It's Mother's Day and I wake up at 4am to cat bird's cry, trained to rouse at the faintest sound after 3 months of waking for newborn night feedings. Falling back to sleep is no use, and I stumble downstairs to put on the coffee. The sink is full of dirty dishes, spilling over on counter tops. I look out the pre-dawn window where it's cold and rainy and everything's grey. My littlest one stirs and my day begins. Bleary-eyed I fetch him, no doubt with sour expression on my face. He's all groggy smiles, eyes alit at the sight of my face. He doesn't seem to mind the bags under my eyes from a bad night's sleep or my grouchy mood to match. Newborns don't see these things--our fault lines and fractured insides. They see the best of us--what we strive each day to be.
I blink and the other ones now stir, my three year old girl with the wild hair and pouty frown. She's feverish and needs new underwear, a stomach virus has taken hold. My gangly boys tumble downstairs, another one sick, with under-eye bags that match my own. Though ill and tired, these little ones look at me with tender love in their eyes, faces filled with mom-love.
The rain is pouring down, cold and sad and I feel cold and sad, too. This Mother's Day I'm mother-less for the fifth year, no mom to phone, no greeting card to write. Bouquets of bright flowers sold by vendors on street corners are not mine to give. The trees outside nod their sagging heads in agreement, knowing that real motherhood is not all cloudless skies and sunshiny days.
|Mom and me, 1989|
At the local drugstore sit shelves of cards working hard to sell their facade, their picture-perfect image of what motherhood and Mother's Day should be; all sunshine and smiles, breakfast in bed, lazing in hammocks amidst spring breezes. But the reality of motherhood is much messier. Real moms know what the cards don't express, that motherhood is sleepless nights and worried minds, hampers full of dirty underwear all tangled up in stinking piles. That along with adoring baby faces come endless days of sacrifice, emptying out again and again, saying no to wants while filling child needs. Real moms know that along with wafting aromas of cookies baked in ovens come counter-tops crusted, spilled flour heaped high, puddle of egg alongside.
|In the hospital with my firstborn, Luke, 2005|
Motherhood is messy.
For motherhood is actually a beautiful mess of blessing and struggle, growth and sacrifice, love found on counter-tops, and in hampers. Mother's Day isn't really just about smiling faces posed on colorful lawns, smiling pretty for the camera. Motherhood is so much more.
It's 8pm and by this time I'm ready for bed. Underwear's now washed but dishes are still piled high. This Mother's Day has felt more like a marathon than a celebration. After litanies of infant cries, sick toddler whines, cleaning mess after mess after mess, I'm worn out. Empty. Feeling like there's nothing left to give. I tuck tired children into bed and sit down to feed my youngest one yet again. He looks up and smiles, nothing but pure love in his eyes. Adoration. Not caring to see my exhaustion, frustration and disappointment over a day that started out bad and ended up worse. He doesn't see the broken mess. He just sees me, for who I am--a mother just trying her best, over and over again. And that's enough for him. I smile back, thankful for love and grace and fresh days ahead, another chance to celebrate this messy beautiful, heart-breaking, heart-strengthening path that motherhood really is. And maybe that's what Mother's Day is actually about; a day to celebrate the victories along with the failures, the heart-swells with heart-aches, the messy love between mother and child. And that's worth celebrating.