As I’ve written before, I came to motherhood late in the game. My husband and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary a few months before our son was born. He was born ten days before I turned 35, that all important milestone in the obstetrics world where you become a “geriatric pregnancy.”

Unlike many couples, my husband and I never felt that overwhelming urge to become parents.

If I am being completely honest, we weren’t completely sure we wanted to be. I don’t regret waiting to have our son because it allowed us years to grow up and experience life together, just the two of us.

However, as I sit here and type this on my first Mother’s Day, I can’t imagine life now without my son. I am so thankful for the gift of motherhood: the beauty, the challenges, and the love.

The military has had us moving for much of our marriage. In the first three years, we moved three times. Then we lived overseas for six years. While I know there is never a good time to have a baby, there are better times. We were far from family, busy traveling, and my husband was often TDY and deployed. There was no hurry; we were busy living our lives and didn’t feel like anything was missing.

When we finally moved stateside a little over two years ago, we started talking about how we might want to start “trying.” After all, as many well-meaning people told us, we weren’t getting any younger.

All kidding aside, I knew logically that the window on motherhood was starting to close. While I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to have a baby, I was equally sure that I wasn’t ready to close that window altogether.

Then I started having some women’s health issues. When I went to get them checked out, I was told I had endometriosis and a polyp, and that even if I were to get pregnant, I would most likely miscarry. I was in a bit of shock. I had never had these problems before or suspected anything was wrong.

What followed were months of invasive tests and ultrasounds. I know how frustrating this was for me so I can only imagine what it like for the many couples who struggle for years with infertility.

You might think this was when I started to panic, but I was surprisingly zen about the whole thing. This is ironic because I am not zen about much of anything. I just knew in my heart that if it was meant to be, it would work out. There are many paths to motherhood, and I would find one. I also knew if I didn’t find that path, I would have to be OK with that, too. Eventually, I was able to see a specialist who determined there was, in fact, nothing wrong. I was a little irritated at being put through the ringer for essentially nothing, but mostly I was just relieved. Three months later, I was pregnant.

The first test I took was negative. When I was still late two days later, I took another one and was shocked when it came back positive. I wasn’t shocked that I could be pregnant because I am grown up and I know how babies get made. I was shocked that it actually worked. I yelled for my husband to come to the bathroom because it was an emergency. He told me that if it was a scorpion (we live in the desert) that I was capable of killing it myself.

Eventually, he came in there and after minutes of shock, we decided it was probably a false positive (because those happen so often). So we went and bought two more tests. All positive. I’d like to tell you we fully appreciated the magnitude of the moment but no, we drove our car to the Subaru dealership because we had a previously scheduled appointment to get the oil changed. 

While we may not have been off to the most auspicious start, we quickly became excited about the little zygote, as we started calling him. I downloaded an app to track his growth and development and was amazed that something that was only the size of a poppy seed could make me feel so rotten. I also was amazed that I could already love something so completely.

The doubts I had about motherhood changed the second I realized I was pregnant. I can’t explain it any other way, but there was an immediate and almost instantaneous shift in my perspective: I would have given my life for him then just as I would give it now.

I am pretty sure I haven’t stopped worrying since finding out I was pregnant. Like many pregnancies, I had some spotting early on but then I had it again at sixteen and twenty-two weeks. Everything ended up being fine but those were some of the scariest moments of my life, worrying that I would lose my baby. My son was born at thirty-six weeks via emergency C-section. I clearly remember telling my husband in my drug-induced haze was that if there was ever any choice between the baby and me, he better make sure they took care of the baby. The longest seconds of my life were waiting to hear my son’s newborn cries.

Motherhood is hard. It is exhausting and frustrating and sometimes even a little lonely. It also is the most wonderful and important job I have ever had. Any lingering doubts I had about becoming a mother were erased the second I held my son. The love I have for him is a love like I have never known—sacrificial and all encompassing. I used to worry that I would be bored or restless staying home with a baby. However, I could watch him play, eat, or let’s be honest, sleep for hours.

One of the best things about motherhood has been seeing my husband become a father. We have been through a lot together: the loss of family, friends, and beloved pets. We’ve survived countless moves and military frustrations together. However, I have never loved my husband more than I have as our son’s father.

Motherhood has also made me appreciate my own parents more. It has been so fun watching my parents become grandparents, as my son is the first grandchild on that side. It has brought out a totally different side of my mom. This is a woman who told me I was being “a little dramatic” when I had a dry socket after I had my wisdom teeth taken out. Now she worries when I don’t turn the space heater on for my son’s bath that he might be cold. In Vegas. In August.

Motherhood requires a lot of sacrifice and giving of yourself. I’ve given up being able to leave the house in less than thirty minutes; I’ve also given up dangly earrings, personal space, and unencumbered travel. While I have given up a lot I have gained so much more.

Motherhood is a gift I wasn’t sure I wanted, but the gift I am now the most thankful for. In fact, it has been the greatest gift of my life.