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pregnancyIn my last weeks of pregnancy, my favorite part of the day was after lunch. I would lie on the couch on my side, knees bent, feeling the baby settling once I found a good position. We would nap like that, together—me curled around her, her curled up inside me. Before I knew she was a she. We cuddled like that after she was born, too. I would think of her as if she were the center of a rose, still closed, curled up tight. And I was the petal around her. And then there was my mother around me. And around her was my grandmother. And after her, my great-grandmother, and on and on.

There was a lesson to be learned somewhere in that metaphor, but I couldn’t see it at the time. I just knew that it made me respect the women who had come before me. My grandmother and great-grandmother had experienced the same pains and joys but on the isolated plains of Iowa, without supportive husbands to share the responsibilities of caring for the household—and with many other children depending on them. The women who came before them knew hardships and trials that I would never know and can only imagine. Acknowledging this makes me feel honored to wear this badge of motherhood. I add it to my other badges, but I wear this one over my heart, where everyone can see it.

Parenthood remodels your identity in every facet. Once those renovations are complete, the process is permanent. It cannot be undone. So parenthood becomes an exercise of faith. Faith that—despite the risk of pain and suffering, be it emotional or physical—it is worth it.

All of it.

The nausea. The sound of a heartbeat. The weight gain. The little kicks. The contractions. The euphoria. The sleepnessness. The tiny cry. The doubt. The contentment. The illnesses. The strength.

Through all of it, I see my daughter.

I realize that I had it all wrong: I couldn’t lose myself, as I’d worried I would. I am not a static self. I am fluid. Motherhood would change me, but so does everything that I experience in life. My marriage wasn’t ruined. We grew closer. I didn’t lose my friends. We have a new set of topics to talk about.

And I have a new confidence I’ve never had before. I’ve seen how much pain I can take, how long I can go without sleep, how much I can accomplish in one hour. You enter motherhood with one version of your body, your mind, your habits, your routines, your personality, and your behavior—and then those facets of your being are pulled in all directions. Everything becomes thinned out. You need to do more with less. Somehow you manage to do it. And when you look back, you see that all of this stretching has helped you grow.

At the beginning of my journey into motherhood, I opened my hand to the unknown. I expected to one day look down and see a child’s hand in mine. I expected to comfort it, to soothe it, and to guard it.

But I didn’t expect that hand to lead me. To teach me. To refine me. My daughter taught me that you cannot be truly strong until you have nothing left.

That you cannot be wise until you have been humbled.

And that you cannot be loved until you have no vanity. I am grateful for this new journey. For all the doors we have yet to open. And for all the lessons she’ll continue to teach me. I am grateful for her.

Adapted with permission from Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity by Sharon Tjaden-Glass ($13, amazon.com). Visit becomingmotherblog.wordpress.com for more information about the book and author.
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