cards and the accolades because I am killing. it. Truth be told I knew I was not killing it, but I definitely had the idea that I deserved a gold star for this new life filled with a kind of hard work I never knew existed before and for actually doing it. I deserved praise for being a mother because that's what Mother's day is about.
Now, a mere 6 years later, my feelings about Mother's Day couldn't be more different. As my husband and girls came in the room singing Happy Mother's Day to you! with breakfast in bed a smile crept over my face and quiet truth filled my heart, I get to be a mother. My daughters snuggled in next to me and before I could even take one bite it was Can I have a strawberry? Mom, I want some grapes! I smiled and bestowed their simple requests because what could be more motherly than sharing your Mother's Day breakfast with the very ones who made you a mother in the first place? Oh sure I still like the perks of Mother's Day--homemade cards, sleeping in, breakfast in bed, chocolate... And when my husband asked if I wanted to help make a salad I was sure to let him know with a wry smile this was the one day I wasn't going to help with dinner. But the overall feeling of Mother's day is a day of gratitude. A heart full of love for these little people who call me Mom. What I know now that I didn't know then is that being a mother is an honor and a privilege. It's not something I've earned and I don't particularly deserve it. Why I've been given this opportunity while other women, many of whom I consider my superior, haven't been given this chance I'll never know.
It's no secret that motherhood was not an easy adjustment for me. It didn't feel natural and there was no instant love-at-first-sight feeling. It was overwhelming, it felt bigger and harder than I could have imagined. How could such a tiny baby turn my whole world upside down? Of course I was dealing with PPD as well, so there was that.
But the love did come. The same overwhelming, heart-walking-around-outside-my-body, I-would-do-anything-for-this-creature love that I had heard so much about. It wasn't all at once, it's was little by little. It came as I nursed and woke up in the middle of the night. It came as I walked up and down Ft. Washington 2 hours at a time with a sleeping baby strapped to my person. It came as I rocked and rocked and rocked her to sleep, tracking her naps and doing my best to never let her get 'overtired.' For me, the love came with the day-in and day-out care of this little person. It came as I turned my life away from selfishness and towards service, away from the idea that I was doing some great thing and to the fact that any greatness in the equation resided in my children. Personally I have found a great lesson in my road to motherhood... a lesson about service and our ability to love, but that's another post for another day.
I know Mother's Day can be hard for a variety of people for a variety of reasons--infertility, loss of a child, miscarriage, a difficult relationship with your own mother, wanting to be married with children and not being in that position, etc. But for me, what I celebrate most is the fact that Motherhood exists at all--the great force for good it has been since the beginning of time. The fact that I ever became a mom is still something that I marvel at. It is a gift. A gift I could never repay and one I strive to be worthy of, all while whispering a quiet, Thank you. Thank you for letting me be a mom.
--Neal A. Maxwell