Before I became a mom, I used to think motherhood happened simply. That amidst the positive pregnancy tests, the baby registries, and delivery, motherhood was a direct destination you arrived at the moment your baby was placed in your arms. Watching my own mother and grandmothers in their motherhood, it seemed natural. It seemed like a vocation they arrived at painlessly.

Then I became a mom (of twins).

And I realized that the act of mothering was a birth on its own, oftentimes a long labor of love with limited pain medication.

I’ve come to realize the birth of a mother happens in the stillness of the nighttime hours. While the rest of the world sleeps, a mother is born amidst the creaks of the rocking chair and the sucking sound of a hungry baby. It’s found in nighttime whispers of lullabies and the soft pattering of feet down the hall to respond to her child’s needs. It’s found in the darkness of bedrooms where mothers sit awake, waiting to see the lights of their children’s car come up the driveway or in the nightly prayers being poured from her heart.

The birth of a mother happens noisily.

It happens as her children giggle at feeling grass between their toes for the first time or the bouncing of a colicky baby up and down the stairs of the family home. It’s found in her children’s footsteps, their singing voices, in sibling arguments over the infamous red cup, fifth-grade instrument concerts, echoing gyms, or applause-filled stadiums.

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The birth of a mother happens in joy. It happens in her child’s first cry, their first “mama” cooed or their smile. It’s found when her child successfully masters biking with no training wheels or when they make a new friend. It’s found when her child reaches a goal, takes first steps, or wraps their arms tightly around her in a hug. A mother is born as her child crosses the stage for preschool graduation or flips the tassel as a college graduate. It happens in sunlight as she helps her child get ready for their wedding, celebrates a child’s promotion, or welcomes a grandchild into the world.

The birth of a mother happens in tears.

It happens in the sorrow of child loss or infertility.

It happens in needle pokes, skinned knees, broken hearts, nightmares, and accidents. It can be found in missed curfews, lost friendships, scary diagnoses, family losses, and unanswered prayers.

The birth of a mother happens in strength. A mother is born when the days feel long and the years feel shortwhen she’s convinced she has no more to give but somehow finds just a bit more to share. It happens when she makes hard decisions, cares for elderly parents, lives through a pandemic, or takes time to care for herself.

The birth of a mother happens in vulnerability. It’s found when sleepless nights lead to exhausted mornings and endless coffee. It happens when she asks for help, for reprieve, for a much-needed break. It happens when she tells another mom her frustrations or wraps someone in a hug and says “me too.” 

Most of all, I’ve come to realize in my journey in motherhood that a mother is born piece by piece through the years.

Some of those pieces join seamlessly together, effortlessly, reminding a mother that she has what it takes to walk the path of motherhood. And other pieces are jagged, worn ragged from life, with holes between them that only love can fill, leaving the mother convinced she’s messing everything up or that her kids deserve something better. 

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But that mother? She was born to evolve. To mess up and to apologize. To stand tall or drop to her knees in surrender. To rejoice and to try again tomorrow. She was born to be exactly who her children need in their lives.

In stillness, noise, joy, tears, and strength, she was born for this.

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Kathryn Bartling

Kathryn is a born and raised midwest girl, working to raise her twin toddlers to appreciate the world around them, dark chocolate and the beautifully ordinary moments in their lives. A stay-at-home mom after a career in marketing, she's learning to embrace the unique tidal wave of parenting, twins and toddlerhood.

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