I always knew I wanted to be a mother. As a girl, I played house with my dollies, shushing them when they cried and kissing their plastic heads.
Looking back at that girl, I realize now that there was a lot she didn't know. This morning over my fresh-ground coffee, this mother of 22-1/2 years scratched out a list of 10 things she didn't know then that she knows now.
1. I didn't know - how could I? - just how completely a tiny, helpless scrap of humanity can capture the heart and hold it forever. From that first whooshing heartbeat and the first butterfly brushes, a mother's heart is never again her own. For all eternity, it enlarges, walking and pulsing and moving outside of her body; in my case, in the shape of a blue-eyed boy with rooster tails. Times four.
2. I didn't know that the size of a mother's heart is always changing, stretching to embrace each new baby that comes, then growing again to love their friends and then their own families.
3. I never knew, as I changed my dolly's dress, how many reasons there are to worry when you're a mama. Didn't know about the nighttime vigils. Didn't know the anxiety of separation, the terror that floods when you turn around in the grocery store and they're gone. Didn't know about the fear of the pond next door or the concern that pays for swimming lessons. Didn't know the thousand-and-one reasons that keep a mother awake, whispering prayers on her pillow in the dark.
4. No one told me that loving so much means that you will hurt hard and keen; that what pains your child hurts you even worse. I didn't know then that a playground taunt travels through that smaller heart and lands square in yours, stinging and burning like fire. I didn't know that motherhood makes lionesses of us all and that there'd be days I'd have to bite my tongue and pray to not sin.
5. I didn't know how exhausting it is, being a mother. I didn't know that it takes everything you've got and then some. Didn't know the bone-deep exhaustion; how it strips you bare and shows how selfish you can be, but, too, that you have more strength than you know.
6. I didn't know, playing house, how much joy mothers feel; joy so big that it makes up for the pain. Just looking at those eyes and the curve of the cheek can make you so happy it hurts. Watching them grow and find their talent and win at something...all the money in the world can never buy that kind of happiness.
7. I didn't know how making babies and raising them, how it binds you to their father. I didn't know the intimacy you feel when your eyes meet above those tousled heads, and your smiles say, "Just look at what we've done."
8. That girl in the homemade dress, she didn't know that letting go is one of the hardest things a grown-up mama will ever do. Rocking those babies in that small rocking chair, she didn't really know that babies grow up and walk away and there goes your heart, out into the big, wide world. No one told her that part.
9. I had no idea how rewarding it is, being a mother. How the happiness that comes from boy kisses and awkward hugs can't be bought or sold. How proud you feel when you see what they're growing up to be and that all the planting and pruning and watering and feeding is finally making fruit!
10. I didn't know how much my babies would enrich my spiritual life or how they would change the way I pray. I didn't realize they would lead me to a deeper dependence on the Heavenly Father or how I much I would need His wisdom to raise them aright.
These are things I didn't know before I was a mother. But I know them now. Oh, how I know them now! And I’d do it all again.