It sounds so strange to my ears to say that I have “a mother’s hope.”

It would have made me cringe even a few years ago to use a phrase with that ring to it. But now I have a daughter asleep in the other room, and the phrase “a mother’s hope” stirs something deep within me, making me feel a rise of bile and tears. Bile, because I see how the world is. Tears, because I now have that very thing I have sought, without knowing it – hope.

I like to think that I’m an educated person. After all, I spent years earning college degrees. “Book learning,” you might scoff, “is nothing to experience.” I’ve had a few jobs, been a few places, and I still haven’t given up on a couple of deep-seated aspirations for myself and my life.

In short, I was in no way prepared for motherhood.

I was not ready for the little person who took over my life and who looks so much like the person I admire more than anyone else. I was not ready for her small, perfect hands, and her tiny, vulnerable head. I was not ready for the pleasure of middle-of-the-night feedings and the complete feeling my arms would have every time she was in them. I had no idea that a sincere smile would change my outlook forever, or that any little excuse was reason enough to take her back into my arms.

Nothing had prepared me for life beyond myself.

Motherhood is scary. There’s this great opportunity to shape someone, to impact their views and learning, to do everything right. Then there’s the risk: ruin their life in some inexplicable way, unconsciously make them a menace or a danger, pass along some uncontrollable factor that ruins your grandchildren’s lives. I should have considered all these things before I met the man who made me think motherhood was attainable. In fact, I did.

None of the risks matter anymore. (It’s too late anyway!) Nah, I don’t think there’s a maternal instinct any more than I think there’s a man on the moon. But I do think that there is something that has clicked in me. There is some wellspring of confidence that makes me know that my first interest is protecting my child. It is this same something that probably made the phrase “a mother’s hope” relevant to me, in all of my wanting-to-be-nonconforming-and-ending-up-just-like-everyone-else glory.

I find that I have so many hopes for my daughter, but they all boil down to one thing, the hope that she is safe to adulthood and that we provide the very best for her. Sounds a little “small,” even as I write it.

Modified from a post originally published August 19, 2006, when my only child was 19 months old.

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