I never was one of those women who dreamed of having children their whole lives. I actually rejected the world of child-bearing and domesticity. Through my prism of a single, professional woman—a magazine editor and journalist—who believed that achievement was validation, I viewed mothers as drab, dull, and colorless, and I had no desire to be one of them.
At parties, I struggled to make small talk with mothers when really I felt all of it was small. Sharing soup recipes left me stewing. Discussions about diaper rash made me itchy. I found their incessant whining about weaning their kids from breastfeeding woeful.
I preferred traveling to nurturing. I journeyed to South Africa on a Safari adventure, where I tracked lions on foot; I attended the opening of the resort Atlantis; I parasailed in the Caribbean; and I was hoisted up by a colleague to ride the float and throw beads to the clamoring crowds in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It was almost as fun talking about my experiences as it was to see people's reactions to them.
Was I superficial? Yes, I suppose so. Still, I felt a child would only tie me down. There was nothing extraordinary about being a mother, I thought.
Then, one year after I got married, that changed. I had found security and understanding in my husband's love, and I saw how he viewed me and accepted me, even with my flaws. It was then that I felt I had the armament to be a good mother. I dreamed of giving birth to a baby with his gentle eyes and strong cheekbones.
I gave birth to my daughter in the spring. As the doctor checked her vitals and my husband counted her 10 perfect fingers and toes, I realized I had achieved what no amount of clips or professional accolades could ever duplicate: my body had produced a miracle.
I also gained automatic entrée into the sisterhood of motherhood. An organization I had never before wished to join, but who now welcomed me with open arms. The women that I used to feel superior to were now the ones who rallied around me to help. It was my mom friends who taught me the basics, like it wasn't necessary to carry the entire bottle of formula to baby music class.
Nobody cared about who I had been in my professional life; we all were on equal footing in this new world we explored side by side. At mom nights out, we shared recipes and commiserated about child-rearing tactics. There is beauty in community, and every mother needs one. I was relieved that I had found mine.
I realized how foolish I had been to look down on them before without perspective. Now, instead of feeling scornful, I was grateful and respected the choices they had made. I was also a little embarrassed about how much I needed them. My once black and white world became colored with shades of gray. There was no room for judgment in this sisterhood I now held a stake in. Motherhood humbled me. I found new challenges as my grand adventures were replaced with more mundane, albeit all-consuming, ones.
My princess will turn 7 this spring. I love her more than I thought I could ever love another—despite being warned that I would. She is my redemption for my earlier life of ignorance. Her birthday is a chance for me to remember that what used to be important—the trips, the invitations, the adventures, the self-centered way of viewing the world—now seem trivial. And I celebrate that becoming a mother has helped me discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.
I made an alchemical transformation when I became a mother—one that affected every part of my body, mind, and soul. I never thought it was in my nature to nurture, but it turns out that it was. In taking on the mantle of motherhood, I became someone that the old me wouldn't recognize and wouldn't particularly be interested in. And that's OK.