From the sweet and touching to the funny and unforgettable, a myriad of moms submitted their sentiments about this journey called motherhood for our first ever reader essay contest. Although we enjoyed reading each and every one of your essays, these are the stories we couldn’t wait to share.
Motherhood starts with crying.
Happy tears mix with tears of pain. Tears heavy with love and longing pour out into a sea of hellos and happy birthdays.
We cry from the pain and the beauty. We cry with full hearts. We cry because the experience of pushing a small and fragile human into this world, of feeling the weight of that human resting on our bellies for the first time, is more than our hearts and our minds can ever truly comprehend. We cry because we’ve dreamt of those eyes and that nose for months, maybe for years. The moment when we come face to face with the dream we’ve protected and nurtured for so many weeks is a moment that must drip with tears. There is no other way.
We all cry as we are born.
And then, there is calm. The tears slow to a trickle. They dry.
The new world comes into focus. A new life with new shapes appears. It is simultaneously soft and rigid, sweet and just a bit sour. It is calming and comforting yet scarier than the monsters beneath our childhood beds. It looks nothing like the life that came before.
And, in its newness and unfamiliarity, it terrifies us. We search for our footing. We grasp at things that feel even the slightest bit familiar and we hold onto those things for dear life. We embark on a desperate quest to find our place, our rhythm and our way. We just want to feel comfortable.
And then, there is more crying.
Small, baby wails blend with the sobs of a newborn mama. The tears can’t be stopped. And although we want to stop them, the truth is that we couldn’t if we tried. And we know. We try. We try so hard but the tears keep flowing. Overwhelmed, lost, confused, and lonely tears sprinkle the tiny wisps of hair on our babies’ heads. We wish there was another way but we cry as our babies adjust to this world. We are adjusting too.
And then, there is calm. Then, the tears slow to a trickle. They dry.
With clear eyes, we realize, now, that the showers of tears have made flowers appear. The world is now bright and beautiful with them. And we smile and we laugh. Smiling and laughing, in fact, become our main pursuits. We’ll do anything for a gummy grin and a giggle and we’ll laugh right along with the tiny humans who hold our hearts in chubby, little hands. We cherish the small moments and the big milestones. We cuddle, and we squeeze, and we love. We watch in awe as our babies grow. Each day we slip into motherhood like we do our favorite pair of jeans—at first, a little tight and in need of breaking in, so we work at it. Some days we find dirt and stains that won’t wash away. Other days we notice holes forming and frays appearing and we just want a few minutes to pause and mend. Yes, over time, there is wear and tear. But we come to know where the stains are and where the holes are, and we know when to wash or patch them and when to let them be because that is the style.
Yes, we get comfortable. But, then, there is more crying.
We cry happy first step tears. We shed frustrated potty-training tears. We release anguished first day of school tears.
Tender new baby tears start the cycle again. Along the way, there is so much crying.
We cry because the world becomes a much more emotional place once our children begin wandering about it. Commercials make us cry. Well-worded greeting cards make us cry (and sometimes, the not-so-well worded ones too). When the sun rests its rays just so upon our little ones’ faces and their eyes sparkle with that love of life and carefree summer days, we blink back tears. When we hear of children being hurt anywhere in the world, our hearts ache as if those children are our own.
And we cry.
We cry from exhaustion. We move through our days, from breakfasts to lunches to dinners with naps in between and we answer the cries and the needs and the wants and we cry from the weight of it all. We cry with sore backs and sore hips and sore arms. Tears fall from our wits end as we battle another tantrum or withstand another argument. We cry when we’re late, when dinner doesn’t happen exactly as we’d planned, and when the shrill sound of whining has penetrated so deeply into our ears that we fear it will never leave.
We cry because the days drag on and on and we just want to make it to bedtime. And then, we cry because the weeks and the months and, oh yes, the years fly by and we just want them to pause for a minute so we can catch our breath and enjoy the moment.
Not every day, perhaps not even every week, but more often than we want to admit, we cry. And we begin to cherish the crying. We begin to pack up the tears with the clothes that are too small and the art projects we can’t bear to recycle and the photos of curly pigtails and boyish grins.
We pack it all up because, all together, the clothes and the art and the photos and the tears tell the story. They hold the memories. All together, these things capture the moments that we want to simultaneously flee from and curl up in forever. So we flip through old photos. We run our hands over Onesies and Velcro straps on shoes. We replay old videos and close our eyes when we hear that little girl voice or that brilliant baby giggle so that, just for a minute, we can pretend the time has not passed.
And we cry.
Motherhood starts with crying. And, from that moment on, crying takes on a whole new meaning. We no longer reserve our tears for pain and hurt. We use them to process and to comprehend. With tears we appreciate and we preserve. We cry to move on and we cry to hold on and we cry to mark the occasion.
Tears make this journey real. They remind us that yes, motherhood is big work and it is deserving of all that we have to give.
And so we cry.
Tricia Mirchandani is a mama, freelance writer, and content strategist for an interactive agency. At the end of the day, when the kids are asleep and the deadlines have been met, she writes about the amazing and intertwined experiences of growth she shares with her children at raising-humans.com. Tricia lives just outside of Washington, D.C., with her husband, their two children, and two cats.