In a few days, I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day. Because I became a mother 5 weeks ago, this one will be different for me. I expected motherhood would bring me feelings of deep love for my baby, but I didn’t expect to reflect so much on how much my mother must have loved me. I have come to realize this ferocious collective love for our children is what makes this world go round.
Someone cared immensely for each and every one of us in these early days. Without that love and surrender, none of us would have survived, let alone thrived. So this week I celebrate not really what it means to be a mother, but what it means to have been someone’s infant. No matter the state of your relationship today or your perceived shortcomings, once upon a time your mother cried happy tears because of the miracle you represented.
Pregnancy has its well-known aches and pains but when I was carrying my child, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It simply seemed like a long voyage to a promised land. Until I experienced it, though, I never appreciated the fact that my mother went through the very same things I did when she was pregnant with me.
She decided she wanted me. She asked my dad about having another baby. She tried to get pregnant and spent days or weeks wondering “Am I?”. She analyzed herself physically, trying to determine if she felt different. It’s likely she had constant heartburn and nausea and uncomfortable sleepless nights and cramping and hip pain and peed at least two times every waking hour. She wondered if everything she was feeling was normal and worried about miscarriage. She wondered if I would be healthy. She wondered if I would be a boy or girl. She wondered if I would be like her or my dad or neither.
She spent weeks wondering when labor would start. She went through childbirth. Her heart burst open when a wet baby emerged from her. I know she felt the same joy I felt when we found out our baby was a daughter. She probably felt relief at no longer being pregnant, only to then remember being a lactating mother isn’t any easier.
She went home from the hospital, on a high from witnessing this miracle while on the brink of deliriousness from lack of sleep, sore and vulnerable and still expectant even though I had arrived. She put her ear to my mouth to make sure I was breathing many times.
She learned how I signaled hunger. She learned how to make me stop crying. She fed me every 2-3 hours around the clock for the entire first few months of my life. She figured out how I liked to be carried. She left me for the first time for a few hours (like I have done today with my daughter, writing this from a coffee shop). Like me, she probably felt a mixture of guilt and elation at being by herself and she probably missed me intensely like I am missing my daughter right now.
She watched my face in the middle of the night, singing silly made-up songs like I sing, and wondering when my eyes would close. She wondered if she was doing it right. She figured out how to juggle work and mothering. She wondered who I would become. And most of all, she wondered if I would always be safe. She hoped she had given me the tools to take care of myself one day.
She never knew if I was going to sleep for 5 minutes or 5 hours and couldn’t plan anything. She wished that, more than anything, someone would come pick up the kids and give her a break so she could just chill and be alone with her thoughts for an hour or two. She wished we would just not bother her for a little bit, not to be lazy but just long enough to get some food on the table for us after a long day at work. I never knew any of this until a few weeks ago. I just always assumed it was easy for her. Loving us was easy but caring for us had its challenges.
When a baby grows inside you, you feel like he or she is always connected to you. The umbilical cord gets cut but it feels like there is forever an invisible cord tugging on your heart. Because you sheltered this little soul, you somehow feel responsible for her fate. Nearly every person in this world has a mother that feels this way. You were that person to your mother.
I think the best gift we can give our mothers is simply acknowledging how much they loved us. Thanks for loving me, Mom.