It is not until you become a mother than your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding. Erma BrombeckI never had the intention of becoming a mother. After two failed attempts, and doctors' assurances that motherhood was not in my physiology, my then husband and I committed ourselves to our lives as DINKs (Dual Income No Kids). So it was with mixed heart that I received the news in 1985 that I was pregnant.
How could it be? I was commuting from my office in Toronto back to Calgary every weekend. I was training for a marathon and training myself for the impending singlehood that appeared to be looming like a dark, ominous cloud on my wedded horizon. My marriage was straining at the seams, both of us searching for an answer to what was keeping us apart over and above the physical distance of my 3,000 mile weekly commute.
Pregnancy changed all that. Particularly, this one.
Convinced I was having a third ectopic, we raced to the hospital one night only to discover, surgery was required. "It appears to be a cyst," the doctor told me after the operation that gave my belly another smile.
"I believe I'm pregnant," I told him.
"No. You're not."
I love it when I'm right.
With womb in motion, and risk factors high, I was confined to bed for three months. My girlfriend with whom I'd been staying in Toronto packed up the few belongings I'd transferred to her home and shipped them back to Calgary as I settled into my marital bed.
"Oh my," everyone said, aware of my Type A personality. "Bed rest! This will drive you crazy."
"It could if I let it," I replied and promptly decided that if I was to be in bed for three months I had one of two options. 1) To hate it. 2) To relish the opportunity to rest and nurture the tiny seed of life growing within me.
It was the most amazing three months I had experienced to date. I indulged myself in bed. Reading, writing, watching movies. I borrowed every book the library had on pregnancy, child birth and child rearing. I bought books on mother/daughter relations and how to heal the past to be the best mother today. I devoured every book, making lists of ideas to remember when my child was one and two and twenty-three. I marked passages in yellow highlight for my then husband to read. And while he opted not to delve into the copious notes and treatises I highlighted for him, he did humour me by watching chick flicks late into the night and ensuring I had an endless supply of Caesar Salad, which happened to be my biggest craving throughout my pregnancy.
Through it all I worried. What would I be like as a mother. I feared I wasn't ready. I wasn't old enough, (at 32 who was I kidding?) I wasn't wise enough. Mature enough. Stable enough. As the tiny seed within my womb took root and grew, I worried I wasn't capable of being entrusted with such a gift. As tiny feet beat a delicate tattoo against my abdomen, I worried I didn't have what it took to be a mother. As my womb swelled my fears grew that my fractious relationship with my mother would carry-over into my daughter's life. The medical pundits hadn't confirmed I was carrying a girl-child, but I knew within my heart that she was a she and I worried that I would mess up her life just as I had messed up mine so many times in the past.
Before I became a mother, I never imagined being one. I didn't think I had what it took. Pregnant, I would stand in the mirror and search my eyes for an iota of maternal instinct, bemoaning its absence, continually seeking some sign that would say -- it's okay, you're meant to be a mother.
Women would tell me it would come. That nothing could prepare me for the moment of birth. That in that instant I would feel it, know it, be consumed by it.
And I never believed them. Scoffed at the idea that I would succumb to the folklore of their telling.
And then she arrived. A tiny precious miracle of life and in one instant I went from being an almost mother with no maternal instinct, to being deeply, completely, totally in love, my entire being consumed with this child. Like a tale from the body snatchers my mind was taken over.
And everything changed. And I didn't care. In one instant I could not imagine not being a mother. With one beat of my heart I became the mama bear. Fierce. Ferocious. Protective. Committed to caring for this vulnerable, helpless infant who lay in my arms.
Twenty-three years after the birth of my first daughter, I know that becoming a mother is the most important thing I have ever done in my life. I know that no amount of money, education, success, or possessions could ever compare to the absolute truth of motherhood. In becoming a mother, I have become the woman I have always wanted to be. Raising my daughters has challenged me, confounded me, frightened me, exasperated me. It's caused my hair to turn grey (okay so age has also helped). It's given me sleepless nights and countless episodes of indigestion and heartburn. Having worried I wouldn't have what it took to be a mother, I've worried whether or not my daughters would love me as their mother.
And, amidst all the turmoil and the angst, I've been granted the gift of sight. The ability to see into myself, to forgive myself, to strengthen myself and to love myself so that I can be all that I am meant to be.
It is the dichotomy of motherhood. You are never free of your children, yet, to be a good mother, you must become free of fearing your enslavement. You must become courageous enough to be the woman of your dreams, so that they can grow up to be the person you always dreamt they'd be when they became exactly who they want to be, not who you want them to become.