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I always wanted to be a mom. Sure, there were other ambitions along the way—some highly imaginative (like my dreams of becoming a professional tightrope walker or Broadway performer), others more realistic and eventually attained (earning my teaching credential, going skydiving, living outside of California). But Wife and Mom were the two titles I wanted most of all, the two roles I could never imagine not holding. I was the little girl whose favorite activity was playing house, the college student who boldly claimed, “I just want to teach for a few years, but the end-goal is to stay home with my kids.”

Our journey to becoming parents was a rocky one, with a few bumps along the way. For a time I wondered if I’d ever get the chance to see my dream of motherhood fulfilled. But God answered the deepest desire of my heart, and on January 16, 2015, I welcomed Charleston Michael into my arms and entered into the foreign world of Motherhood.

If I had to choose a single word to describe my three-year foray into motherhood, it would be Unexpected. And that fact alone is, well, unexpected. Having given birth at the age of thirty, I was no adolescent mama. I’d spent the previous two decades working with children in some capacity, either as a babysitter or camp counselor or teacher. I’d read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, and watched most of my friends become moms. I’d even been a nanny to a newborn. But NOTHING could have prepared me for what was ahead.

In most ways, Motherhood has been far, FAR better than I could ever have imagined. The overwhelming love I experienced from the moment I first laid eyes on Charleston was infinitesimally greater than anything I’d felt before. Of course I’d heard about how much other people loved their kids, but I didn’t quite get it until I had one my own. And being his mom has given me a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment than anything else I’ve ever done.

Motherhood has been unexpectedly intuitive. I would hardly consider myself a “natural mom”—many aspects of parenthood have been a struggle for me—but a lot of it has been instinctive. I’ve been surprised by how often I’ve gone against what the professionals or my peers are saying to go with my “mom gut,” and it’s rarely steered me wrong.

That’s not to say parenting has been easy; in fact, it has been unexpectedly difficult: I had no idea how much fear and anxiety would be involved, or how heartbreaking the continuous changes would be. I’ve struggled with knowing how to fully appreciate and enjoy my son at each stage, while also mourning the baby that has grown up. Each birthday and milestone has been joyous while simultaneously sending me into a bit of a depression. I never could have anticipated that unique brand of bittersweet reminiscence.

I also could never have predicted how much parenting would teach me about myself. The last three years haven’t just been spent getting to know my son; they’ve introduced me to a whole new me and forced me to face my inner ickiness in ways I’d previously been able to avoid. In my pre-mom visions, giving birth to a child would instantly transform me into a fully mature, self-aware, emotionally healthy woman. That clearly has not been the case—and I’ve been unexpectedly on board with a lot of the uncomfortable self exploration.

One of the biggest ways motherhood has caught me off guard is that I never really thought I’d be a mom to just one child. I don’t know that I had a specific number of children in mind, but it definitely wasn’t ONE. And, having gotten started a little later in life, I’d assumed my children would be born within a short period of time.

That obviously hasn’t happened, and definitely not for a lack of trying. I won’t go into the details of our fertility journey (because it’s boring and painful, and a public blog just isn’t the place), but I will say that Luke and I still very much desire to grow our family, and are doing all that we can to make that a reality. But there’s a very real possibility that that won’t happen.

We could be one and done.

Just writing that last sentence has set the tears rolling down my face. I don’t like HATE to think of our family as being complete. Partly because I long for Charleston to experience the joy of having a sibling, partly for selfish reasons: I long to feel a baby moving inside of me, at least one more time. I can’t imagine never getting to relive the unique exhilaration that comes from birthing a child into the world. And I LOVE the newborn stage and want to revisit it with a second child.

I’m also realizing that a big part of me feels like I can’t be a “real mom” if I only have one child. . . as if having a singleton has been an introduction to parenthood, but only after giving birth to two or three or four babies will I have earned my Mom badge.

Cognitively, I realize that just isn’t true. I’ve known many incredible moms who have had single children, and even many mother figures who never had children of their own. Their intrinsic value has not been diminished by one iota due to the lack of additional chicks in their brood. I know this is true. . . and I’m fighting to believe it for myself.

Mother’s Day is meant to be a celebration of ALL moms. No two mothers’ journeys look the same, yet every mom is worthy of being honored and celebrated on this day. If your path to becoming (or not becoming) a mom has been a little unexpected, welcome to the crowd! This Sunday, let’s celebrate moms and motherhood for all that it is: the good, the bad, the messy, and the utterly unexpected.

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