Her smile still makes my heart flutter…36 years, and about three hours ago, a kind nurse handed me an enormous, pink, minutes old baby girl and said, ‘I’ll leave you two for a bit‘…and left the room…I was so tired. I still to this day don’t know that I have ever been as tired as I was that cold January morning after the birth of my baby. I was so tired that I was terrified I was going to fall asleep and drop her. She was in the crook of my left arm and I was scared to death that if I fell asleep she would just tumble right down to the floor, and so I did not sleep and I did not rest, I just looked at her, and she smiled. She slept, and I don’t remember that she opened her eyes at all, but she smiled, and it felt like hours that I was alone with her, but it could have been only minutes…her finger nails were perfectly rounded long nails, and I joked for weeks that it was like she had stopped for a manicure on her way out to earth. I did not yet know her and she did not yet know me, but she smiled.
Nine weeks after I became an official adult, I became a mother. That the universe saw me fit for this monumental task, raising a human, is still something that blows my mind…Nothing about my life at that time was good, at all, but she was…She was a perfect baby. She would mew like a kitten if she was hungry, and if my memory serves me rightly she was many days old before I ever even heard her cry. Looking back now with clearer vision, and 36 years of personal growth, I was not all that much more than a child myself…the me, who used to be, was reborn when she was born. I think a person becomes somebody else, like it or not, when she becomes a mother.
The rebirth at birth is not immediate, but what is immediate is that, for me at least, everything that mattered BEFORE mattered less AFTER. Once I heard my sister tearily whisper, “it’s a girl,” everything that I thought was exceptionally important BEFORE was less important AFTER. It seems to me that a woman has her rebirth after the birth because, whether she is ready or not, motherhood is her job, the most important of all the jobs she will ever have, for the next many years. PERIOD. You may think many things about going back to your “old” self, those first weeks, but those thoughts, well, they are mostly wrong because the “yourself” is now that person’s person, and the “self” is no more…the obligation you have chosen is essentially saying to the universe, “I shall put this other human before me, and myself is now second and my old self is now gone.” PERIOD. I would suspect that most women do, get reborn after birth, and they quietly, without complaint, move themselves to the back of the line while they move this tiny human to the front.
What nobody really tells you then, during those first few weeks, is that it never ends. The “it” being mothering, motherhood, this new you. You think it will, that the “job” one day will be over, you will have completed your mission so to speak, your obligation, but it won’t be done, ever. When I was a young mother I didn’t realize this as profoundly as I do now, now that I am older & wiser, hardened, and yet softened, by time…
My mother still puts me and my sister, my daughter and my nephew, and now the daughters of my daughter, in front of herself…and my mother, without ever complaining about it, has moved herself to the back of the line, time and time again for all of the years of my life…Now that my own baby is today nearer to 40 than 30, I see more clearly how my mom and I are rather alike in so many ways, ways that one does not always notice when one is still young…but now I am older, and she is old, and I better understand how we are much more similar than we are different.
I worked hard, over many years, to create the kind of relationship with my daughter that I wanted. I am pretty sure that I annoy her, a lot, this now 36 year-old daughter of mine, because that is the nature of most mother/daughter dynamics, but decades after her arrival to earth I think we would both agree that the mother/daughter gig we’ve developed and cultivated is a lot better than many. I have made profoundly purposeful efforts over these years to do and say things that would make us have the type of connection I wanted, and I’d like to think it was a success. We often laugh together while we drink wine and chat, just like I do with my girlfriends. We have cried together when we are having a rough go of life, just like I do with my girlfriends. We take power walks and vent about those who annoy us, just like I do with my girlfriends. She is my friend but she is first my daughter, and in many ways, whether I succeeded or failed at mothering, or being her mother, it is to me, like the icing on the cake, that these last 12 years I’ve lived next door.
She is my neighbor, friend, and child, and the mother of my granddaughters, which, when I add it all up, is probably the most extraordinary thing of them all…she brought those girls into my life, and kind of made me born again, again, into yet another version, and I like to think a remarkably better version, of me…My rebirth at her birth, made me better woman that I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. My rebirth at her birth made me awfully less self-centered than I think I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. My rebirth at her birth made me much more grateful for my own mom than I think I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. Today is a celebration of the birth of my daughter, whose smile lights up a room and still makes my heart flutter, but in many ways I am celebrating too, the woman I became, because she came to earth.