My daughter was born on a Monday in January. It was a national holiday, the Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. It was also the same Monday that I, her mama was born, only twenty six years earlier. My birth was a planned C-section, for very good, and necessary reasons out of my mothers control, and yet I have always secretly felt deprived of a dreamy entry earth side. I grew up fixated on this detail, thinking it would be so magical to have picked my own Birthday. So, when it came to my baby, nature would lead, nature would win, and with her innate wisdom she would make her way into gravity. But my strong willed babe, a conservative midwife, and a few unfortunate events later, my 41 week check-up escalated into a non emergency transfer to the hospital. I was told that it was time to have my baby, and the birth I so passionately resisted was unraveling right before my eyes. Those detailed visions would never evolve into memories that would dwell inside my chest, and dance around in my mind. Those daydreams would never make their way to the blank paper in my journal to be given to my daughter years later. Those photographs of placing my baby directly on my chest straight out of the warm water would never be captured. Full of unmet expectations I collapsed into a pile of tears, or more honestly hysterics, as if the fate of her birth symbolized the course of her life.
I wanted to feel the tidal waves of a natural birth because I believed it to be a mirror. I believed it to be the physical symbol of a mothers heart, and her journey through motherhood. I believed that riding the waves of labor was like a preface into motherhood, and while not essential, incredibly valuable. But eighteen hours later, worn down and weary, artificial hormones played games with my frazzled mind, and I begged for drugs to numb the one sensation I felt I must experience on this earth. I pushed out my daughter in three proud pushes as I watched my husbands eyes fill with tears. I saw him transformed and made new, while I the ultimate feeler secretly thought I would feel more. I tucked this insecure feeling inside the deepest place I could find, and returned back to my beautiful daughter, staring at her in disbelief, awe and wonder. I knew that my fierce and deep love for her was never up for debate, but very little about holding her in my arms felt natural. I didn’t feel instantly transformed like I thought I would, like they all told me I would. I felt like I was hit by a truck, and then flown in just in time for my life altering event. The honesty of those feelings wrecked me.
I didn’t trust my body during birth, and that distrust seeped into the first few moments after. I watched my husband have an almost innate intuition, an intuition that was supposed to be my intuition. He seemed to know exactly what she needed while I felt inadequate, almost replaceable. That lack of trust in myself lingered throughout the early stages of motherhood, and my daughters first two years of life. It festered and grew twice the size of my intuition and confidence, slowly turning into a guilt that pulled at my heart strings whenever I was still enough to feel it. It was ever so subtle, and oh so quiet that even those closest to me might be surprised to hear my reflections unravel. These feelings did not rule me, they just poked and prodded, acting as a barrier to my fullest potential, keeping me from the mother I knew I was. “ I am a mama,” I would spontaneously affirm throughout my days. I could say it a million times over, but this name just hovered above me, and ran circles around me. It did everything but dwell inside of me, and I wanted nothing more than to be devoured and absorbed into the most honorable name I had been given.
Two years, and another daughter later I experienced the birth I had always dreamed of, where my daughter chose her birthday, and my body felt every last surge. A birth in my kitchen, where coffee brewed, and the sun rose. I held my daughter in my arms, while I cried tears of joy and relief. This time it was not so foreign. I felt in my body, connected, exhausted, but elated. Almost a year later I’m not so quick to assume that one birth is to blame or to be praised for my journey into motherhood. I am just starting to think that good things ask for adequate time, usually more time than we are comfortable giving or waiting.
I expected becoming a mother would be the most normal, natural, almost effortless thing a woman could become. While that may ring true for some, that was not my story. Motherhood has brought more meaning, and joy than anything I have known, but not without the growing pains. Not without realizing I had a lot to prune and even more to find. Just because something is natural, does not mean it is easy. Just because something is hard does not mean you are not good at it. I am a good mama, but becoming one was much harder than I anticipated, much harder than people led on. Perhaps it is too multi faceted to fit into words that could fit into the cliche tag lines we share in the check out aisle. Maybe it is something that must be foraged solo, in the dark, without the chatter of he said, she said, culture and tradition. I’m not suggesting loneliness or isolation, away from community. More like a personal invitation, a sacred space to listen to that visceral wisdom that speaks louder than preconceived notions, mishaps and regrets.
My journey into motherhood has been slow, steady, and gradual, quite the contrary from how I navigated my first twenty something years of life. I think I expected and wanted the glory of a lifetime in those first moments I became a mother, but more humbly I started at day one. My stamina, my patience, my love, it grows with the minutes, and stops for nothing, constantly surprising me with it’s vastness. As soon as I think I couldn’t possibly feel more, love more, or be more, I do and I am. I spill over moments, feeling and savoring every last fragment of emotion, but this has been practiced and learned, and is not always natural.
It is only now three and a half years later that I can confidently claim my name as a mother. It does not hover above me or run around me. It resides in the marrow of my bones, and is the lens through which I see the beauty and detail in every last blade of grass, every last crumb beneath my feet. I’ve finally given in, and said yes. I’ve fallen deep, deeper, deepest into the most joyful heartache I’ve ever known, but like most good things in life, it has taken time.
Erin DeLaney, The Village Journalist