Yes, I read those prenatal books. A whole stack of them. Some were hand-me-downs from friends and others I checked out of the library. I read the websites, too—the ones that compared my developing baby to the size of a blueberry or a plumquat each week. They told me what to expect as a first-time mom.

Although I read and reread about the first signs of labor, I somehow neglected to read any of the chapters or articles that told me what to expect if I needed a C-section. Call it optimism or naiveté, I didn’t expect an emergency C-section. My mom never had one, so why should I?

It wasn’t a shocker that I was six days past my due date. What caught me by surprise was that after repeated, confident assurances from my OB/GYN that my son was head down, I saw him sitting upright in an ultrasound. I didn’t expect him to be sitting in the Frank breech position or for the amniotic fluid he was swimming in to be low.

After my son’s birth, I didn’t exactly assume breastfeeding would be a breeze, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be so painful and difficult. I didn’t expect to need a lactation consultant or that my son would struggle to gain weight or that after two months, he would finally be diagnosed as tongue-tied and need to have his frenulum clipped. I didn’t know what a frenulum was let alone expect that.

I didn’t expect to need to supplement breastmilk with bottle feedings. I didn’t expect feeding my son to take up so much time. I didn’t expect to see bottles piling up in my kitchen sink.

I didn’t expect to be so completely clueless. A bit bedraggled perhaps, but not so weak and tired and helpless. I didn’t expect that it would take my body so long to heal or so many months before I could exercise comfortably and start to lose my baby weight.

I didn’t expect that any of my five children would have serious medical conditions, but some of them do. I didn’t expect to miscarry any of my babies, but I have. I didn’t expect to be stretched so thin or to grieve so hard, but I am and I do.

I didn’t expect that motherhood would be a piece of cake or a walk in the park, but I also didn’t know that it would be by faith. That it would mean walking forward when I couldn’t see where I was going and didn’t know what I was doing or what would happen next. That it would mean loosening my tight grip on my children and trusting God to care for them in ways that were way beyond my capability.

Those books and websites didn’t tell me about the nights when my newborn would cry inconsolably and when I’d done everything else I knew to do, I’d kneel by the side of my bed and pray for help, wisdom, insight and that my baby would . . . simply . . . stop . . . crying.

Those books and websites didn’t tell me that a doctor would diagnose my children with a rare genetic disease of which I’d never heard the name and that I would pray again for help and wisdom and insight and that I would . . . simply . . . stop . . . crying.

So many hopes and expectations grew inside of me when I felt those first belly kicks and ballet dances inside my womb. Some I could voice and some I couldn’t. As my children grow, those hopes and expectations multiply. Some are met, but many aren’t.

Motherhood isn’t what I expected; it’s so much more.

Motherhood isn’t about having a natural childbirth or a C-section, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, a baby with reflux or a baby who sleeps through the night. It’s not about which preschool I pick or whether I homeschool or send my child to public or private school. And it’s certainly never been about me having my act together or how my children compare with my friend’s.

The motherhood I’ve discovered is by faith, with hope and full of love. Yes, full of love. Love so deep that it hurts, and love so strong that it binds, and love that makes ordinary moments the ones I want to remember the most. My love for my children is fuller, richer, deeper and wider than I ever imagined, and my life is fuller, richer, deeper and wider than I dreamed.

This isn’t what I expected, but it’s what I think I really wanted, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

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Katie Faris

Katie's loved to write since she could hold a pencil, but her greatest works in progress are her five children ages two to thirteen. As a mom who writes about her life, rather than one who lives to write, she captures the heart of her home in her posts. And her heart is full, filled with the joys and challenges of living and laughing with her husband and their children, three with serious medical conditions. She is the author of Loving My Children