I had no idea what I was in for.
When that little hourglass stopped spinning and the word “pregnant” popped onto the screen, I was elated. I was hopeful. I was joyful. I was whole.
I was woefully underprepared.
When I held that little baby boy in my arms for the first time, he was so small and fragile. I was afraid I would break him. I had no idea he would break me.
The thing they don’t tell you when you’re expecting that little bundle of joy is that the bundle is going to break your heart eventually. It usually happens in a million tiny breaks over the years. Sometimes it happens all at once.
It happens when they’re sick and you can’t make them better.
It happens when they’re left out, bullied, or treated poorly.
It happens when they tell you they hate you.
It happens when someone breaks their heart.
It happens when they pull away as teenagers.
It happens when you’re waiting up at night for them to pull into the driveway safely.
It happens when they move out.
It started small. I suppose sleep deprivation was the first real challenge. We don’t talk about it too much. It’s normal. It’s expected. It’s just what moms endure. But it’s also grueling. It made me physically and mentally ill. When a second child joined us 2 years later, and my firstborn still didn’t sleep through the night, I was basically awake all night, every night, with small bursts of sleep in between. There’s a reason it’s used for torture. Sleep deprivation will break you a little.
That was only the beginning.
Next came debilitating panic attacks and anxiety that slammed me out of nowhere with my second pregnancy. With the anxiety came anger and guilt and so, so much shame. Then came the depression. More shame. More cracks.
When I carried my youngest son into the hospital because he suddenly couldn’t walk, I broke down in his doctor’s office. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, and I had never been more terrified. An evaluation discovered serum sickness due to an antibiotic allergy, but as I carried my four-year-old son up to his hospital room, him crying in my arms from sickness and pain, I broke a little more.
When I went to work lunch duty at my child’s school and watched him sit alone at the lunch table, my heart couldn’t take it.
Thousands of little cracks.
And then, one day I found myself thinking back to the moment of his birth as I stared at the tile floor. That precious baby boy I held in my arms was everything I had dreamt of and hoped for. For the first time in my life, I felt complete. Fourteen years later, I was here with him in a psychiatric hospital waiting to see if they had a bed for him. A small, almost indiscernible mark was still visible around his neck. I sat beside him, shattered.
But I’ll tell you what else happens. You rise back up, every single time.
Yes, motherhood broke me, but it also built me back stronger.
Nothing repairs the cracks like tiny arms around your neck. Nothing heals your hurt like hearing “I love you mom.” Nothing puts you back together again like knowing you have to be there again tomorrow.
And so with each break there came healing, and I found I was stronger than I ever imagined. I found I could withstand more than I thought possible. My children gave me the opportunity to look inside all my broken places, to piece myself back together, and to stand in my strength and my worth at last. For that, I am grateful to them. Because of them, I am a fighter, a warrior, and basically a badass.
Because while a mother’s heart breaks many times, it is ultimately indestructible.
“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” - Leonard Cohen