Like many young girls, my dolls were my life. Stephanie, Heather, and Molly stood perfectly manicured in hand-sewn matching blankets and pillows strewn over hand-me-down doll beds. At any point they could be seen smiling up at me from the floor or perfectly propped up against the wall to greet me upon my return home from 2nd grade. Motherhood was always in me.
Being the 7th of 9 children, I watched each of my 6 older sisters choose the challenge and gift of motherhood. My good parents sung the praises of the role of mother both in word and example. I always knew motherhood was what I wanted.
After graduating from college, I married my high school sweetheart. 4 years into marriage, the painful reality suddenly became clear, motherhood just wasn’t going to happen for me.
For reasons no doctor could definitively identify, every attempt at motherhood ended early. A positive pregnancy test would end 3 separate times in life-saving surgeries for me, but not my babies.
After 3 surgeries and 2 miscarriages, I turned to fertility treatments to try to get my baby to stay. Then I jumped into the world of science. Month after month of further tests, injections, pills, procedures, drugs, appointments, tears and prayers, my 3 IVF cycles left me with still aching arms. Maybe motherhood wasn’t my path?
All tests came back normal for me and my husband. The treatments should have been working. Diagnosis? unexplained.
I speak of my journey to motherhood because it underlines every moment of every day. The struggle to motherhood has formed the foundation of gratitude I strive to act from. I do not take lightly what I have been entrusted with.
4 years after I begun, through the grace and timing of God, Eleanor came into my world. It is no small matter to have then been given 4 more miracles in my twins Julia & Lauren, Tessa and Andrew.
I had been forced to evaluate and determine very deliberately, before any children arrived into my home, what I would sacrifice to be a mother…and I would give it all. Financial, emotional, physical, and mental heartache came at a price. But, a price that I would never trade.
The clinic I drove to was 50 miles away round trip, taking 3 hours in the car, from my home. I would have to be there sometimes 3 times a week with appointments lasting an hour or so each time. While holding down a full time job first at Disney and then KPMG, my time became limited. Thus, I had to deliberately let go of some hobbies and activities that weren’t of highest priority. I couldn’t let life, “just happen” as I used to. I had to take time to determine what things were important and what to let go.
As mothers, we must look deliberately at our lives and determine what is the best use of our time. Does it edify? Does it contribute to the betterment of our homes, our children? Our communities? Does it provide a needed outlet of happiness for me or my children? And then pursue those things with balance. It has been said, “Mothers who know, do less.” (Julie Beck)
As mothers, we must fortify our children. They will have rough roads. We must teach them to build faith, love others, work hard, and enjoy life’s beauties. I tell my children often, “I’m so glad you came to my family!” If we as mothers don’t teach our agendas of love, faith, integrity, kindness and standing for what is right, society or peers will teach theirs.
My children are now ages 7, 5, 5, 3, and 1 and motherhood is very much “happening” for me.
On a typical day, I bandaid boo boos, sing lullabies, teach chores, take temperatures, drive carpools, change diapers, not occasionally deliver food and watch the meal tossed onto the floor by chubby hands and knowing smiles. My Costco cart is filled with Ritz crackers, apple sauce, cuties oranges and wet wipes. And in that checkout line I get both the adoring and snarky looks from the random stranger wondering what in the world this person thinks she’s doing bringing all 5 of her muddy-fingered children to the grocery store
Unaffected by their stares of admiration or shame, I am not derailed. I know who I am and I know what an empty grocery cart looks like. I have been blessed to be a mother. Unheralded, undersung and undervalued in a culture often uprooted from its basic principles, mothers do the work of 10 and find themselves still in sincerity asking, “What more can I do?”
Mother. I do not take the title or challenge lightly. It is who I am and since my Eleanor’s arrival, I realized it’s who I’ve always been. Whether aiding a friend or offering forgiveness to a stranger, the attributes of lifting, serving, giving compassion, choosing patience, and offering time to the most important items is a skill women inherently offer. Now just honed in the microscope of the laboratory of life in avenues of spilled milk on kitchen tables and problem solving again and again and again with an emotional teenager or toddler, motherhood is truly the noblest of callings.
A great leader once said, “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods?
Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?
When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing.”(Neal A. Maxwell)
Motherhood exhausts, enlightens, and enables you all at the same moment. Every mother has their unique road. Embrace that road and engage in the wrestle with the support and strength of lifting people by your side. Drown out the voices of negativity and naysaying by surrounding your days with positive, lifting women who choose to cheer you on in your wrestle.
I am in the trenches. We are all in our own trenches. Mothers, may you find value in your journey because you are the true leaders of this nation and of this world.
Natalie Kjelstrom is the 2017 California Mother of the Year.