Originally written after the birth of my first baby in 2003.
Motherhood was a mold I was pretty sure I’d fit right into. I felt it was my biological purpose and I had been taught from a young age that this would fulfill the measure of my creation. Child-rearing was my duty and would be my privilege and blessing. I knew in my core that raising a family was my mission.
When Dave and I had been married for a few months, I began paying extra attention to what was inside of strollers with alien curiosity. I would inadvertently find myself daydreaming about my eyes and Dave’s cheekbones put together on the same little face. But we had a plan. We would wait at least a couple of years before having a baby. As the time passed, we began to cautiously tread the “let’s start trying” path.
Armed with excitement and my library card, I devoured every book I could find on conception and birth. I began to wonder how anyone had ever made a baby. Discouraged, I felt certain there was no way that all this jazz would add up to a fertilized egg. It was just too complicated!
So, our “trying” commenced. After a short while, the baby making excitement faded and life resumed. I guessed that the stars were not aligned for this sort of mischief. I continued to study and read all I could just to make sure we weren’t doing it wrong. (keep in mind only a couple of weeks had passed. ) A trip to Mexico and a litter of boxer puppies later, we learned that we would soon meet a new little “souvenir” of our own making. Pale and clammy, both processing a myriad of random and obscure emotions, we hugged and were pretty sure we were thrilled.
The months that followed were filled with planning, throwing up, baby showers, throwing up, building a new house and throwing up. My doctor insisted that I was enjoying a healthy pregnancy. I pouted as I grew wider, breathed heavier and watched as my feet oozed over the sides of my flip flops. I barfed more than I ever thought possible and was relatively certain I was carrying a forty five pound Tasmanian Devil by thirty-two weeks.
I was anxious about giving birth, but took comfort because my doctor (who had never had a baby or been pregnant) said that labor pains were like really bad period cramps. I could totally handle that! As the day of reckoning came closer, I actually felt a kind of peace about what I had to do. I watched every birthing tape (yes, I said tape as in VHS) I could get my hands on and watched “A Baby Story” every day at 3pm. I cringed, giggled nervously and marveled that anyone’s rear end could stretch like that and then function properly in the future. I prayed for grace and strength and for a healthy baby. Most of all I just hoped I wouldn’t poop on the delivery table or punch a nurse. (I didn’t punch a nurse, but that’s all I’m sayin’)
Nearly nine months to the day after stopping birth control, I pushed for three laborious hours and debuted a healthy, baby girl named Hailey Marie. Surprisingly, she only weighed a little over seven pounds. I had always dreamed romantically about my first encounter with my new baby. I imagined choruses of angels and tears of joyful bliss as I put her to my breast and she would softly begin to suckle. (I had skipped all the breastfeeding parts in my books because babies just know how to do that, right?)
What I ended up feeling was a surreal exhaustion. As I watched as my mom and Dave take turns admiring the baby, I just wanted a Big Mac. Baby Hailey was shriveled and red, but perfectly beautiful. Intimidated and a little embarrassed, we worked on learning how to nurse together. I really kicked myself for not reading the breastfeeding pamphlets my doctor gave me. I carefully examined all her pieces and parts and nearly fainted when she coughed up some phlegm. I realized that my uterus was now empty (praise the heavens), but my heart was just beginning to fill.
Dave’s complete astonishment and pure adoration of the baby was incredible to witness. He held her out in front of him and with admiration and pride in his voice exclaimed how she looked just like him. And she did.
In the weeks that followed, with extra cellulite and dark circles under my eyes, selflessness became my motto. As I struggled through hemorrhoids and sore nipples, I never felt burdened. What I did feel was emotions I had never experienced before. I was never what I’d call overly emotional. Suddenly, I was balling over coffee commercials and boo-hooing when some old guy got car jacked and was interviewed on the news. Starving children and murders would just throw me into a tail-spin. I wondered what I was becoming and what was happening to me. My incredibly helpful doctor said it was hormones and would soon pass. I wasn’t sad, I was just painfully aware. My sensibility was raw and my emotions tender. Something about the incredible love I felt for this baby of mine was affecting my ability to deal with life.
In time, I realized that becoming a mother had changed my outlook on life. Every man became someone’s son and every woman a daughter. I began to view people as members of a family rather than individuals making their way through life. I loved my little baby more than words could describe and the realization that every person I passed likely had a mother who loved them just as much, was astounding to me. My understanding of the human condition took on new meaning and renewed my faith in humanity.
A veil had been lifted a new plane of existence was made known to me. I was blessed with a new understanding of why people risk their lives to save others. In one moment I understood why people devote their life philanthropy and give so much to charities. This new love for all human-kind was something I had never encountered, but it felt good. It was definitely over-whelming, but satisfying.
The changes that took place in my body during pregnancy and birth make me wistful and my body, sadly, will never be the same. As I pull on the loose skin on my belly to make it look like the face of a bulldog, I cling to my newly found joy in motherhood and know that it’s all worth it. I have stretch marks and I weigh more than I did before. My nails grow really long now but my hair is much thinner. The process of growing a baby inside me and giving life to her is among the most precious of experiences I have had during my earthly sojourn.
I look forward to more children joining our family with part anticipation and part trepidation. I now know what’s involved in pregnancy and birth, but I carry with me the knowledge that my capacity for loving and nurturing has grown with my little girl and with the world. I have learned that giving of myself fully to my child and the family that my husband and I are creating satisfies me beyond measure. I have affirmed my belief that I was created and intended for this divine purpose. This “job” called Motherhood has contributed to and cultivated my growth and maturity mentally, spiritually and emotionally. My journey thus far has altered my body in ways that I would like to undo, but it has affected heart and revolutionized my life in ways that are precious and perfect to me.