Mother: I was desperate for that title

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“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”

-Debra Ginsberg


I was desperate for that title.  I went through years of infertility. I was diagnosed with a uterus septum several years ago; I had several operations and procedures to diagnose it, as well as, fix it.  My husband and I ditched fertility treatments (fertility drugs and two failed IUIs) and opted to have acupuncture.  That did the trick; I was pregnant two years later, with my son. He was born, May 13.  Now, his birthday falls this year on Mother’s Day.

Photo by Sara Turner

Now, I am a mother.  And with this title, comes the work, the love, the magic, and the chaos.

Right now, he is watching Sesame Street so I can write this.  Well, now his bare chested toddler torso is up against my right shoulder and I am begging him to press play again. So much of motherhood is a series of meltdowns that fury inside me, silently, and sometimes not-so-silent, while outside my own body, my toddler’s hands are everywhere, and my body doesn’t seem to belong to me, with cries for “Ba Ba” (his name for my breasts) and toddler somersaults across my chest and legs, crying “Mama Mama.”

Nothing quiets, UNTIL I STOP everything I am doing and throw up the white flag.  I give in to his needs. I am not going to lie – this cheeses me off sometimes.  I JUST WANT TO FINISH THIS ONE ARTICLE – THIS ONE THING. But that’s the thing – motherhood surrenders, not in defeat, but in victory – for it is in these surrenders, my toddler rises higher, smarter, more loved, more nurtured.

But darn, I just got a knee to the shoulder and his little persistent hands keep trying to turn off my computer.  So, I compromise.  I stop.  And we read his favorite book for the zillionth time, Llama Llama Red Pajama.

The veil of motherhood only gets lifted for a few: my husband, my closest friends, and sometimes, it just does not. I cloak myself in the finest silk and finest expectations of motherhood, and sit idly, feeling ugly underneath that beautiful white silk – feeling dark, angry, forgotten and I stir.  Oh, do I stir.

The comfort of kisses and hearing “Mama,” from my toddler, are like waves of rainbows.  But the surrender flag must go up to see these rainbows, for I am blind to them if I do not.  Magic is a funny thing – it comes and goes and sometimes there are droughts for days – no rainbows – no flag.

I managed to get through the first year breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and no TV.

Photo by R. Oteri

The second year, well, that was a different story.  We still co-sleep, but it seems to be something our queen mattress has outgrown.  And we are still breastfeeding. But motherhood is not a cut and dry thing.

I really have no idea what I am doing.  Really, I don’t.  I just have a swollen compass I call my heart which leads me in the direction of my instincts and those instincts some refer to as Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting has taken a beating with the recent Time magazine cover.  I have so many feelings about that cover, but mostly the feelings have dissipated and now I am left with the one feeling that is constant in my life: motherhood.  My choice is to be the best mother I can and to accept that some of my own expectations of what motherhood should be, simply are not realistic.  This flag of surrender, some might refer to as common sense.

Like Spiderman’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I am responsible to raise this little human being to the best of my ability.  But babies and children don’t come with manuals.  They do though, come into the world wanting to be loved and nurtured.  That is manual enough for me.

I have no manual though and do I ever wish there was one. I do not reference parenting blogs, nor do I reference parenting books.  Most of the time, I am frantic, unshowered, and bored out of my mind, waiting for something to happen. And it often does: a luminescent crayon streak on the clear plastic blender, a load of folded clothes haphazardly sprayed all over the not-so-clean living room, the dog’s water bowl tipped over onto something that JUST SHOULD NOT GET WET, and a plethora of other things.

I’m not sure if I am doing it wrong, or just being honest.  Motherhood is hard. So many slices of myself get deli-sliced-thin and result in a big ole’ hoagie of letting go, sacrifice, doubt, and insecurity.  The condiments hold me in place: friendship, love, and support, and the way my boy loves me.

Each mother has their own journey. And I just wish we would stop clothes-lining each other and let each other parent.  The Mommy Wars have got to stop.  We love our children.  We really do and to each his or her own.

Most moms are doing the best they can.  The judgment is excruciating. Painful.  Ugly.  But my theory of where the mommy wars and the judgement stems from is the Grand Canyon of doubt and insecurity you get when you have children.  This great responsibility leaves one feeling powerless.  And that is the truth (as I see it).

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
― Debra Ginsberg

There are so many things out of my control, so I hold tight to what I can control – how I choose to parent my child.  And nobody is going to get their claws on that, for it is wrapped in the impenetrable magic spider web of the love I have for my child. This intricate web is wrapped in the intensity of motherhood.

Photo by Megan Oteri

My mother did the best she could and I am doing the best I can (and some days I totally stink at motherhood, but I keep going, keep trying, and keep evolving).  I have some more tools in my tote these days, with supportive mothers, and a computer to reach out on days I feel isolated and alone.  Just to know I am not alone on this journey, gives me some sense of peace.  I also have a friend who lives in the same town as me, who I can go to, and lift the perfect mommy veil, showing her my warts and scars motherhood brings.

She tells me, “Yeah, I get it.” That’s all I need to hear.

In the distance, I see the magic rainbow – and the beauty of it doesn’t make me feel better – it’s the realization that I can’t see the rainbow all the time that makes me feel better, because it’s raining – the hard hail storm pellets of motherhood.

The beauty, the heart wrenching worry, the deli-thin slices lost to the big ole’ hoagie of motherhood, another bite, another part of myself, as I knew it, gone.

