The Surprises of Motherhood

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Motherhood is full of surprises.

A baby comes when we least expect it. Or, a baby doesn’t come when we desire it most.

Pregnancies that we prayed for (or didn’t) wreak havoc on our bodies and some babies don’t survive, leaving us with an unimaginable and unexplainable void as we navigate a life full of loss, grief, and what-could-have-beens.

Our birth plan quickly falls to the wayside once we get into the terrifying and painful process of bringing a human into the world.

The late nights and early mornings hit us harder — physically, emotionally, and mentally — than we could have ever prepared for.

Baby doesn’t latch or our milk doesn’t come in. A shortage of formula has us stopping at every store in the area, seeking that one particular formula that agrees with baby.

And while our mental health has always been strong, postpartum depression settles in like a storm cloud, staying for this new season of life with a newborn.

So often we share how motherhood surprises us — how it’s more unpredictable and demanding than we could ever have imagined.

Do we share, as equally, how motherhood surprises us in a positive way?

My Journey to Motherhood

If you asked me 10 years ago if my husband and I were going to have children, I would have said no. Even five years ago, my answer would have remained the same.

We began dating at the age of 16 and even then, it was us against the world. We were each other’s pillar, providing unconditional support and love through times of turmoil. Our relationship outlived friendships and family bonds, countless moves, long-distance, job changes, and years of working to make ends meet.

By the time we got married (more than a decade after we began dating) we were financially stable, homeowners, North Dakotans, world travelers, and content with it just being the two of us indefinitely. As time passed, our friends and families stopped asking when the babies were going to come.

When we hit 30, something changed in both of us. We had spent our adult lives being responsible and content, but doing everything on our own terms. And just as we (and everyone else) thought children would not be in our future, we recognized that something was missing. The desire to expand our family grew slowly at first, and then all at once when we decided, “Okay, let’s do this!”

And then, almost immediately, I was pregnant.

We assumed that my prior health issues would make it difficult to conceive, so this was a welcomed surprise. One we remain incredibly grateful for when so many families experience otherwise.

Yet another pleasant surprise of my pregnancy was the near immediate calmness I felt at the idea of growing, birthing, and raising a child. I’m an organizer and a planner. I make lists and labels like no one’s business. But the moment I realized a baby was coming, I (mostly) gave up the what if? scenarios and relinquished control of the future. My job from that point forward was to remain as mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy as possible.

And now, two years later, my memory is full of the unplanned moments and experiences of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. While these two years have not been short on challenges, it’s the pleasant surprises that I want engraved in my memory.

My hope is that when days are tough, we mamas can recognize the blessings and joy in this new chapter of life.


My health history requires a planned C-section, so it was no surprise when we were scheduled for the surgery at 37 weeks gestation.

While I appreciated knowing when to expect the baby, I had no excitement for the actual procedure. We prepared for what we assumed would be a cold, impersonal, and painful way to welcome our son into the world. Instead, we were blessed with an operation free of complications, a medical team full of compassion, and a recovery nearly free of pain and immobility.


There is something indescribable in seeing those in your life provide unconditional love to your own child.

When we announced to our families that we were expecting our first, he was set to be the first grandchild and great-grandchild on my side and the 13th(!) on my husband’s side. What was uncharted territory for my parents was becoming an annual tradition for my in-laws. And I worried that his place within one family or the other would thus be diminished because of these circumstances. It became apparent early on in our pregnancy that there was no shortage of love for him in both families.

I was, and continue to be, amazed at the pure love that he experiences from them.

Fitting in

My in-laws have this magical way of balancing their time and attention so that every one of their (now 15) grandchildren feel nothing but unconditional love. When we’re together, they manage to engage with all the grandchildren both simultaneously and individually. And while our son runs amongst a large brood of cousins there, he takes center stage with my family.

There is a particular kind of joy seeing him with my parents, knowing that our change of heart in having children brought them their first grandchild a decade sooner than they anticipated. A year and a half later, they still display a sense of awe at what he has brought into their lives.

And while he brings joy to our families, the relationship of his that brings me the most joy to witness is that with my own grandparents. They are the grandparents that everyone dreams of — those who teach life skills (sewing, driving, baking, and finances), lead you on adventures (Duluth, Branson, and Yellowstone National Park), establish family traditions (Christmas Eve and quilts), and provide a welcoming and safe space, free of judgement and filled with love and compassion. With the impact they’ve had on me, it’s a true honor to have made them great-grandparents and a blessing to have them in my son’s life.

Contentment in Motherhood

My biggest fear was that I would resent the changes brought on by motherhood. My life already included a life partner, a career, financial stability, adventure, and freedom. I was certain that, while I would enjoy motherhood, I would pine for the past and constantly wonder, “What if?”

But then it happened.

I fell in love again, and this time, it was with a little peanut of a newborn.

In those first few weeks, it felt like our family of three could continue much as we did as a family of just two. However, I soon realized that this was not possible. While that realization sunk in, I waited for the resentment to come, too.

It never did.

And to my happy surprise, it still hasn’t.

Instead, I look at my son and wonder what I did before him.

How did I start my days without his morning greeting?

How did I fill my evenings when they didn’t include playtime and bedtime routines?

What made me laugh?

What brought me joy and provided purpose?

In all reality, life before motherhood was just fine. But life in motherhood? There is more laughter, more joy, and more purpose than I ever imagined, and that has been the best surprise of all.

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Stephanie Hansen
Stephanie lives in Fargo with her husband, Jason, and their son, Theo. She was raised in a small town in southwest Minnesota and has lived in the Fargo/Moorhead area for 15 years. She attended Minnesota State University Moorhead and earned a bachelor's degree in communication arts and literature education and social studies and a certificate in professional writing. She also holds a master's degree in strategic communication from Washington State University. After working in public education for a decade, first as a teacher and then as public relations specialist, she became a stay-at-home mom in 2022. While being a stay-at-home-parent was not something she ever imagined doing, it proved to be a blessing in disguise by allowing her to launch her own business, Hansen Public Relations in March 2023. The business combines her passions for education and public relations and provides strategic communication, marketing, and brand management services to educational entities throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas. When she is not caring for her son or working to expand her business, she enjoys reading, genealogy, thrifting and antiquing, and traveling.


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