My only sister was born the year I turned 14. I anticipated her birth with mother-like joy. While the other 14-year-old girls I knew were preoccupied with blue mascara and gravity-defying bangs, I was obsessed with nursery decor (bears) and baby clothes (yellow). I knew I wanted a sister, desperately, but I couldn't have known the motherly love I'd feel for her.
That was my first taste of the love of a mother.
A few years later, I had my first child. And similarly, I couldn't have prepared for the way it would make me feel.
Kelsey came on a blistering hot day in August, a week overdue. When I held her, my world stopped. The sum of the entire universe was in my arms. I didn't have much at the age of 20, but I had her. She was my introduction to motherly love—the deepest love I'd ever know. Today she is 19. She is a profoundly beautiful young woman, soulful and passionate. She is my lotus flower. I couldn't love her more.
Sean made his appearance on an unseasonably rainy day in May. I was terrified I couldn't love him as much as his sister. But the love I feared would be divided was instead exponential. He taught me how to cope with tantrums, how to answer an endless stream of questions. Today he is 16. He is smart and funny, big brother extraordinaire, a musical genius. He is my song. I couldn't love him more.
Owen surprised me in the best way. He came on a foggy day in January. He taught me that the best things in life are the things you didn't expect. He made me baby-proof the house and taught me that 18-month-old toddlers can, and will, climb on top of the refrigerator if that's where the cookies are. Today he is 15. He is kind and concerned, curious and hilarious. He is my laughter. I couldn't love him more.
Ella was born in the kitchen. She was the unifier, the product of a new marriage and a new life. She showed me how powerful I was as I pushed her nearly 11-pound body through mine. She was the baby I thought I'd never get to have. She taught me how to live on the tiniest amount of sleep. She was in our room, snuggled between us, until we added another bed. Today she is 4. She is sassy and silly, stubborn and creative. She is my spitfire. I couldn't love her more.
Max came after two days of arduous labor, a home birth turned hospital birth. He eventually eased out in two pushes, with the biggest head of any baby I've ever seen, and the bluest of blue eyes, like his father. Today he is 2, and we've added yet another bed to keep him near us. He taught me to share space on my lap for two nursing babes, and what it feels like to answer the burning questions of the universe at 2 am (Why do cars need gas? How do air conditioners work? Why does food turn into poop?). He is intelligent beyond imagination, curious, fast and furious. He is my tornado. I couldn't love him more.
The love I feel as a mother is the kind that words don't do justice. It's a stay up all night with a fevered baby, hold the head of a vomiting toddler and the hand of a terrified kindergartener, pace the floor of a hospital, cry tears of heartbreak with a wounded teenager and tears of pride at any of a hundred performances and competitions, hop on a plane and fly across the country at the drop of a hat, throw yourself in front of a train, kind of love.
I couldn't love being a mom more.