Over three years ago I ‘signed up’ to the greatest test of my life.
An endurance test of mammoth proportions.
A test that would challenge my body and my mind.
A test that would shake me to my core.
A test that would make me question everything I thought I knew.
What test am I talking about?
The test of motherhood.
This morning as I sit here, bleary eyed and exhausted after broken sleep and an early toddler rise, I am reminded yet again that motherhood – besides anything else- is the greatest endurance test I have ever known.
And on so many levels too.
Sleep deprivation is perhaps one of the biggest challenges in the endurance test. The most common parenting challenge of all. The one that can really take us to our knees in exhaustion when we experience it in full swing.
But it is not the only thing we have to endure as mums.
Far from it.
As a woman, our endurance levels are tested right from the onset of sperm meeting egg.
Throughout the early bouts of morning sickness, throughout the middle months of pregnancy as our bumps begin to grow, right through to the end of our pregnancies as we nurse swollen feet, deal with heartburn and try to make it to the toilet on time about 100 times a day.
And then of course there is labour.
Bringing Elsie into the world took me 24 hours. One whole life-changing day. A whole day of pain, concentration, determination and anguish.
A whole day of summoning up and drawing on reserves of strength – both mental and physical – that I never knew I even possessed.
Then there are those incredible but terrifying newborn days. The days you take one at a time, as best as you can.
Hanging in there, trying anything and everything to keep your sweet bundle of joy happy and healthy, as you nurse swollen leaking breasts, can barely walk due to the pain ‘down there’ and survive on a mere handful of hours of sleep, if you’re lucky.
As they get older, there are only more feats to endure. Because motherhood never really gets easier. It’s just that the challenges become different.
Teething, sickness and colds.
Interference, judgment and opinions.
Nursery introductions, weening and my biggest of them so far, potty training.
Motherhood is ALL about endurance.
Hanging in there on those days when you just would do anything for an hour to yourself.
Getting up and getting on with things, as you juggle motherhood and work, the best you can.
Figuring things out for yourself when you really haven’t got a clue.
And doing all of these things while you try to ignore the tsunami of external pressures and people telling you what you really ‘should’ be doing.
Enduring. Battling. Holding things together.
Mums – we deserve a medal.
Because unlike other feats of endurance, as new mums, we receive no training.
Unlike running a marathon or climbing a mountain, there is very little you can learn about motherhood, until you enter this new realm.
Very little you can understand about what it means to be a mum, until you become one. You cannot train your motherhood muscles until you need to use them.
You cannot fully grasp what you’re about to undertake until you’re in the midst of it. And you cannot pull out when get a motherhood injury and say that’s enough for me, thank you very much.
But yet somehow we endure.
Somehow we survive those sleepless nights, frantic newborn days and weeks of teething.
Somehow we forget about the agony of labour and the sickness of pregnancy.
Somehow we learn, find our feet and become experts at juggling plates whilst holding our babies on our hips.
And as our children grow, so do we. As they learn, so do we.
Because although our motherhood muscles cannot be tested prior to being a mum, they are always there and waiting to be used.
Because although we may lack experience, we soon discover our maternal instinct and learn how to make it speak louder.
Because although we lack the training and the education, we have unimaginable depths of stamina and soul.
Because although tiredness often overwhelms us, our hearts continually remain open and beating and strong.
Motherhood is always about endurance.
But it is also an experience that we can learn to excel at.
It is also an experience that is worth all of the pain and frustration and exhaustion.
And our reward is the greatest prize of all. Our children and their love.
So tough it may often be, but I’d much rather be a mum any day than climb a bloody big mountain.