What are your most cherished experiences of being a mother? It might be the moment the pregnancy was confirmed or the adoption approved. Or, it could have been the pregnancy itself — that period of time when you were never alone as you carried new life within and, despite a lack of sleep, back aches and morning sickness, you waited in excited anticipation for your child.For some mothers the baby years are remembered fondly as “the best.” The smell and the feel of baby’s soft skin and the hours of holding and cuddling a baby are priceless. For others, it is a blessing when the baby is a bit more independent. As our children grow, our hearts swell with pride over their accomplishments big and small. We wipe tears as they enter kindergarten and do the same when they graduate years later. My oldest daughter just reported that she cried as she was jumping up and down cheering when her 6-year-old daughter, not prone to athletic achievement, scored her first soccer goal. I assured her the tears were not unusual — it is what mothers do.I remember thinking that high school graduation would ease my role as a mother, only to learn that was not true. The mothering changed but did not end; in fact I returned to the late night waking, not of caring for a crying child, but worrying about and praying for a child far away on her own. What I thought might be “the best” was perhaps the most difficult.Saying “yes” to motherhood takes a woman to the top of the mountain, and just as quickly back down. Who has not smiled and offered a prayer of thanksgiving watching a sleeping baby only to be frustrated and overcome with fatigue within hours when that same sweet baby refuses to go back to sleep after eating? Motherhood brings with it the very best of times and the very worst of times. No one can prepare you for the love you will feel for your child, nor can they properly prepare you for the pain that is inevitable with loving that child. Just as our hearts swell with pride for the good times, our hearts break when problems arise.As life moves forward and our children mature and create families of their own, our mothering memories become more precious. The Easter dresses, the first Communions, the birthday parties are somehow remembered devoid of any stress that surrounded them at the time and become moments of comfort and delight. I remember well flying through the night to be with my oldest daughter as she completed an academic milestone, and to my youngest son when he became very ill in college. And then mothers are given the gift of grandchildren — the incredible opportunity to hold a small baby once again and do so many things they did with their own children, but now seeing with the eyes of age and wisdom what is really important. No matter how we come to motherhood, through birth or adoption, we sign on for a lifetime commitment. While the active parenting may end, the act of being a parent endures until the end of our lives. It is an awesome responsibility not to be taken lightly. A few months prior to her death my mother, wheelchair-bound and relying on others for help with almost everything, kept telling me to take care of myself. She would smile and say, “You have a life, you have to live it.” I would assure her that for now she was my life and we would move on until she said it again which was only a few minutes later. It became quite endearing as she slowly relinquished the reins of motherhood.Raising children is not a task for the faint at heart. It requires sacrifice, patience and a willingness to give up control. As a wise pediatrician told me long ago, “It is a humbling experience.” I have been humbled many times, received joy beyond description, and would not trade anything for the experience.Happy Mother’s Day! Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community and regional director for Ignatian Volunteer Corps Los Angeles. Her e-mail address is [email protected].