Giving Birth

Sunday, May 08, 2011

It’s Mother’s Day. When you read about grief and loss all the time this is a sad day for sure: Children missing mothers; mothers missing children.

I spent my writing time this morning composing words for my mother. I guess it’s long overdue. It was good exercise of random memories, and a gift for us both to ponder.

One thing that Dave has always said that I find very wise, indeed, “At some point all children have to forgive their parents for being their parents.” I am fortunate to have reached that point years ago while both were still alive. Too many miss this opportunity I’m afraid. Sometimes it takes us humans a very long time to grow up.

There was a post on Facebook today (thanks, Netty!) that absolutely speaks to my innermost motherhood.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” ~Rajneesh

I used it to open the letter to my mother. I think she’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

24 years ago I became a mother. This is and has been the most important and challenging role in my life. This is the one thing I knew as a child that was in my future. I was certain to be a mom (that came with being a wife, too, in my book.) I was fortunate to have worked in pediatrics, childcare centers and abuse prevention services in my early working years. I had education in nutrition as well as specific to child learning and human development. I was prepared to be a mom, at least theoretically.

What I wasn’t prepared for at the moment of birth was the purity, the most primal feeling of love I’d could not know until that moment. Unconditional love. A mother is something absolutely new. Indeed. Leah taught me to love life and myself as I saw the world unfold through her curiosity and unafraid approach to the world.

Leah is a mirror to both Dave and I. She is a gift, unique on her own, but reflections of us individually, genetically and parentally.

It wasn’t perfectly clear when Dave and I married if we would have children. We wanted to be married at least three years before deciding. He was in his mid-forties. He already had five children and broken, difficult relationships in his past. He still had obligations at the present for their well being. He was no youngster. In fact, he was a grandfather. I’m not so sure if I would have made the same choice if the roles were reversed.

In hindsight, we’ve seen there was just a small opportune time for this life changing event. Leah was conceived and born during the three years between Dave having quit drinking alcohol and his diagnosis of Hodgkins’ Disease. It was due to sterility from chemotherapy during Hodgkins’ that we did not have another child.

Dave has been a very different father for Leah than his older children. Obviously, he had experience from having been a father before. He had security and a passion for his work. We made a decision to parent together. Our relationship was on solid ground. Mostly he had quit drinking. There was nowhere to hide!

As the bond of immediate and first time true love hit me at the moment of Leah’s bursting forth into this world (just 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital!), Dave too felt a bond unavailable to him the first five times… he witnessed the birth of his child. I never had an ultrasound during pregnancy, so we did not know the gender of the baby. Her womb name was Gnarly Jo or Gnarly Joe, taken from a phrase of the day (“That’s gnarley, dude”) along with a good Texas, i.e. southern, second name. It was a womb name befitting a girl or boy.

There was barely enough time for Dave to change into the required gown on the morning of her birth. Our doctor happened to be checking in on me as he headed over to a meeting at the main medical center just a few blocks from the hospital (his was a satellite office across town). Had he not, I’m sure someone else would have been delivering. As it was, Dr. Moeller did not even miss lunch! Last I remember, with my eyes closed and my body taken over by nature, I heard “push.” Dave heard “Good catch, Randy” (apparently he turned away for a second) to which Dave proclaimed, “It’s Leah!” a girl. Those next moments were all Dave’s. He walked her to the weigh in and health check, was shown to a rocking chair as the nurses attended me, handed a swaddled baby girl, and he shared the first moments of new life with Leah. I know he made her promises, marveled at her beauty, innocence, and full life ahead.  He already knew that this era of parenting would be different.

Dave often worried aloud often about making “the same mistakes differently” as a father this second time around. I think that is for them to figure out if it’s true or not.

What I know is that it is Mother’s Day. This is a day I am happier for than my birthday. Our futures were changed the day Leah was conceived. And, it is a story of our little family, not just me.

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