But the rainbow comes out, as my toddler makes ambulance siren pitch sounds right in my ear, and talking toddler gibberish.  I see it.  I can smell it (or is that me who smells who has not showered or brushed my teeth this morning). I taste it.  I touch it.  I feel it (his toddler arms are wrapped around my neck as I write this).  This is the texture of motherhood – smooth, rough, splintered, cool, hot, layered in the mosaic of mother’s love.

Photo by Sara Turner

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Author: Megan (memomuse)

Megan Oteri is a wife, mama, and writer. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. She enjoys wide open spaces and wide open hearts. She writes about her experience as a new mom and AP parent at You can follow her on Twitter @memomuse1 and find her on Facebook under memomuse.

18 thoughts on “Mother: I was desperate for that title”

  1. I appreciate this post. I would like to be a mother, albeit a “detached” one, but all the same, the oppurtunity to provide something. I watch Sesame Street…alone. But I am not alone with your post.

    1. Elizabeth,
      Thank you so much for your kind words and I hope someday you get to be a mother. I watch Winnie the Pooh alone. I enjoy the simplicity of children’s TV, or I am too exhausted to get up to change the movie. And you are providing something by just being you!

  2. One of the hardest things about motherhood are the gawd-awful expectations from others and from ourselves. For some reason we think there is a magic formula that we are supposed to figure out the second we become a mother. I have 5 children…and I’ve yet to find THE WAY. But what I have found is comfort in knowing that when I look into my children’s eyes and really see them and their needs, it’s a beautiful thing to know that I am often the only one who can fulfill them.

    The flip-flopping emotions are often hard to manage–I think it’s almost impossible to feel sane when we are constantly switching roles–especially if we have aspirations of our own. But as the children get older and have activities that they enjoy (that don’t require our help), the time we have to pursue our dreams begins to widen a bit.

    And of course there is the ever-present knowledge that these precious beasts are only babies for a while…and we will miss this when they are grown, oddly forgetting all the frustrating times.

    1. Britton,
      Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. Five children and there is no secret formula — the cat’s out of the bag! I think the secret is knowing we can do the best to evolve as mothers and become more educated and trust our instincts to nurture and love our children.
      You are right — we judge ourselves so harshly. Perhaps it is because of all the focus on how-to parent instead of the heart of parenting. Maybe because we live in an information age and we think we can Google, “How can I be a better mother.” Perhaps this is what is driving the insanity of trying to do everything perfect — humans are imperfect creatures. It is when we accept we are not perfect as mothers that it becomes a lot easier. I have relaxed a lot more now that my son is two years old, but reading through old diary entries, I was certainly trying to find the perfect way to mother. The magic comes when we realize there is no absolute right way to do anything — motherhood is not math. It is philosophy and art.

  3. Yeah, I get it, too. It gets easier, tho. For me, the first few years of parenting (as a new parent with that first child) beat me up a little. I had to learn a whole new career — parenting — and find a whole new identity — Mommy. And with little ones, oh, it can be so boring and frustrating and lonely. But they get older, and we slowly evolve into a content, confident mother who can’t imagine life another way! Keep writing…it’ll be your saving grace.

    1. Rita,
      Thank you for your comment. It is a new career and so many things have to get relearned, that came so easy and natural (showering, getting in the car, going on trips, etc). I remember thinking when still my son was on his play mat and I wished for him to be mobile and more exciting. Well, he is more than mobile! It’s about flexibility I guess. Some days are diamond, some days are dust. The thing that counts is my little one is happy and healthy and active and independent, but loves to snuggle, breastfeed, and be with his mama. And I love it just as much.

  4. I get it. Sometimes I suck at the Mommy thing. It’s hard. I have a three year old and a one year old. Some days I just let them run wild. Thank you.

    1. Sarah,
      You are welcome and I am glad you enjoyed the post. I think we mothers are hardest on ourselves. I can’t imagine having two — I am still trying to find balance with one. Running wild is good for the soul and the imagination. Summer is here! Yeah. Parks, pools, playdates, all great activities. My mother-in-law told me, “Take the kids to the park and let them run off their energy; bring them home for lunch, and then let them nap.”

  5. relating to everything you said in your article-right now, right here with my toddler. just going with the tide…….

    1. Chris,
      The ocean surf of motherhood is calm and easy sometimes, and loud and overwhelming other times. Isn’t it a lovely sea we swim in as mothers. Sometimes I have to wear three or four life jackets to survive the waves. Thank you for your comments. Toddlers are such interesting little beings. Magical, insightful, and all the other adjectives…
      Ride on surfer mama…you are swimming in the great sea of motherhood with whales and dolphins and diamonds, and some seaweed and jelly fish. Sorry to overload the metaphors here. 🙂

  6. This is a really lovely post. Motherhood is a beautiful mess. We just do the best we can with what we have, know, and feel. Yeah. I get it.

    1. Lisa,
      “a beautiful mess” — I like that. Thanks for your comments. I felt very vulnerable before I posted this essay, not wanting to reveal the not so shiny moments of motherhood, but I know when I feel vulnerable that I nailed it, as far as writing goes. Thanks for the kind words. And you are right – we do what we feel is right — following our instincts. Nothing wrong with that.

  7. This is so beautifully written and to be honest, hits home for me in an eerily close way. You truly speak my feelings, so we are not alone. Keep going because I’m sure that like myself, you give it your best everyday (even if it isn’t “perfect”).


    1. Nicole,
      Thank you so much darling. That makes me feel so happy. I really appreciate when people take the time to comment, as I know many mothers may have a baby nursing and a toddler causing chaos. I think we mothers are hardest on ourselves, trying to live up to the urban legend of the perfect mother.

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