What Shaped Me as a Mother
Sometimes I think it is society’s expectation that pregnant women MUST complain. While one stereotype of pregnancy is the maternal glow, I think the other, more expected stereotype is the giant, tired, hot, cranky, pregnant lady mess.
I often get asked how I’m feeling during this pregnancy and I sense that I often let people down with my response of “good” or “great.” While my pregnancy has been relatively easy, there are a few health concerns about the baby and there have certainly been things to complain about but most days, I can’t bring myself to do it. Pregnancy is hard. Really hard. No doubt. And there are things I lament to my husband about on occasion or I wish in my head were easier, but then I stop myself. There are plenty of women who would relish this opportunity and I don’t want to waste it complaining or wishing it away. I only have this moment. And sometimes, unbeknownst to all of us, this moment is all we get.
Babies are not supposed to die. It goes against the natural order. When women become pregnant, I think the idea that the death of a child is a possibility is considered, but normally, optimistically, most women are able to push it from their minds.
I have not lost a child.
Like everyone, I hope to never lose a child. But shortly after the birth of my first daughter, my best friend lost her baby three days before she was due. While I was not the mother suffering an agonizing loss, and I don’t want to suggest I knew how she felt, I was a friend whose heart broke, a new mother who worried, and a helpless human being to the reality of life and death.
I write this not as an unequivocally sobering post, or to try to tell my friend’s story (it is her story to tell), but to explain how a darling baby girl I devastatingly never got to hold or watch grow up, shaped me as a mother forever.
When her baby died, I felt so much guilt. I felt guilty that my baby lived. I didn’t deserve a baby more than my friend did. I was a less knowledgeable mother than she was and I was racked with the guilt of laughing with, smiling at, and overwhelmingly loving my healthy, living baby girl.
Those feelings of guilt took a long time to subside and sometimes, they still resurface. They especially resurface when I realize that her heartbreaking death taught me so much about being a mother. The little girl I had planned on spoiling and giving so much love ended up giving me so much more in return.
After her death, in those undeniably hard newborn, new mom, bleary-eyed hormonal first months of motherhood, instead of complaining, I’d hold my daughter tighter, bounce her longer, and let her sleep on my chest more often. I would think of my friend, who would give anything to have a baby wake her up every half-hour in the night or nurse endlessly during the day. It made me realize I only had that moment. Today was hard, yes, that moment was hard, undoubtedly, but somewhere, there were plenty of people wanting that moment I was wishing away. Her daughter gave me the life-changing gift of perspective.
Please understand that I agree wholeheartedly that pregnancy is difficult. I hear unimaginable stories of the hardships women endure during pregnancy; perpetual nausea, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, insomnia, and bed-rest. Each mother bears some stripes of pregnancy. No one is unscathed. Pregnancy is really hard. It’s okay to say that. To express that. To vent that. But I refuse to willingly and overwhelmingly complain about pregnancy. I refuse to wish nine months, a sliver in actuality, away.
It is easy to complain, I’m definitely guilty of it, but it makes me uncomfortable and regretful. The cliché is true that “the days are long but the years are short.” While I imagine it will be easy to recollect all the adorable and funny things my daughter did and easy to forget her unpleasantness and the tears I cried in frustration, I also want to remember me as a mom who loved her the best I could in whatever hard, ugly, long, painful, moment we were in. I don’t want to wish any of them away.
I want to do the same with this pregnancy. I want to love it for whatever brings, good and hard. I want to be grateful for all the moments I do get.
Thank you to the sweet, little red-headed girl l I miss and am indebted to forever for helping me try to be a more grateful, present mom.