I hate the word, “motherhood” for the same reason I hate the words, “moist” and “milky.” You could even use them all in one sentence and watch my head turn inside out, “moist, milky motherhood.” Oh man. I die.
The words sound pulverizingly gooey, “motherhood” in particular. And there is one thing that I have learned and that is that the act of being a mother is anything but gooey. It ranges from deranging to endearing, soul-crushing to soul-strengthening. I mean, it’s whipped my ass and made me into as new a person as few things (not involving prison, death, kidnap or torture) could.
And maybe that’s why little Mother’s Day brunches and things like that haven’t really floated my boat. It’s not that I don’t like brunches; it’s just that they don’t encapsulate what being a mother is all about for me, nor do they provide what I usually want more than anything: time alone. Time with other women that I like. Time to feel like myself and not this Great “No!”Sayer and “Time Out!” Commander. I just want to be able to feel like my remembered self once in a while.
So I jumped all over the Mother’s Day hike that my friend Nieves plans. I told Mikey that I don’t need presents for Mother’s Day or my birthday (I have that taken care of), I don’t need a fancy meal or anything for either day; I just WANT TO HIKE. Okay?
“Okay,” he said.
Now, I have to tell you: I love hiking. I hiked a lot in the Bay Area, but that was something like 9 years (and a different body) ago. It was also Bay Area hills, NOT the Lost Coast, where “go up for a while” means more like, “go up for TWO SOLID HOURS.”
I was whipped. Whupped. Panting in a most unattractive manner with sweat pouring on off of me.
I told her how good this had felt, that it was really want I had needed. She said, “yeah, especially on Mother’s Day.” I asked her what she meant by that, and she explained that the hike isn’t easy. It pushes us past our comfort zone, there are points when you want to give up, but you can’t; you have to go on.
Being a mom is a lot like that, she said. Childbirth itself is a lot like that, she said.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks: EXACTLY.
All that uphill climbing, the pushing past my comfort zone, the sweating and feeling myself struggle. The pain. The sweet, sweet end to a challenging hike and the fading of the hurt of the climb into the recesses of my memory, overwhelmed by the beauty of the adventure itself.
The hike had been like an analogy of my experience of being a mother so far; uphill struggle and monumentally gorgeous. Sweet lassitude of limbs or spirit after intense bouts of either mentally or physically trying to figure things out. How to carry 15 bags with a screaming kid and another one who can’t find her shoes. Diaper blow-outs when I run out of wipes.
None of this is particularly easy and yet everything comes together in the most perfect way possible.
To me, this isn’t “motherhood” (or “moist” or “milky”) as much as it is a hike. A hike through old growth trees, with friends, flowers and ferns. It’s the daily challenge of my body, spirit and mind to nurture, protect, love and empower myself, my sproutlings.
It’s the pacing of myself.
It’s remembering to take care of myself and drink my water so I don’t wither and am unable to care for others. It’s surrounding myself with beauty. It’s remembering where I come from: the trees remind me of the interconnectedness of us all. My mom went through what I’m going through; her love helped me bloom and she taught me to tie my shoelaces.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.