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Erin Stewart: Being a mother is a journey of discovery

Published: Sunday, Dec. 25 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

I have been a mother for roughly 1,730 days.

Before that, I had many titles: wife, sister, daughter, co-worker with no sense of personal space.

And then, this momentous occasion occurred wherein a nurse in blue scrubs handed me a baby and my own mother chimed in from somewhere in the back of that delivery room to exclaim, “You’re a mom!”

Excuse me. What?

I remember thinking there should have been a much more stringent screening process because those hospital nurses just let us walk out of there with this little baby. Didn’t they know we were totally clueless? Didn’t they know I had killed four goldfish and numerous houseplants in past efforts to keep another living thing alive?

All I could hear as we walked out of the hospital — terrified and exhausted — was the sound of my mother’s voice on loop saying, “You’re a mom!”

Well, 1,730 days later and I’m still trying to decide what exactly that seemingly simple sentence means.

I first started this column with the hope of discovering what it meant to be a mother. I have written this column for three-and-a-half years — since my oldest daughter turned 1. This will be my last full-length column, although I will still be writing on the Just4Moms blog each week.

I wish I had some grand epiphany about motherhood to share. I wish I could reveal the secret to being a Supermom or being eternally patient.

But I have no great revelation today. I know a lot more about myself as a mother than I did in that delivery room years ago, but the only thing I know for certain is that being a mom is a process. You don’t become a mom when you leave the hospital. You don’t get a motherhood certificate to hang on the wall next to a birth certificate.

If only it were that black and white.

Motherhood is a process. I am a work in progress. Being a mom can’t be checked off a to-do list. You don’t receive a diploma. In fact, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully become the mother I want to be or the mother my children deserve.

I do know I will be a different mother tomorrow than I am today or than I was when that nurse handed me a pink puffball with trusting eyes.

There will be days of giggles and flour fights in the kitchen, but there will surely be days of tears and frustration. And while there are moments of startling transcendence and clarity, there is also constant doubt about who I am as a mom.

In fact, the only thing I never doubt is that becoming a mom is exactly who I am meant to be. I am more me, more true to my life because I am a mother.

Of all the titles and labels I have and will hold in life, none is more precious than mom. I wear it with pride and hold it dear. I only hope I’m worthy of it.

So as I write this last column, my final thought is that motherhood is a journey — one with twists and turns, ups and downs. Just as it doesn’t begin in the delivery room, it will never end. I will never be satisfied I am doing all I can or have reached my full mommy potential. Perhaps I’ll get close one day, but by then I’m sure I’ll have to relearn everything I ever knew about being a mother so I can be the world’s best grandmother.

It’s going to be a wild ride, and the best I can hope for is to hang on tight to the fleeting moments — and tiny hands — that have forever changed who I am.

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Stewart discusses it all while her 4-year-old daughter crams Mr. Potato Head pieces in her little sister's nose.

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