I was privy to all sorts of facts about labour and impending motherhood while preggo with my first son. My mom, sisters and mama friends made sure of this, as did random strangers who felt compelled to inform me that A) sleep was a pleasant but distant memory, B) I’d opt for death over a drug-free birth if given the choice, and C) I’d feel forever changed about the new shape and location of my belly, bum and thighs. But talk of how wonderful being a parent can be? Cue the crickets.
I should clarify I’m not the type of girl who came into mamahood expecting angels to sing and trumpets to sound when my babies arrived. Just the opposite, actually. I anticipated being a mom would be emotionally challenging, physically draining and plain ol’ hard, which it is, of course, but I didn’t expect it would also be so ... fun. Joyous. Exciting. And excuse me while I take a detour to Cheesetown, but at times it’s even a bit magical.
My first glimpse of Disney-esque love came when my oldest son, Oliver, was eight weeks old. I’d been having a rough go at nursing and realized I’d unconsciously associated him with the pain and overall dislike I had for breastfeeding. When friends and family convinced me switching to formula didn’t make me the devil, everything changed. Feedings went from being the bane of my day to the highlight. I would sit in the rocking chair with my little porker, staring at his delicious cheeks while he downed the milk, and marvel that I’d been so blessed with a healthy and happy baby. I felt much of the same when sweet Charlie, my youngest son, made his appearance. Having been through such nursing turmoil with Oliver, I knew it was okay to turn to the bottle when I felt myself getting sucked into an emotional black hole. And once I did, it was like someone had flipped on the happy switch.
“Being a mom is such a personal experience. One woman’s favourite part of the job can easily be the most difficult aspect for someone else, but overall, it changes us in so many wonderful ways,” says Ann Douglas, parenting author and mom of four. “From learning more patience and understanding for your children and people in general, to forging a powerful bond between you and other mothers that otherwise may not have been there, there’s nothing else quite like it.”
The latter was true for Dana Levitt, Toronto resident and mom to one-and-a-half-year-old Noa. “My best example of mom-to-mom bonding was when my 98-year-old grandmother asked how breastfeeding was going and we talked about what a pain in the butt it is. It was one of the only times we really connected on the same level, woman to woman, and I really appreciated her experience,” she says.
For Hamilton, Ont.-based Sarah Rogers, mom to nine-month-old Allie Bea, since her daughter’s arrival she marvels at how happy she is with the simple life. “I live for Allie’s smile, and especially her laugh. Be it a game of peek-a-boo, splashing in the tub or singing silly songs — whatever it takes to make her laugh, I’ll do it. The sound is so innocent and pure that it brings tears to my eyes every time.”
Katie Peet of Ennismore, Ont., mom to three-year-old Danika and one-year-old Gage, says being a mom has boosted her self-confidence. “My children look at me like I’m a superhero and can do anything. They don’t judge me because of what I wear, how I look, what job I have — all they want is love and attention, and it’s an amazing thing to feel completely worthy just by being myself.”
But let’s not kid each other here — the job of a parent isn’t always sunshine and lollipops. Sarah DeVries, mom of Kylie, 11, Brynna, nine, and Grace, six, from London, Ont., says her favourite realization is motherhood doesn’t have to be a fairytale. “My oldest daughter will soon turn 12 and saying we don’t see eye to eye most days is a massive understatement. Still, despite our disagreements, hearing her eventually say she understands why I do what I do shows me that my labour of love is paying off. And really, what could be better than that?”
As for this mama, motherhood has taught me to seize the day and loosen up. (If I’d known tearing through the house with underwear on my head would send my boys into such fits of uncontrollable laughter, I would have started the madness long ago.) I look at my boys and know I wouldn’t change a thing about them (except maybe Oliver’s tendency to accidentally whack his brother in the head during indoor baseball practice, and possibly Charlie’s habit of screeching at the top of his lungs when I enter the room.) Good days and bad, I’ll always be their superhero and they’ll always be the apples of my eye. (Fingers crossed on the former.)