So, How Does a Mom of Seventeen Really See Mother’s Day?

The cat is out of the bag.  For those of you who don’t know — yes, it’s true. To set the record straight, I have been pregnant seventeen times, and I had the most awesome experience of giving birth to eleven living children!  Six of my children left my womb much too early to survive outside of me, and one more baby could have survived outside of me, but his little heart stopped beating too soon.  He was born still.  I’ve had both ends of the spectrum as a mom — giving birth to wailing, flailing babies, and having to say good-bye before having the opportunity to see and hear all of the wonders of delivering a live baby.

So, what does Mother’s Day mean to this mom of so many?  How do I feel — really?  Was it all worth it?  Would I do it all over again?  Well, here it is straight from the heart.

Motherhood is the hardest thing on face of this earth!  Your body is stretched every which way, you gain 40 or 50 pounds and stay sick day and night for four months or more, you go through bouts of indigestion, throwing up, leg pains, cramping, and being kicked constantly from the inside out — and that’s all before the baby is born!  

Then, you go through hormonal rages and changes and waves of ups and downs that send your emotions off the charts.  Not to mention the brutal pulling apart of your body to get that little stinker that took 9 months to grow OUTSIDE of your body so that you can begin to take off the 40 or 50 pounds you put on and reverse this whole process again to get back to “normal” — which by the way there is never “normal” following the birth of a child.  Normal flies out the window the minute you are pregnant!  Never is a woman the same!  

Here are two of my daughters touting their full size bellies in all of their glory!  Blame it on the genes — we like this thing called motherhood! 
For the first year following the birth of each of my children I was in a trance-like state simply studying their little faces.  Watching their every movement.  Feeling their heart beat with mine.  Worrying through fevers and colds and unknown viruses.  Sleepless nights with babies that got their days and nights mixed up.  Changing thousands of diapers.  And, breast feeding.  Yes, this old body of mine was determined to breast feed every single one of the eleven, and that I did!  Baby and I were attached in more ways than one!

As my kids grew older, I grew older, too.  I thought about more things than just feeding and diapering.  Were my kids happy?  Was I giving them enough attention?  Were they developing as they should?  Did I read them enough books?  (Let’s just say, they had enough books to fill a college-sized library!)  Was there enough of “me” to go around for them?  Kids don’t get it — they don’t get this part of motherhood until they are parents themselves.  And, you learn early on this is a pretty thankless job until much, much later in life.  Okay, I promised to be truthful, right?   
All days with kids are not easy days, nor are they all fun!  When the crying hits a pitch so high your ears are going to break and you’ve cleaned up so much throw up that you begin to throw up, and you know you still have 20 hours left before a new day, often my only option was to sit down on the floor and cry right with them.  And, cry we did!  My kids and I have shared many wailing moments together.  Hmmm…I wonder what they thought when they learned I could cry just as loud and just as long as them? 
But, then you get back up and brush yourself off, look at those smiles, get smothered in those slobbery kisses and it’s all worth while.  For a while — it’s all worthwhile. 
Before you know it, they’re very mobile and into everything.  And, this was the beginning of the most difficult stage of motherhood for me.  My kids were inquisitive.  I guess that’s a nice way of putting it.  There were broken bones, stitches to the eyes, head, chin, knees, legs and various other places.  Scrapes, falls, knots on heads, bloody noses and…..well, there was a lot!  I have very little remembrance of a lot of these “moments in motherhood” because it’s just too terrifying to remember.  They outnumbered me, and to stay I couldn’t keep up with them is an understatement.  It was during this stage of motherhood that I began to ask the question, “What in the world have you gotten yourself into, girl?  This stuff is real!  And, there seems to be no end in sight!”

The old adage is true, “They grow up way too fast.”  After about the hundredth prom, school dance, basketball game, baseball came, dance recital, band concert, chorus concert and who remembers what else, there comes this pause in life when you know that something is shifting in your role as a mother.  As you watch your children pack up their belongings and head off to college, to their jobs, to get married, to live on their own, your heart stops beating the same way. 

My heat stopped beating the same way when my first child spread her wings and began her own life, and my heart almost stopped beating completely when the last of my children walked out the door with her final bit of clothes, and said, “Bye, mom.  I’ll be in touch.”

Sure, you go through days, months, and even years of all kinds of things with your kids.  Some good, some not-so-good, but you’re never prepared for those words, “Bye, mom.  I’ll give you a call sometime in the next few weeks.” 

NEVER is a mother prepared — at least this mother was not prepared. 

My kids are all out of the house now, and I have the quiet I longed for so much back in the days when I heard nothing by crying, fighting, screaming kids.  The door very rarely opens except when I open it to come home after a long day of work.  No more is the kitchen door swinging back and forth with friends coming and going yelling, “Hi, mom!”, and me looking twice to see if that was my kid or a friend of my kids who decided to stay for a week. 

The quiet is nice, but sometimes I find it’s strangely quiet.  I listen for sounds and smile as I remember how I’d lay awake at night (pretending to be asleep) waiting to hear the last footsteps of the kids as they finally settled down to sleep.  That was when I could breathe a bit easier and say, “Thank you, God.  They’re all tucked in for another night.” 

What will I do this Mother’s Day?  Oh, I don’t know.  Probably eat with some of the kids.  They live all over the place and most of them have families of their own, so now I’m more “gram” than I am “mom”, but that’s okay.  I’m growing into my new role, but it’s going to take some time.  I’ll look at pictures a lot and think, “Wow!  That was crazy having so many kids! It was like a nut house at times.  It was like cooking for an army! The washing machine was always going!” I’m sure I’ll do a lot of reminiscing on Mother’s Day — and it will be good!  It will be happy! 
It’s funny how the bad days fade into a far away distant thought, but I can tell you so many GREAT moments spent with the kids.  I remember special moments spent with each of the eleven, and that’s what I’ll focus on this Mother’s Day.
Would I go through all of this craziness again?  Would I put myself on hold for all of those years?  In my case, having so many kids, I really did have to put my needs far away on the back burner.  It took a lot of work and planning and sacrifices to make sure there was food on the table and clothes to wear! Some day I’ll talk about planning the meals for each day.  I got to be very innovative learning how to make food stretch.  It’s part of a mother’s many talents!
So, how do I view Mother’s Day?  I think it’s totally wonderful that there has been a day set aside to honor mothers for all that they have done, and all that they continue to do every day of their lives.  A mother isn’t just a mother until her kids turn eighteen.  A mother is a mother all the days of her life!  And, I love it when my kids acknowledge me with respect and honor on Mother’s Day!  It makes me feel like the most special person on face of this earth! 
Would I do it all over again — have so many kids?  Are you kidding me?  In a heart beat!  I can’t imagine my life without them!!!  A mother gives so much, but she really and truly does get back more!  At the end of a day, I can sit and smile and say, “It is well.  It really is well with my soul.”
PS  This little piece of computer art work was given to me one Mother’s Day by Alex, my youngest.  We had been going through a rough time at home, and I had to take on a full-time job in order to keep the mortgage going.  Needless to say, there was a big change in home life from that day forward.  Alex sent this little message to me, and it served as my screen saver for YEARS!  This flower and sunshine speaks volumes to me — that’s the essence of motherhood.  Flowers and sunshine — gifts from above.
Kids, I love you each and every one — Michelle, Mike, Joe, Tim, Chris, Jimmy, Cherie, Mandy, Marc, Steph, and Alex!  You have blessed my life in millions of different ways, and I thank my God every single day for giving me the honor and privilege of being called your mother!

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