what makes a mama?

last year at this time, i was the proud mama of a little three week old squish. that meant that the usual rules of mother's day (sleep in, take time to myself, maybe even -gasp- get a massage) didn't really apply to me - i was still getting the hang of this mama thing, and i wasn't about to leave my brand new little sidekick behind for any reason.

this year, i thought - oh it's going to be so different!

i've spent the week looking forward to my day: a lovely sleep in, a relaxing morning, maybe getting taken out for a yummy brunch before being whisked away by my two boys to the first farmer's market of the year and then a special mama's day tea at a local herb farm. however, my little man had other plans, and i was awakened every 90 minutes overnight and am now completely touched out, and have been up since 530am because someone thought it was morning (his usual wake up time is 7) and it took me half an hour to get him back to sleep. not quite the relaxing start to the day i had imagined.

i was so frustrated by the time 6am came this morning - exhausted, but too awake to sleep, while my little man snoozed happy and oblivious to my extremely bad mood beside me - that i couldn't even be in the same bed with him anymore. i thought about all my plans for the day, and how i'm going to be so tired now i probably won't enjoy doing them. i felt sad and disappointed, and annoyed that my little one year old couldn't just give me one night of peace, not even on the one day of the year that's supposed to be for me. this is what happens when this mama ever allows herself to have expectations about something... i swear that boy can read my mind, and he thinks, oh no you don't!

so i got up, left my boys behind in bed, settled at the kitchen table with a coffee, and took some deep breaths. after a moment, i found myself calm again and missing that adorable little toddler (although i'll be just as happy if he decides to sleep another hour or two - just because it's mama's day).

some people say that mothers are born the day they find out they're pregnant. some say the day they give birth. i say that both of these are true, but really, that just makes you a parent. 

what makes a mama is the giving.

i am a mama when i find my patience being tested until i think i can't take it anymore and i'm going to cry and scream and throw things through windows and jump out and run away and never come back. but instead, i take deep breaths, i sit still, i count to ten, and then all the love that i have for this little creature comes flooding back, and i give him snuggles despite the completely unreasonable thing he was doing, and tell him i love him.

i was a mama in the hours after my birth, not simply because i had given birth to a tiny human that belonged to me, but because i had been awake for 40 hours, 20 of those giving my whole body over to intense labour, giving up on my peaceful birth plan and submitting to a hospital birth, pitocin, and a giant episiotomy because we were worried about his heart rate and needed him to arrive as soon as possible, and giving my dignity to a roomful of doctors and nurses i'd never seen before as we worked together to bring that tiny human safely into the world. i was so exhausted and worn out i thought i could die - every piece of me was gone, but i kept going, and i talked and sang to him and nursed him and cuddled him because he needed me to.

i am a mama in the nights when a teething, or growth-spurting, or just plain lonely little man cries out for me every hour for cuddles and milk and comfort, and i'm so tired i can't even walk straight, and i can't imagine getting out of bed one more time so i finally bring him into bed and snuggle him next to me, and once he's finally asleep again i'm wide awake and enraptured with his little face and i just lay there and stare at this perfect little human i get to share my life, my body, and my days with.

my love is unconditional and never ending. nothing can destroy it or break it, and it keeps me going in those darkest moments when any normal, self-respecting human being would have thrown in the towel. this motherhood gig is fun and wonderful but it is actually REALLY HARD, and the truth is that in deciding to become a mama, i intrinsically agreed that i would give all of myself without asking for anything in return.

mamahood isn't simply forged through the biological act of growing a person in your body and giving birth to them. any woman (or person) who gives all of themselves in the act of caring for innocents in the best way they can deserves the label of mama. adoptive mamas, foster mamas, mamas who have lost babies before they were able to meet them. papa mamas, teacher mamas, volunteer mamas. if you get what i'm writing about, if you understand what it means to love someone so much that you sometimes lose yourself and have to make an effort to rediscover who you are as an individual in the tiny moments of independence that you get during your days or weeks of giving, you are in this club with me.

this is the reason that mamas get a day. we give up our bodies, our dreams, our lives, our patience, our sanity, our very selves over and over for the little people that we call our own. we do it willingly, with love and happiness and without resentment, but it is hard work - perhaps the hardest work a person can do. we do it in the hopes that these littles will grow up and make this world a little more beautiful, a little more whole. and for that, we deserve a day to be a little selfish.

so next year, i'm going to sleep in. no. matter. what.

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