I am lucky. While I can think of hundreds of other words that can describe my motherhood experience, none quite succinctly capture the essence of how I feel more so than lucky. For all the times that motherhood has proved herself to be terrifying, achingly lovely, anxiety-inducing, overwhelming, and all-consuming, I’ve never once considered myself anything but lucky to be called mommy by my children.
[Motherhood] is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary – it’s an act of infinite optimism.Gilda Radner
Clay and I watched Love, Gilda last year at my insistence. I’ve been a fan of Gilda Radner ever since I was in 5th grade when my parents introduced my siblings and me to the first years of SNL. Gilda Radner had passed away from ovarian cancer a handful of years earlier – she was herald as larger than life during her heyday, but she seemed even more so to an impressionable 11-year-old girl viewing her iconic Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Litella, and Lisa Loopner for the first time in the 90s. When I came across the quote a few years ago, I was immediately drawn to its power – motherhood described as “an act of infinite optimism” still punches me in the gut every time I read it. And to have those beautiful and brilliant words credited to a woman who desperately wanted to be a mother but died before she could serve as a cruel reminder that something as seemingly every day and pedestrian as motherhood is nothing short of a gift that we’re lucky to receive.
I thanked our 10-year-old son yesterday for making me a mother. He is entering the stage of adolescence where he doesn’t rely on us as much for physical survival – it’s nice having him be self-reliant, showcasing responsibility, and coming into his own. But like many other 10-year-olds living through a pandemic, he is learning how to manage big emotions and process frustrations, which leads him to lash out in ways that are both surprising and infuriating. And perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect – after an outburst, he looks at us with wide eyes that are trying to process what exactly just happened and why he feels the way he does. Those moments feel huge and scary. But yet, I hug him harder, whisper that I love him, and tell him that everything will be okay – an act of infinite optimism.
Our daughter challenges me in different ways. She is only six but she has taught me more about the woman I want to be more so than anyone else. She is a firecracker. She is stubborn, relentless, and carries herself with the confidence of someone who knows exactly what she wants and will let nothing stop her from accomplishing her dreams. While we’re bracing ourselves for her adolescence, I’m soaking up her toothless smile and innocent disposition – there is something melancholy about knowing her firsts will be my lasts as a mother.
I’ve had pregnancies that didn’t result in babies. I’ve had seconds-old newborns placed on my chest. I’ve experienced a level of exhaustion that only comes with nursing a newborn around the clock. I’ve cried in the shower more times than I care to admit. I’ve stared at my reflection wondering what happened to the bright-eyed twenty-something who was going to take on the world. I’ve coached. I’ve held sobbing children in my arms. I’ve called 911. I’ve had times where I put myself last. I’ve been given sloppy kisses. I’ve cheered. I’ve been told that I’m loved countless times. I’ve held down the homefront while my husband is on the other side of the world. I’ve reassured anxieties. I’ve displayed optimism time and time again. And I’ve been incredibly lucky.