FOR ALL MOMS (PRESENT, PAST OR POSSIBLY FUTURE)
AND MOMS AT HEART (FATHERS)
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Please share this with a Mom that you know or a
future Mom, or a Mom at heart.