There is someone from my past I have been thinking about a lot lately. Her name is Valerie. She did a lot for me in a very short time, and I reflect fondly on my memories of her; especially when I think about my journey of motherhood. I only worked with her as my boss for a few years, and after she moved away, we kept in touch by writing good old-fashioned letters, through the U.S. mail.

The last letter I got from her was right before my daughter was born. I don’t remember much about what the letter said, but these words of wisdom that she offered have stuck with me since then: “Being a mother is the most rewarding and the most heartbreaking thing you will ever experience.”

When I read these words in her letter, I hadn’t even begun my journey of motherhood yet. I remember thinking that those words were a way to describe her journey. Surely it isn’t like that for every mom. She wasn’t normally a pessimistic person, but those words didn’t seem very encouraging either. I tossed them aside as much as I could, trying to be excited to be a new parent, and not get too overwhelmed.

But even when I was in the hospital after giving birth, those words kept popping into my head. “Being a mother is the most rewarding and the most heartbreaking thing you will ever experience.” Valerie was so wise, and she always knew what to say.

But this just didn’t seem right, not until I got home from the hospital with my daughter. My mom stayed with me for a day. Then she had to go back to work. I remember when she left that morning. I cried. I told her she couldn’t leave me alone with this baby. I didn’t know how to take care of her! What would I do with this baby all day? My mom reassured me that I would figure it out. And I did, but I also remember hearing Valerie’s words in the back of my head. Maybe I hadn’t realized the rewards yet, nor had I realized any heartbreak, but I had realized what an important job I had ahead of me, to raise another human. It seemed impossible, especially since I didn’t think of myself as an adult yet.

I can’t say that my daughter has really ever truly broken my heart; not like I have broken my mom’s heart. Not yet, at least. But I know it’s coming. Sure there has been some heartbreak. My daughter has told me she hates me, she has told me kids pick on her; all those normal things that make parents hurt for their children. But the journey has also been so rewarding with her. Getting to watch her learn new things, and seeing her grow into a young lady. It is worth my time and patience!

“Being a mother is the most rewarding and the most heartbreaking thing you will ever experience.”

As I have “evolved” as a mother, I now have found some truth in this statement. It takes so much restraint from me now to not give these words of wisdom to a blissfully unknowing expectant mother. I don’t think of it as a warning, but as letting them be aware of what lies ahead. And how serious of a job they have ahead of them, and how rewarding it can be, but also how truly heartbreaking it can be.

I hope I never have to experience the heartbreak that Valerie has felt as a mother. I hope that my children can lead perfect lives, and never get sick, and never get hurt, and that they will always be happy. But I know that at some point in their lives, I won’t be able to control their happiness or the things that happen to them; but the rewards have already been so great. I am glad I didn’t cast Valerie’s words aside when I first read them. These words have become so real to me; they help me see the good in stressful situations. These words come to me when I am overwhelmed and I remember how rewarding my job is, and how I should cherish these precious moments before their lives get too complicated.