I sat at home, alone in the semi-darkness with the weight of my first newborn resting in that magical place under the collarbone designed for tiny helpless lumps, and for the first time I was engulfed in the bittersweet agony of motherhood. This tiny lump would consume my life, and I was overwhelmed by the change. I felt anguish for the fact that my own newborn existence had forever altered my own mothers life, something I had never recognized. I’d never before thought to appreciate motherhood as a life sacrifice, which is separate from diapers changed and meals made and all of the things we usually think to thank our mothers for.
In my younger years as a mother, I subconsciously pondered how I might connect with my kids differently so they would be more grateful than I had been. It sounds laughable now, but I genuinely believed there had to be some way they could repay me in recognition and gratitude. Surely their lifelong appreciation and devotion would make my life sacrifice worth it.
Years later, sitting in the semi-darkness while blowing cool air over a fevered child, I found myself contemplating the days of illness before tylenol and ice. As I imagined a parent’s fear before modern medicine, the thread of mothers nursing children in the middle of the night revealed itself, stretching backwards to the beginning of time. I can picture my grandmother cooling my mother’s fever, sacrificing her sleep and personal comfort over that small child who would one day cool my fevers and kiss bruises and wipe tears and hold hurts in ways I don’t and can’t remember. This thread stretches backward beyond my great-grandmother to mothers whose names and stories I wish I knew – yet who somehow are here, present with me in the middle of the night as I carry on their legacy. My own mothering is built upon countless generations of sacrifice that I can’t ever know. I am part of a great chain that links back to the first mother; each woman in that chain knew and loved the one before and after her, which connects every one of us in an intimate way. To truly be mindful of the thread of mothering that connects me to every woman before me is a humble and holy feeling.
I no longer pour myself into my children in the hopes that they will one day be grateful, I pour myself into my children so that they can carry on the torch of nurturing and life sacrifice that raises all of humanity. My life sacrifice as a mother is my gift, given in humble gratitude to all of the women who came before me in this chain, and I hope to honor their sacrifices by carrying their love and devotion forward with honor.
A related thought – my sacrifice doesn’t have to be perfect, or even close. This thread I’m envisioning says nothing about how well mothering happens, just the idea that nurturing and care has been passed from generation to generation for all time. So on those days I mourn what’s been missed, or the days I feel overwhelmed by impossible parental perfection, I remember this – the chain of nurturing came before me and it will carry on after me; in fact I take comfort in all of the ‘wrong’ acts or rough relationships in generations before that prove just how resilient generations can be. Living my part in the chain to the best of my ability (and accepting that some days are better than others) is my way of honoring the legacy.
To the mother and grandmothers directly linked to me through time, touch, love, and personal sacrifice, I thank you with all the humble feelings of my soul for carrying past generations of love and sacrifice to me. To the daughter and sons below me, I hope one day you will recognize that generations of sacrifice have brought you to your own parenthood. I will be my greatest honor to see you paying it forward.