Sunday, May 11, 2008

Best Mom Speech. Ever.


By Anna Quindlen (now go get some tissues)
We are sitting at lunch when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family." "We're taking a survey," she says, half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?" "It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral. "I know," she says,"no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations...." But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die. I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a souffle or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation. I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell.

She will have to use every ounce of her discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right. I want my daughter to know that everyday decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother. Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years -- not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs. I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic. I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or a cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real, it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reach across the table, squeeze my daughter's hand and offer a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all of the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings. This blessed gift from God . . . that of being a Mother.

11 comments:

Rebecca said...

Thanks for this-it's beautiful and happy mother's day!

design for mankind. said...

AWwwwww---- I love this!

Happy mothers day, Heidi! :)

Krissy said...

This post has such raw beauty, it almost made me cry (and I'm not a mom). It's so lovely. Happy Mother's Day to you!

Marie Louise said...

Well, I AM crying. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it. I hope you don't mind if I put a link of this post on my blog. I have never heard the feeling of being a mother articulated so perfectly.

heidi said...

Marie, I think I cry everytime I read it. Seriously.

Marie Louise said...

P.S. Are those your twins?!

heidi said...

and yep, those are my girls! They are a bit bigger than that now ;-)

Mrs.French said...

First of all you girls! My heart melts! This story is perfect. Thank you for sharing, I could have not have put it better but feel the exact same way.

nadia said...

How beautiful!

Joanna Goddard said...

that is amazing. i loved this. thank you.

Renovation Therapy said...

Thanks so much for sending me the url for this. It is wonderfully written and your daughter is a lucky woman to have you as a Mother. I have 6 nieces & nephews whom I'm very close to and I know that if/when I decide to have one of my own the emotion I feel for them will be tenfold for my own. Just not sure I want to open that door...