What Is Motherhood?

When we were struggling to conceive after our miscarriage, I would often dream of what it’d be like to be a mother. I imagined the day that I finally held my child – my flesh and blood – in my arms, and in my dreams it felt like heaven. Like utter peace. I would sit around and imagine rocking my sweet baby to sleep, singing that little bundle into a land of sweet dreams. I’d picture us strolling around the mall or taking a walk outside.

I assumed that the second my child entered the world screaming, I would feel like a mother.

But I was wrong. For me, there wasn’t some magic veil of motherhood that dropped over me as soon as Nellie was born. They pulled her from me and held her up and I cried once I saw her but after that I was so exhausted from labor and so loopy from the drugs, I honestly don’t remember much about the next few hours. I remember holding my tiny little burrito baby but I don’t remember what I was thinking.

I got to thinking this morning about motherhood and what defines it. I am a mother all of the time, but sometimes I don’t feel like one. When I’m standing with my quartet and singing in 4 part harmony with my sisters, the fact that I have a child isn’t at the front of my mind. When I’m engrossed in a movie at the theater on one of our rare trips, I’m not thinking about Nellie the entire time. When I drive home from work and I’m singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs, I look forward to reaching the daughter I’ve been away from all day but in that moment I don’t feel like a mother.

I feel most like a mother when I’m comforting my child. When she wakes up crying for whatever reason at 1 AM (which almost never happens anymore) and I go into her room and lift her from her crib, pulling her against my chest and kissing her forehead.. I feel like  a mother. Sitting in her glider while she lay against me, her sleepy head in my neck.. That makes me feel like a mother. While I smooth her hair back from her forehead and hum softly to her while we rock… In those moments, I feel like a mother because she needs me. Maybe she is teething, maybe she had a bad dream.. It doesn’t matter. My daughter needs me, and I am giving her what she needs in comforting her. But what does “feeling like a mother” mean? How do you define that? Caretaker? Comforter? Protector? To me it’s all of the above. When I am making my daughter feel safe and secure, when I am soothing her tears away.. That’s what motherhood feels like to me.

When I have Nellie tipped upside-down tickling her neck and she is squealing and giggling with delight, I feel like a mother. When her musical, delicious laughter fills my ears I cannot help but grab her and hug her until she squirms from my embrace, ready to move on to her next adventure. Her laughter awakens something inside of my soul, an emotion that rushes through me and floods every corner of my body. I feel as though I might drown in that love, that it might just wash over me and suffocate me with its’ power.

When I am out in public with Nellie and someone says, “What a beautiful child. Where did you get that curly hair, little one?” I smile with pride because it’s obvious where she got her hair. When people exclaim about the dimple in her chin, I feel so happy because I gave that to her. It’s something that she and I share. She is the spitting image of her father but those dark curls and dimple.. That’s all me.

To me, motherhood is a sense of pride. Of duty. Of honor. It is simultaneously empowering and humbling, the weight you hold in your child’s life. Above all things, motherhood is a sense of unconditional, endless love. While I may not feel I fit the role of mother all the time, and Nellie sometimes isn’t always at the very front of my mind, that sense of overwhelming love is always, always there. If I am standing and singing with my quartet and I conjure  an image of my chubby, laughing girl in my head that love instantly fills me. I feel calm and peaceful. I feel like a mother.

What is motherhood to you? How do you define it, and when do you feel most like a mom?