The Ache of Forgiveness
I can never forget the searing hot pain of contractions as my body moved forward to the moment I’d meet my daughter. There was sweet relief in between them, but as the next wave came, I braced and breathed and sometimes screamed aloud.
How anything can be worth that sensation is beyond my understanding, but the minute she came into the world and I pulled her wrinkled little body to my chest and saw the soul behind those squinting eyes, all was forgiven. Every blazing ache. It didn’t seem to matter anymore.
The process of bringing babies into the world just prepares us for the rest of it. Our lives together with children are always a dance between pain or discomfort and the sweet relief that comes with the next healing moment. Like birth, we ride these waves again and again and watch them soften our hearts and deepen our relationship with these little people who call us Mom.
There have been painful instances when I’ve had to swallow my expectations of parenthood to embrace what it really is. In these times, I’ve had to move past the discomfort and forgive my kids for their growing pains and misunderstandings. Mothering can rip away the veil of your own ego in a way nothing else can: embarrassing tantrums in the grocery store, loud screams in restaurants, defiant sprints away from me at the park as I call their names to leave. I confront challenges everyday when I feel I’ve used a hundred different approaches to guide them and none of them seem to work the way I intended.
Like birth, motherhood is not all gladness and light. There are arduous feelings that come with this job. Those nights you lie in bed and feel so heavy, craving a minute to yourself that is only yours, wondering if you’re doing any of it right.
Outside of my frustration with my children, there are moments I’ve had to forgive myself as well. For disappointed glances in the mirror when I see stretch marks or a round belly or empty breasts exhausted from years of nursing babies. For not having the patience with them that I should. For not being the room mom with crafts at the ready for every holiday and season. For not being the teacher I should be on a given day because the dance between motherhood and profession became too complicated, and I embraced the best I could do and just stopped there.
And as they grow and I climb out of the trenches of those early years, I’m working to forgive myself for not seeing the world with the same fearless eyes I once had a decade ago. Danger and heartbreak are lurking everywhere now. Having a child is like having your heart break open nearly every minute of every day, and it forever clouds the way you see the world around you.
It’s exhausting, but this dance between brokenness and healing is what deepens your heart and gives your life depth in a way it didn’t have it before. I’ve heard it said that of all the virtues to which one can aspire, forgiveness is both the hardest to attain and the most evolved, and as a mother, I have to do it everyday. Forgiving myself and exhaling any judgment I hold as I watch these two little people create their own way and carve a path to the life that stretches before them.
It all brings me back to the very beginning, the ebb and flow of contractions as I became a mother. In these years that have unfolded since those early moments, there is still the same rhythm—pain and heartbreak followed by the sweet sound of your heart breaking wide open in the best way. Becoming bigger and stronger, I move through the brokenness to find a whole new place on the other side.
Katie Mitchell is a composition instructor at a small liberal arts college in Georgia and a single mother to two energetic kids. Her work has been featured at Sweatpants and Coffee, Role Reboot, and Scary Mommy’s Club Mid. She also writes regularly at www.mamathereader.com.