Adulthood only confirmed my bias. Being childless meant I was free to do whatever I wanted, free travel where my heart took me, and free to spend my money however I pleased. As I grew older, my wariness of motherhood was exacerbated by my experiences with friends-turned-mommies. Friends who had longed their whole lives to become mothers would tell me weary-eyed that it “wasn’t what they expected.” They didn’t have time to do what they loved. They grew restless. They seemingly centered their existences on mind-numbing issues like how many times their child pooped that day.
And then there were the mommy bloggers. I loathed those mommy bloggers, getting all self-righteous over un-medicated childbirths, homemade baby food, and how busy they were establishing strict regimens for their kids all while doing 10 loads of laundry and stenciling the bathroom walls and couponing themselves into oblivion.
So when I discovered—much to my horror—that I was pregnant, I expected to become a different person. I thought I needed to in order to be a halfway decent mother. I couldn’t immerse myself in what made me feel alive and be a good mother who dutifully sacrifices everything for her offspring. Or so I believed.
Thus I became a deeply miserable pregnant woman, 25 years old and alone and convinced that life was over. The father, as it turns out, was only interested in a summer fling, not a child.
The pregnancy that followed was excruciating, physically and emotionally. I managed to finish the semester of grad school and my seasonal job and then hid away in my parents’ home where I huddled in bed and cried for the remaining months. I was so distraught over the idea of becoming a mother that I endured the first 12 hours of labor crouched in bed in total denial of the fact that I was about to give birth. Luckily my mother found me and insisted I go to the hospital.
Another 12 hours later I gave birth to my daughter. I was officially, undeniably a mother. And as the days and weeks passed, I continued to be shocked. Not from the exhaustion or the newness, but that it all came so naturally, and was so much more enjoyable than my observations had led me to believe.
Yes, sleep was hard to come by those first couple months. Yes, I spend a lot of time changing diapers. Yes, I do spend some of my time chastising my daughter (now almost two) in public as she runs off or gets into things. People notice; sometimes they smile or laugh discreetly. Every once in a while someone is noticeably annoyed.
But the overwhelming truth is she has added so much to my life, and I don’t see my life as muted in any way. Now I share my favorite music, films, books, restaurants, values, and passions with someone else. I read her all the books I loved to read as a child. I teach her to cook the dishes I enjoy making. I put on my favorite music for nightly dance-parties in her room. We go to art museums, where she is in turn fascinated or bored by the works. We check out music and dance performances. (She is partial to flamenco.) She accompanies me on all my errands, making even the dullest task animated if not also laced with anxiety. She even accompanies me, when necessary, to work-related events like interviews and panel discussions. At one gala, she projectile-vomited all over the table, promptly ending our evening out. But at night when I awake overwhelmed by racing thoughts about life’s impossibilities, she is there by my side, softly snoring and silently reminding me that I love and am loved.
Even more surprising, I find that not only is my life still stimulating, it is full and passionate in a way I had forgotten was possible. I am now obligated to view the world through the passionately hungry eyes of a child who finds mystery and miracles in life’s seemingly mundane moments. On the days we go to the gym I am in a rush afterward, hurrying to the car so that I can speed home, make Sofia her lunch, and get her down for a nap by a certain hour. Sofia, however, could care less about my determination to live in my head as I plan for the future. She falls behind me as we march towards the parking lot. She ambles, caught up in a private reverie as she surveys the gymnasium’s gardens and tree-lined veranda. She wants to listen to the birds sing, wonder at the shape of a leaf, bask in sunlight. Her attitude reminds me daily: This is life. I am living NOW. Find beauty in the present moment before it slips away. In this way, she embodies passion.
What’s more, her reminder to find meaning in everyday life has had effects even more profound. When I was a small child, I used to spend nights furtively scribbling stories in a notebook. I forgot about that passion of mine for years. Then recently, having marinated for months in the youthful passion of Sofia, I allowed my passion for writing to reawaken. Something about my journey—from the situation I found myself in before Sofia, to the motherhood I now embrace—has ignited in me the desire to share my stories. I have picked up the pen again. I am writing a novel. All the pain, anger, and mourning that strangled me throughout my pregnancy, and all the unimagined love and peace that followed, have been reborn into an impassioned creativity that intensifies every time I envision the life and mother I want to give my child.
Now I am writing the novel that I never “had the time” to write when I was too busy living for myself. In a way, it's a paradox. With Sofia by my side, I am no longer free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I please. But, instead of that idea of freedom, I now possess a clearer focus of my true passion—writing. Somehow, in a way I can’t fully express in words, I am more alive as a mother than I was as a happy-go-lucky girl who traveled the world and reveled in freedom.
In the end, though my daughter’s needs guide much of my schedule, I am the one who guides our life together. All the deeply-rooted values and passions that I possessed pre-motherhood remain—just more vast and bold than ever, as I instill them in the everyday routine of our luminous little life together. And she adds even more to mine.