Last Sunday marked my third Mother's Day as a mom. There was no Mother's Day hoopla or grandeur, but in all the small ways, it was a pretty great day. Ella B slept until after six, which was a huge gift since she normally gets up around 5:30. We had our usual Sunday morning breakfast at the diner with my parents, and then headed home to do some housework. It was a beautiful day and Ella desperately wanted to go to the park. Mike needed to mow the lawn, so Ella and I headed off to the playground while he did work around the house. The day was made especially beautiful by the fact that the sun was shining after weeks of rain and Ella and I spent the morning throwing rocks in the stream, swinging on swings, and exploring the woods next to the playground. Later, my sister and her family came down for a picnic and Ella spent the rest of the day following her "big" cousin Izzy around. We cooked hotdogs, ate corn on the cob, and even enjoyed a little strawberry shortcake. As a final gesture before leaving, Izzy gave Ella her bike, and now Ella thinks she's "big like Izzy."
As we relaxed in the front yard, I thought about how much nicer this Mother's Day was than my first one, or even my second. Motherhood, for me, was not as easy a fit as I thought it would be. Before I had Ella, I imagined that first Mother's Day as this blissful moment filled with effortless breastfeeding, a cooing, happy baby, and a sense of accomplishment and purpose. I thought having a baby would make me content and that everything about it would just feel "right." Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me. Motherhood turned out to be a lot more awkward, clumsy, exasperating, and thankless than I ever could have imagined. I didn't feel like the Earth Mother I'd always envisioned myself as, and realizing that I wasn't as good at this job as I'd thought I would be was a big blow to my ego. There were times when I thought it would never get better and that I'd be carrying that girl to college in a Baby Bjorn.
It took us about a year, and in that year I battled postpartum depression, fed my baby breast milk every day (though she would rarely take it from the source), taught her to sleep in her own crib, and learned how to enjoy her and love her in the way I'd always hoped to from the beginning.
The painting below is a Gustav Klimt print that we found at Ikea when we were pregnant. It was an idealistic vision of motherhood that I took as fact. After I had Ella, I felt duped by that painting for a long time, that it wasn't telling the truth about what motherhood was. Then, a few weeks ago, I took this picture of me and Ella lying on the couch, and I realized that a picture is just a snapshot of one moment. No one's experience is perfect, but there are moments to celebrate and treasure along the way.