Things were getting real in the delivery room. Too real. I remember thinking the night before that I didn’t want to scream. I didn’t want to be weak and vulnerable, but in that moment, the pain was so intense that I felt like I was splitting in half.
So this is what it was like in the dark ages when they tied people’s arms and legs outstretched and started the crank that would pull their body apart. What an effective method of torture! Forget waterboarding. If the government needs vital information out of enemies, just strap them up to a device that mirrors crowning pains.
Alas, my earlier hopes of having a quiet labor dissipated.
My daughter finally exited my body, and as happy as I was for my own physical relief, I was struck with an alarming realization: total silence, no cute baby cries, nothing.
And then I let myself think it: My baby is dead. I failed her. My body failed her.
As the nurses got to work on her tiny body, I heard one of them say, “Doctor, can you come here?” My heart sank even further. Something was wrong.
And then, just like that, I heard a little whimper, then a little cry. The stars aligned, the angels rejoiced, the trumpets started blaring — you know, all that.
As I started crying, the doctor looked at me with a little shock on his face and said, “It’s okay. She’s okay.”
“I know,” I said. “That’s why I’m crying. I’m happy.”
It’s now 10 months later, and as we approach my daughter’s 1st birthday, I’m overwhelmed by how fast these months have gone by. To be honest, I never really knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” But then I became a mom.
My daughter is everything to me. She is my greatest victory.
When my daughter is being difficult, I can’t help but think to myself that this is the easy stuff. Her not eating her squash is the easiest this is ever going to get. Fast-forward 10 to 15 years, and she’ll be shouting “I hate you!” because we won’t let her go to an overnight coed party at a friend’s house, or she’ll be mortified to be seen with me at the mall because I’ll be her totally uncool mom who asks too many questions. She won’t find fishy faces funny or screech with delight when I tickle her behind her knees. She won’t let my hugs linger so I can breathe her in. She’ll think she doesn’t need hugs from her mom at all.
When I think back to my teenage years, doing everything I could to be independent and not “need” anyone else, it breaks my heart to think what it must have felt like for my own mom. It wasn’t until recently that I understood how much she really did for my brother and me. A lot of my memories include my mom working furiously to juggle her job, us kids, household chores, laundry, taxiing us around, and a myriad of other things, only to collapse at the end of the night in an armchair, sound asleep sitting upright. I couldn’t understand why she was so tired all the time.
The “being tired” part never ends, I’m told. It’s just the new normal. There is so much to do as a working mom trying to run a household and raise a child. Every night, my husband and I sink into bed and just breathe a sigh of relief, as if to say, “We’ve made it another day.”
I’m exhausted, but I’m also happier than I’ve ever been. I guess it’s the self-sacrificing way that mothers survive. We’d go to the ends of the earth for our children, again and again, because we love them so deeply, so entirely. That love has the strength to allow us to get hurt, again and again, and continue on loving.
No matter how my daughter views her childhood, or me as a mother, I will always keep trying. I’ll always be the one who loves her infinitely and unconditionally. I will never stop protecting her.
So I just feel the need to say it: I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry for how much of you I took for granted. I’m sorry for thinking that your life with kids was the only real life you ever had. That you were born a mother and should have the answers to everything. I’m sorry for all the doors I closed on you and all the hugs I rejected. For all the times you needed someone to talk to and I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry for not being more understanding of how hard you were always working. I’m sorry it’s taken me over 30 years to truly get it. I’m sorry most of all for not saying this enough: Thank you.
Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for everything you sacrificed. Thank you for teaching me to work hard, to give back, to be kind. Thank you for giving me the greatest example of motherhood I could have asked for.
I still don’t have this mother thing down entirely, but I take it day by day. And I’ll keep on loving and doing the best I can — because that’s what moms do.