My son, my firstborn, is 32 years old today… In one sense I think – how is that possible, where have all those years gone – but in another I feel as if a million lifetimes have passed since I first held him in my arms after such a long, hard bewildering labour, just a scant month before my nineteenth birthday. The grown-up son – the man – I hug these days is six feet tall and towers above me, but to me he’s still my baby boy.
With hindsight I think I found labouring so bewildering that first time not because I didn’t know what to expect in a practical, functional sense, but more because I feel nothing can truly prepare you for the long hours of never-ending contractions and sheer exhaustion until you’ve actually experienced it in real time yourself. After all it’s not called labour for nothing, and when it comes down to it, logistically it’s always going to be bloody hard work pushing a baby out.
But there he was, my brand new beautiful little baby boy, and there I was, a brand new mother. A year later, my eldest daughter was born after a much shorter, relatively easier labour, and fifteen months after that my youngest daughter waited contentedly until the last possible moment before finally coming into the world in a rush, just two months after my 21st birthday. Such a long time ago, yet I remember the details of each birth as clearly if they were yesterday. And now both lovely daughters are also mothers themselves, and I have my precious grandchildren to love and cherish too, and I feel truly blessed.
In so many ways motherhood has not been quite what I’d expected. For many reasons I’ve not been the kind of mother I’d thought I would be – the kind of mother I’d like to have been, and at times that makes me feel at best sad, and at worst, racked with guilt. Unfortunately motherhood is not some magical mystical status that suddenly transforms you into a perfect paragon of virtue, or provides you with the perfect life circumstances in which to nurture imaginary perfect offspring.
There’s no dress rehearsal, no trial run, no plan B to fall back on. There’s just the same old flaky you with all the same foibles and fears you had before, but with the additional terrifying responsibility of a brand new human being to care for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A brand new person who has half of your genetic makeup and half of someone else’s, and who very quickly develops an individual personality all of their very own.
But thankfully what motherhood does bring in its wake is a huge tidal wave of maternal love that surges in with unimaginable force, overwhelms everything that has gone before, and never, ever leaves you. It changes and grows and adapts along the way, but it never wavers, and for me it’s the one constant that has always made the perpetual struggle to be a good enough parent worthwhile, however difficult life may seem while you’re mired in the thick of it, wading through maternal mud and feeling as if you’re failing, run ragged but getting nowhere fast.
So inevitably there’s been a lot of water passed under the bridge in the 32 years since my son was first born, followed closely by my two daughters, one after the other. A lot of ups and downs, good times and bad, happy and sad times for all of us, as individuals and together as a family. But becoming a mother has been, and always will be, the one most defining moment of my life, and the ongoing, ever-changing experience of motherhood – and now the delights of grandmotherhood – remains an absolute privilege for which I know I’ll always feel eternally grateful, whatever else life may bring… ❤