Imagine you’re going on a trip to Hawaii or some other exotic tropical location. You pack your bags with bathing suits, shorts, dresses, flip-flops; throw in extra sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. Then, for what seems like an episode of Ashton Kutcher’s “Punk’d” or any of these prank shows, you end up landing in Norway in the middle of winter. Yup, Norway of all places. And while I’m sure it’s beautiful there, you’re completely unprepared. After all, you didn’t pack any warm clothes, boots or gloves. I know this is super unrealistic, but I find it to be a good way to describe motherhood in general – you’re never really prepared for it – but for me, it really exemplifies my journey in discovering and coming to terms with having triplets.

When I was trying to conceive, I did a lot of research. I talked to friends who had babies and I was dead-set on having a natural delivery, possibly even a water birth. I wanted it all: exclusively breastfeeding and on-demand, co-sleeping, baby-led-weaning, you name it. And it’s important for me to mention that where I come from, Brazil, c-sections are usually preferred by both women and doctors. Only in the recent years, with a movement called “humanized delivery” have natural births become more popular and sought after for the health of mom and baby.

After a year of irregular cycles and no success, I finally decided to visit a specialist. It turned out I had a mild case of endometriosis and PCOS. A laparoscopic surgery and one cycle of hormonal injections later, in the span of 6 months, I had my first positive pregnancy test. I was so excited I booked my first appointment with a renowned OBGYN in Brazil when it came to natural births. Everything was going according to plan, until I actually had my first ultrasound and saw three gestational sacks.

My world stopped; my heart sank. And I’m pretty sure that was my very first experience with mom guilt. Having triplets would most definitely ruin all of my plans. I’d literally have to throw away all the bags I’d packed to Hawaii and start from scratch. I obviously felt guilty and ungrateful. My dream of becoming a mom had come true, but not like I’d envisioned. I soon had to educate myself on all things high-risk pregnancy: bed-rest, pre-term labor, 99% chance of a c-section, miscarriage of one of the babies, in-utero steroid shot for lung development, NICU stay, etc.

My babies were fine; they were and are healthy. Out of all the things that could have gone wrong, none really did. Yet, the emotional toll of a pregnancy and motherhood of triplets is something hard to explain and the very reason why I decided to embark on a journey within to ensure I was making the best of what I’ve been given and entrusted with.

Now I see that the biggest plot twist of my life has become my biggest lesson and motivation to be the best version of myself. Learning I was having triplets was disappointing in some ways, but was also an invitation to a greater challenge: relinquishing control, being gentle and patient with myself and finally, giving room for vulnerability.

Relinquishing Control

As a girl and a woman, we usually grow up seeing our female role models take charge in their homes, call the shots most times and have people wrapped around their finger. Motherhood, however, can be quite the rude awakening, a double-edged sword – while you feel so powerful in growing life within, you also feel powerless: every doctor’s visit, every ultrasound, every strange sharp pain comes with uncertainty and fear. Among the rewarding experiences that come through delivery to their first steps and words also lies that subtle anxiety every time we say goodnight and close their bedroom door, or wave goodbye after school drop-off. The truth is: a piece of our heart will forever beat in someone else’s chest – and that’s scary. The only comfort we have is in cherishing every single moment together and turning them into unforgettable memories. We come into this knowing we’re loving them only to have to let them go eventually and as hurtful as that can be, it’s also beautiful. It teaches us to understand that loving deeply means accepting to lose control.

Being Gentle & Patient with Yourself

Suddenly being responsible for someone else’s life and their knowledge of the world is a lot of pressure – and adds to the anxiety and oxymoron that is having to teach someone about life and yet not being 100% in control of the outcome. What my children have taught me, though, is that while I have to be gentle and patient with them as they learn, I have to do the same with myself because I’m also learning. It’s hard to be a beginner and accept when things go wrong because you didn’t know any better. But just like you don’t punish a toddler that falls repeatedly when learning to walk, we should also show ourselves grace as we make our way through motherhood. There is no perfect, fool-proof way to mother; we all learn as we go, and that means probably having to throw away all our pre-baby expectations and preconceptions (welcome to Norway!).

Giving Room for Vulnerability

Finally, as I’ve learned to be gentle and patient with myself, I’ve also grasped the importance of forgiveness and vulnerability. Coming to terms with triplets, for me, really meant embracing the unknown, choosing to see my weaknesses from a place of love and captioning on my strengths to make it through the uncharted territory that is motherhood – and life. Ultimately, I’ve been accepting that difficulties and disappointments are nothing but detours to help me see things in a way I couldn’t have seen otherwise. And instead of beating myself up when things go wrong, I now choose to think they went unexpectedly well for reasons not yet apparent.

So instead of throwing a fit when you get to Norway in your bathing suit and flip-flops, be grateful for the crisp cold air and glistening soft snow because true happiness is a product of gratitude and, therefore, can be wherever you are; it comes from within.