I always imagined motherhood like white linen sheets and a crib at the foot of my bed. Like running a hand over my smooth, swollen belly. Like a flushed face and ice cream right out of the carton, talking about baby names with my husband, going spoonful for spoonful.

I always imagined ultrasounds and appointments, nervous butterflies as they searched for the heartbeat and quiet moments alone reflecting on how it would feel to lose a part of myself as I gained an entirely different world.

But becoming a mother was none of those things.

Becoming a mother was 8-year-old, hazel-brown eyes looking up at me in wonder for the first time in the middle of a small-town pumpkin patch. It was glasses and size five shoes. It was graphic novels and video games, snack wrappers and dirty fingers.

Becoming a mother was the first I love you whispered in a dark bedroom as an echo to my lullaby. It was signing a lease and realizing this home was more than just a physical place. It was the first time my voice caught in my throat as I said “my son” and realized I meant it.

I always imagined motherhood to be this enormous, yet far-in-the-distance decision. I thought, like the forward-thinker I am, I would have time to be ready, to be prepared.

I thought I would know what I was doing and be less afraid.

But becoming a mother was a whirlwind. It was a single choice—saying yes to a man and realizing that I was saying yes to a little boy, too. And yet, in a sense, it was unconscious.

As much as I had a say, my version of motherhood chose me.

And it’s different. It’s heavier—heavier, not in the sense of a burden, but in the way that what I carry is a far more precious load. I am no longer just me, no longer a single soul, single entity. I am attached to the ones I love and who love me. An invisible thread, wrapped around my heart redefining who I am.

This motherhood is re-stitchingit is a patchwork quilt of the family I chose.

And no, it’s not the swollen belly, not the spoonfuls of ice cream at midnight, not the flutter of a heartbeat I could watch on an ultrasound screen—this motherhood is more—this motherhood is mine.

Marisa Donnelly

Marisa Donnelly is a Midwest-born, West Coast-based writer, writing coach, editor, teacher, and bonus mama to a sweet 11-year-old boy. She's the founder of Be A Light Collective, a writing and editing services company, and the author of the poetry collection, Somewhere On A Highway. You can read her work on her parenting blog or website.