Motherhood changed my life and shaped me into a woman I never imagined I would be.

I discover a new thing about this woman every day. Motherhood has not only taught me patience and compassion, it has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and a determination I never knew I would experience. 

I always heard that you never know the true meaning of love until you become a mother. And although this is true, I found something in motherhood that I never expected, and I could never have prepared for: FEAR. Every day as a mother I experience fear in new ways. No one ever tells us that from the moment we begin labor, we will encounter fear in sometimes debilitating ways. No one ever talks about that part of motherhood.

Motherhood has allowed me to be a more compassionate and patient leader.

As a military mom, I didn’t believe motherhood would really affect me in the workplace. Before I had a child, I often found myself short-tempered and quick to react. My reactions were always straightforward and without much forethought. Sometimes my reactions made it hard for my sailors to relate to me and I was often seen as unapproachable. Becoming a mother taught me tolerance and a greater desire to connect with those around me.

On the flip side, every military family has one fear: deployment. Although I share the fear and anxiety about deployment, the pride I take in my service to this country gives me peace in knowing I would be doing the right thing if I had to leave my son to deploy. Although no mother wants to be away from her child, the oath I took in my service to this country is something I am willing to sacrifice for.

Motherhood taught me about strengths I never knew I had. Motherhood taught me perseverance that I never knew I could muster.

Right before my son’s first birthday, I unexpectedly became a single mother. His father was always a very involved and supportive parent, and caring for our son together was something we took great pride in. I felt so unprepared to tackle this job as a parent alone, but I found myself with no choice. I was faced with a sudden and scary decision about what would be best for my son. I reluctantly decided to leave my 6-year career on active duty, switch to the Reserves and move back home with my family. I left everyone and everything I had known, with no support to be with my son full time. I didn’t know what else to do, I just did what I felt was best for my son. While I was sad that I was essentially giving up my career, I was comforted knowing that I could be with my son every day and he would not have to go to sleep in a daycare and wake up in a daycare so that I could work.

After all the ups and downs, the scary parts and the joy, what I want most for my son is pure genuine happiness and love.

I want him to live his life to the fullest and feel fulfilled and accomplished every day. I want him to be proud of himself and where he came from. I want the sacrifices he makes to be few and his childhood to be full of amazing memories. I want to look back on the hardships I have endured as a mother and always know that it was worth it. Raising this tiny human will always be worth the struggles, the fear and the tears.  

Petty Officer First Class Mindie Renteria is 28 years old, from El Paso, TX and serves in the United States Navy. She is the proud mother to Benjamin Emerson Luna.

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Saralyn Ward is an award-winning writer, wellness advocate, and mountain mama. She is the founder of The Mama Sagas, writes for several publications and hosts a regular parenting TV segment on Colorado's Everyday Show. When she's not huddled over edits, you're likely to find Saralyn climbing peaks or skiing down them, and reminding herself that the two little girls that call her mom are not the boss of her.