Nobody warned me just how physical parenthood would be. It’s like a full-on assault on the body and soul, every single day. Physically, it takes its toll too, and I’m not just talking droopy boobs, bags under eyes and the inevitable extra pounds around the middle. Five consecutive years of lugging a newborn, then a toddler, around—usually on my left shoulder or hip—have pretty much wrecked my neck, vertebrae and rotator cuff. Aches and pains aside, it occurred to me that motherhood has a meteoric impact on our five senses, and even heightens them.
1. Sight: I used to stare at every millimeter of my newborns, fascinated by each tiny detail on these creatures that my body had made. Eyelashes, freckles, lips, the fragile maze of their ears, toes, fingernails. My eyes would—and still do—drink in these details. Fast-forward a few years to crawling, cruising toddlers that you can’t take your eyes off for a nanosecond for fear they’ll climb a book case or eat a bug. These days, I watch my kids with less obsession and with more amusement and curiosity, observing how they interact, socialize, wrestle, role-play. As I tuck them into bed every night, the images of their sleepy, happy faces—hungrily reading, eager for dreams— are seared into my brain.
2. Smell: Remember the sweet smell of the head of a newborn baby or a toddler, fresh from the tub, wrapped in a towel? And the nasal assault of a blow-out diaper. Pee-soaked clothes during potty training. Puke in the car seat. A mother’s nostrils smell it all!
3. Sound: Oh, the torture of listening to your baby crying during the night as you attempt to sleep train him or her (and not cave.) Or that moment when you first hear your baby say “mama” or “dada.” Not to mention being able to identify your kid’s cry in a crowded playground. I love the sound of listening to my daughter’s carefree singing. Of course, there’s also blocking out the whining, the negotiating, the bickering. Oy!
4. Taste: Kissing away salty tears. Licking the brown smudge on your fingers, confident it’s chocolate and not … Finishing off their half-eaten mac ‘n’ cheese or soggy cheerios.
5. Touch: The tickle of their breathe as they whisper in your ear. The feel of their small hands clasping yours. How they tug at your arms when they want to go that way but you need to go this way. The intensity of a hug. The way they prod at your boobs so as to get your attention (or is that just my kids?) Tickle fights!
And let’s not forget that other sense —a mother’s intuition—that nigglye feeling in your gut that something’s bothering your kid, that warns you he’s about to barf, and alerts you to an imminent meltdown so you can activate diversionary tactics.
Yes, in addition to our supersonic five senses, we mothers are also endowed with many super powers. And you know what? It’s all good.