Thirty-five years ago, something wondrous happened: I became the mother of a daughter. Back then there were no gender-determining ultra sounds, but truth be known, I had secretly wished for a daughter despite the “as long as my baby’s healthy, it doesn’t matter” reply recited upon command.
As my belly swelled, the mystery of “not knowing” made stretch marks, bouts of morning nausea and exotic cravings tolerable, maybe even thrilling — all of it proof of new life growing inside me. We painted the nursery silver gray, added bold primary accents and awaited my due date. After a grueling 36 hours of labor, I heard three words now permanently etched into memory.
“It’s a girl.”
Her name, Danielle, rolled off my tongue like it had been waiting there centuries — as did the instant dialect of soft whispers and baby talk. Chocolate spiraling ringlets soon sprouted from her soft, smooth scalp – the kind reminiscent of Shirley Temple and Annie.
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Although she never tapped down our staircase, her rendition of “Tomorrow” convinced me that watching the video “one more time” was not hazardous to her health or to the tiny vocal chords belting out lyrics of hope.
Her brother’s arrival 20 months later sparked the foundation for her nurturing instincts, and believe me, she couldn’t keep her hands off him. I remember laying him in his crib to nap and walking to the other side of the house to cook, clean or work on a project. She would immediately go missing in action.
A few minutes later, I would find her hoisted over the crib snuggled up against her baby brother, arms tightly embracing the new love of her life. Mesmerized by wiggles and sound effects, he instantly replaced her obsession with Cabbage Patch dolls.
If I were pressed for one word to describe her, it would be selfless.
With four little ones of her own now, I’m really not sure how she manages but manage she does: school lunches, baths, gymnastics, dance lessons and spelling tests — with time to spare volunteering at Valley Children’s Hospital and in the kids’ classrooms. She also helps me care for my mother, her grandmother, the woman who started it (us) all.
I read recently that motherhood has evolved to be an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s world. In other words, you’re “all in, all the time.”
If you’re a mom in today’s modern world, the possibility of finding time to smell the roses is a distant dream — a far away fantasy.
But seriously, hasn’t it always been that way? Parenting is a 24/7, for all eternity kind of gig, no matter what anyone tells you. It’s the reason I still worry about my daughter. I wonder if she’s doing too much, getting enough sleep, sacrificing sanity and health to be the center of gravity, the glue holding her miniature tribe together.
Let’s face it; a mother’s heart never sleeps.
This month as I search for just the right Hallmark card for the moms in my world, I find myself wanting to share more than a cardboard verse dusted with glitter. I’d like a few choice words to get my daughter through the time-starved, feeling scattered, fragmented and exhausted moments. Something to remind her that the beautiful chaos is worth every second.
Maybe the best any mom can do is find “seizures of happiness,” as poet Mary Oliver calls them. Discover magic in life’s unremarkable moments. An ordinary day.
If you’re a mom, you know the kind I’m referring to: little ones leaving a trail of food or toys or noise wherever they go, the big kids looking for homework and missing backpacks, negotiating sleepovers and a little more time on their iPads. Never-ending dental appointments, grocery shopping, music lessons and soccer practice.
If you’re lucky, somewhere in the midst of it all, a pair of sticky little hands will sneak up on you and deliver an unsolicited bear hug – making stars align, rejuvenating your sleep-deprived spirit, temporarily curing the multitasking madness.
My daughter has done something for me that I never anticipated. She makes me want to be a better person.
Years ago, I read somewhere that birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future.
In this chapter of life, what I mostly wish for is to live comfortably in my own skin, be free to reinvent myself as often as I desire, know it’s OK to drop everything, change my mind, and redirect my efforts in order to live a life of passion, purpose and balance. And although it may be like asking for the moon — find time every now and then to stop and smell the roses.
I wish these things for my Danielle, too.