The Motherhood Club

by Ann Douglas

My mom gave me this 'Mother's Journal' when I was pregnant. She wrote something in it for me, but her words just sounded corny to me before Ryan was born. But when I read it after he was born, her message made me cry. She had written 'Welcome to the Club!' It brings tears to my eyes even now.
- Tracy Moroney, mother of two, Burlington, Ontario

When I first told people I was pregnant, people who had disappeared out of my life when they had their own children suddenly reappeared. It was like I had 'joined the club.' They could relate to me again, and I to them. I had things to talk about with people who had kids.
- Marilyn Thomsen, mother of two, Los Angeles, California

There are few experiences as dramatic as that of becoming a mother. One moment you're totally in control of your own destiny: the next, you've surrendered yourself -- body and soul -- to meeting the ever-changing demands of a tiny, red-faced infant.

Is it any wonder that so many women view motherhood as a great dividing line separating who they were B.B. (Before Baby), and who they've since become?

For many, it's the intensity of the love that they feel for their child that they find so overwhelming. "Everyone warned me that being a parent would change my life," recalled Wendy Putler of Gilbert, Arizona, who gave birth fifteen months ago. "I thought they meant not getting enough sleep, not being able to travel whenever I please, and so on. I had no idea that having a child would be such a shocking experience. It has made me aware of a depth of feeling I never knew I possessed.

Like Putler, Los Angeles mother of two Marilyn Thomsen was surprised by strength of her feelings: "What surprised me was the joy," she recalled. "I don't think anyone can really tell you about the intense love of a mother for her child. You have to experience it for yourself."

"I think motherhood has made me both fierce and kind," said Elizabeth Walker, a mother of two in Logan, Utah. "I perceive threats to my children like a mother wolf, and I view the college students who jaywalk on the campus where I work as other mothers' sons whom I must protect."

For some women, the powerful experience of becoming a mother starts long before birth. "You don't become a mother when you have a positive pregnancy test, or even at birth, but during the time before and after the birth," said Darcy Bretz of Roselle, Illinois, who became a mother 17 months ago.

For others, it is the act of giving birth itself that suddenly redefines who they are.

"The experience of childbirth really changed me," said Diane Wolf, a Peterborough, Ontario, mother of three. "It really boosted my self-esteem. I felt that if I could survive childbirth, I could do anything. I became a whole lot more courageous, a lot more of a risk-taker. I feel now like there's nothing in the world that I can't do if I put my mind to it."

Motherhood often changes a woman's view of the world, and refocuses her ideas about what is important. When Katharine de Baun of Port Townsend, Maine became a mother two years ago, she found her focus shifting from herself and her career to the world around her. "In having to care 24 hours per day for a little baby, I was exhausted and overwhelmed, of course, but I was also secretly relieved to be able to stop being so obsessed with myself. Becoming a mom was a graduating from the long-in-dying angst of my twenties; I felt like a true adult for the first time in my life. For me, motherhood was nothing less than a revolution in my identity, my priorities, my maturity."

Tia Harrison -- an Omaha, Nebraska, mother of two - learned how to stop sweating the small stuff after her daughters were born. "Before I had children, I was on top of everything. My house was clean, my nails (hands and feet!) were always polished, my makeup was done to perfection, and every hair was in place. My friends now look at me as a real person. They see my shortcomings and you know what? I don't care. That is a change for me."