I made them. They are of me and they are mine. But, more accurately stated, I am thiers. I am thier mother and nothing else defines me more.
They lived and grew inside me listening to my heart before they ever took thier first breath. I felt them move, as they moved me, before I ever held them. I nursed them, inhaled them, monitored thier breathing and counted thier eyelashes. I memorized thier smell, thier toes, the inbetweens of thier fingers and thier favorite everything.
I made sure they were full every night, warm every morning, and had a lunch every day. I checked for ticks, fevers, rashes, the smell of soap on their hands, clean teeth…and even lice. Fucking lice. I helped them walk, talk, read and showed them how to hug. I wiped thier noses with my clothes, rubbed thier chests with Vick’s and snuggled them until they fell asleep. I survived dance classes, recitals, twirling competitions, guitar lessons, karate, Girl Scouts and singing. I have been from Sega to Wii, VHS to Netflix, and Nextel to IPhone with these girls. I have never been an alcoholic, drug addict or on Prozac. I don’t know how.
Each of these girls was a complete surprise to me. Ten years apart, at two different times in my life. Being a surprise would be the first thing they’d share, after me as thier mom.
They were both discovered with shock, disbelief, fear and panic. I questioned my abilities, my dreams, my goals and my place in the world. I questioned whether or not I was good enough, had enough and what enough even was. But, I never for even a moment, questioned that I would be thier mom. I never questioned they would be mine.
I was 15 when the universe surprised me first. I was scared and I was alone and I suddenly felt smaller than the smallest, in a world that became much bigger overnight. I know that the world and everyone in mine doubted me. And I didn’t care. But, I cried. I cried more when pre-term labor threatened I might have a 2lb baby. Her lungs weren’t fully developed and she wouldn’t be able to breath on her own. To keep her inside me they made me sick and I stayed in bed for 3 more months to keep her there. She still came early, breathing on her own, in a delivery that I was sure would take my life. I Thought I might die delivering her and I cried when she was born. I was happy to not leave her alone in this world.
When I am told to curl the corners of my mouth and find a moment in which I am completely happy and content, holding that brand new human that I made with my own body is it. Every single time.
At 25, I was technically an adult and slightly less scared by surprise number two. I was unknowingly pregnant and really sick. They found her tiny heartbeat inside me while looking for an infected appendix or liver or kidney. I was sent home with a virus. At my first obstetrician appointment, I was told her heartbeat stopped and they called it a “blighted pregnancy”. I was sent home to wait for the pregnancy to resolve itself in the form of a natural miscarriage. I waited. I cried. And I waited. And as I did, I got more and more sick. The doctor sent me for a DNC, but decided to do an ultrasound first. She was still there though, heart still beating. I was still pregnant after all. Sick as hell, but pregnant. This baby would not come early. In fact, she was 2 weeks late. I labored naked in the tub like a viking, as if the less I wore, the stronger I was. I walked naked and calmly to the bed and delivered her while everyone around me rushed to catch up.
When I am asked to go to a place where I felt the most powerful, strong and fierce, I bring myself the moment where I said “I’m going to get up, walk to the bed, and push. You should go find a nurse.” For a short time, it was only us, and I held the crown of her head between my legs as others came in the room. I have never been more strong.
With both girls, I almost immidiately wanted them back inside me. A lot of women can’t wait to give birth and have pregnancy be over. I felt the opposite. I loved it. After they were born, I didn’t want to share them with other people, I didn’t like other people holding them, and I felt like the world just wasn’t good enough, pure enough or kind enough. I felt vulnerable. Sometimes I felt sorry for the state of the world, or scared about how things might be when they’re older. But I was never sorry for having them. I was made for them. They were made of me. I was their Mom.
Since each of those very different moments, these girls have literally been my life’s work. I didn’t do anything spectacular, and I haven’t been a story worthy kind of Mom, I just did what I was capable of one day at a time. They have been my whole world. Good or bad, right or wrong, fun or not, being thier Mom is who I am. I have few memories of life without someone calling me “Mumma”. Almost every single decision I’ve made has something to do with them.
Every action I take, choice I make, or reaction of mine is an example to them and I take it seriously. It doesn’t mean I’m always a good example, positive, or perfect in the moment. It just means I’m aware of my responsibility to them to be a good person, to be authentic and to be someone they never have to be ashamed of. I try to live a life that is an example of making good choices, or learning from the bad ones when I could’ve done better. I don’t always get it right, but every single time I thought whatever I did was right at that moment.
Raising girls is difficult, fun, rewarding and most certainly awful. Having a daughter is similar to holding up a mirror that exaggerates my most dominant characteristics and habits…good and bad. Raising a daughter is raising my biggest critic. It’s as though pointing out everything I do, say, like or try is immidiately critiqued. Teenage girls have no problem telling you when you’re wrong. In fact, it’s a bit like their job is to find every single flaw, and play it back for you in painful detail.
I made it through a hellish-girl-teenagerhood with my first one, and I questioned my ability to survive it. She literally scared me, broke my heart and caused me to worry, fight and cry so much. I mothered every version and definition of “tough love”, and refused to lower my expectations or standards. I was sure she’d hate me for life. But, somehow, we came out on the other side with a deeper understanding of each other, and a really great relationship.
If I have to do it again, I’m going to have to dig real deep. Really, really deep. Like with heavy equipment.
We recently went to have our pictures taken. When I received them all I could do was stare. These two young women are mine. I am theirs. I am so proud of who they are. Do they have a touch too much sass, and a smidge too much sarcasm? Maybe. Yeah. It’s my fault. But they are generally kind. They are loyal. They think critically and have high expectations for how people behave and treat them. (Remember that mirror I mentioned?) They expect respect, and they give it…more than most of the time. They are certainly not without flaws, but each is uniquely perfectly herself. I could not be more proud, or more grateful for every little surprise I ever received.
I fucking love these girls and I have loved mothering them. It’s one of the few things I have ever been certain of. I am their Mom.
Now, 23 and 13, I know if I died today they are both made of really good stuff. I know they know love and I know they expect love. They expect respect. They respect themselves. I don’t know who I am without these girls. They are not going to need me so much, soon. At some point my everyday is going to change, and I’ll be wondering who I am and what I’m supposed to do with myself. I’ll wonder what to buy at the grocery store, and why the sink isn’t full of toothpaste. I’ll have hours of the day to fill. The thought frightens me.
These are my people and they are my life’s work. They are my gift to all of you. They are my gift to the world and they are my greatest contribution to our universe. I don’t know what they’ll do or what they’ll become. I don’t know how the universe will decide to surprise them someday and I don’t know how they will define themselves. But I know that regardless of who they become, I am their Mom. They are mine. Please be gentle with my girls. These are my people.
Photo Credit: Danette Carter