Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Burden of Motherhood

I've written tirelessly about the many "perks" that come with being a mom... the lack of sleep, the loss of independence, the general sense of selflessness.  
But a mother's biggest burden is her responsibility to protect her child, with the knowledge that she won't always be able to. 

It all starts when you discover you're pregnant.  The moment the plus sign appears on the at-home test your mind begins racing...
Can I do this? 
Do I have what it takes?
Do I even know how to change a diaper? 
What if I won't be able to nurse?
Will my baby be healthy? 
How am I supposed to be a mommy when I still need my own mother so much? 
Pregnancy -- despite the weight gain, acid reflux, and general bloating -- is supposed to be a blissful experience.  You're carrying life.  It's an incredible and emotional journey. 
But I couldn't wait for it to be over.  
In part due to the weight gain, acid reflux, and general bloating.  But primarily because I was eager to reach a point where I would stop worrying.  
Like many pregnant women I found myself holding my breath at each prenatal visit, only relaxing when I heard the sound of a heartbeat on the doppler.  
In my third trimester, if I had gone a couple of hours without feeling any kicking I would down all the OJ we had in the fridge until I felt some movement.  
But guess what? The worrying never stops.  Ever. 
Mackenzie recently took what looked to me like a nasty spill.  She cried, her knees were scraped, but she was totally fine.  And all I could think was, why didn't I catch her? Why didn't I break her fall?
The other day -- for the first time in her life -- she was frightened, no PETRIFIED, by thunder.  No matter what I did to calm her I couldn't manage to allay her fear. 
I started to wonder... 
What will happen when I have to leave her at preschool for the first time? 
Will she be bullied by mean girls in middle school?
Will she be a safe driver?
Be responsible at parties? 
Get a good job after college? One that she enjoys?
It pains me to imagine that my daughter's heart will be broken.  That she'll shed tears over problems both big and small.  That at times she'll experience fear, sadness, and grief.  And I won't always be able to fix her simply with a hug and a kiss.  I will be there for her, always.  For advice, and consolation, and as many hugs as she will want.  But ultimately a mother's protection goes only so far.  Our children reach different points in their lives where they must grow on their own, as difficult as it may be for us to let them.  But that is how mommies are made.  By loving so much... it hurts.  

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