It’s something that you hear often when you’re thinking of having a baby, trying to get pregnant and while you are pregnant: A baby will change your life. Oh, is that ever true– but that does not begin to encompass the transformation that takes place.
For me, I got pregnant in June of 2006. Jeff and I had only been trying since April so we were thrilled when we saw the positive pregnancy test. We took pictures, we ran to all our family that very night and told them about the pregnancy. When morning sickness came, I was actually excited. I was so READY! But, then the morning sickness went away. Ignorance truly is bliss. I had no idea that morning sickness really shouldn’t go away at 8 weeks, so I thought it was a positive thing–I thought I was getting let off easy. I was getting let off, but there was nothing easy about it. Spotting started and I thought that must be normal. It got heavier and I made the connections. I called the doctor and went in for an ultrasound at 9 weeks. There was no baby. After 3 days of extreme pain and details you don’t want to know, Jeff rushed me to the hospital for an emergency DNC. I miscarried at exactly 10 weeks. I didn’t go back to work for 2 weeks after that. I cried. I would feel strong, then I’d see something like a mother holding a baby on television and I would have to start over again. I got cards and flowers and I wanted to throw them all in the trashcan. I just wanted to forgot that my body wouldn’t carry the baby.
The fear that I might have to go through the pain of losing another baby kept me paralyzed. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to be a mother. I was hiding and I was running.
We were told that we had to wait 3 months to try again and that was not a problem. But, the first time we tried again I got pregnant. Because I know Carter now, it’s so hard for me to say that I wasn’t sure how I felt about being pregnant again. I couldn’t shake the fear. Every time I went to the bathroom, I was expecting to see spotting. I couldn’t get attached to the pregnancy and I wouldn’t let myself trust what was happening. At 7 weeks, I got an early ultrasound and saw the tiny beating heart of my baby. That began to chip off some of the fear. At 12 weeks, my spirits lifted more, knowing that the chance of another miscarriage after this point was low. At 20 weeks, I saw his face on the ultrasound and I knew that my baby was a boy and that we would name him Carter. I knew then that I would be a Mom. The final piece of my healing from the miscarriage was going the very next day to register. This is how I became a mother in my head.
I don’t know the exact date that I first felt Carter move, but I do know the feeling it gave me. I began to become a mother in my heart, caring about the hands and feet and nose and mouth of Carter. I began to imagine his face. Soon, I could actually feel little feet poking me. I could tell when he slept and I could feel him roll over. He was real me and I began to doubt if I could really do this. Would I be a good mother? Would I be able to take care of him? I had no idea how to change a diaper or hold a baby! I didn’t feel like I had those gentle, loving motherly instincts that I saw in other mothers. I’m not someone who displays a lot of outward emotion, so the thought of becoming vulnerable to this small person was really very intimidating to me. I’m sure my friends started to doubt my ability to take care of this baby, too. I must have asked a thousand desperate questions! How do you…? What do I do if…? I read all the books and magazines I could get ahold of. I was full to the brim with baby knowledge! I could have written my own baby book at this point.
Surprisingly, as the big day neared, I calmed down. I was three days overdue and the doctor decided to induce me. It was the oddest feeling to know the very day that I would become a mother and finally meet my Carter. I can remember the too-early-to-be-awake ride to the hospital so clearly. I wanted to soak up the last moments alone with my husband and the feeling of still being pregnant, knowing that those to things would soon be only memories.
After 13 hours of labor and a whirlwind of activity, change, family and friends–I was holding my Carter. I think the expression on my face in this picture says is all. I was so overwhelmed to finally be holding my son. This is when the real transformation began for me. It was really, really real and time to act. After having a birthday party at midnight for Carter, my friends and family left us alone. Jeff went to sleep immediately, but I literally stayed up all night long — touching Carter, looking at him, talking to him. I just wanted to know him and for him to know me.
The first two weeks of motherhood at home were literally a blur. I wish I had counted how many people came to my house because I don’t think we were alone except to sleep. If I had to do it all over again, I’d tell everyone to give us 2 full weeks to get some sort of normalcy established. Plus, I was in a lot of pain from all my stitches in places you don’t want to hear about. And, the hormones kept me in tears or angry the entire time. Gradually, things settled down and I started to learn what it felt like to love something more than yourself. I always wondered how mothers could do the all night feedings and put up with the crying without going nuts or breaking down, and I found my answer. Something inside you, almost like an animal instinct, rises up and fills you with an urgency to protect and care for this little creature no matter what. For 2 1/2 months, I got up every 3 hours throughout the night (and day) to either feed Carter or use the breastpump to keep up my sad little milk supply up enough to get Carter 8 ounces a day. It was the most difficult time in my life so far, but those feelings and those tough times bonded me to Carter. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t go back to work and be away from him.
This was when I mourned myself. I couldn’t find anything in my life that resembled the me that I knew before a baby. I think every mother goes through this. But, those times pass. He eats more, I sleep more and everyone begins to get their brains about them again. Then, I began to try to perfect my job as a mother. I learned how to make things easier on myself and how to keep Carter happy.
Each stage of a baby’s life is special in some way, but at around 5 months, Carter really started to interact with me. Each time he would initiate the interactions with a smile or a sound or reaching out, it was like a small reward. A little thank you gift for the long nights and the hard labor and the morning sickness. And, life began to return. Little by little and day by day, I began to have time to do things that I enjoyed. I could take care of myself, even if it was by small and seemingly insignificant efforts. A shower before noon, lunch at lunchtime, reading a chapter in a book, getting out of the house for a few hours (with Carter), reading a magazine, starting a blog, returning emails–all that helped me feel a little bit more like me.
Shortly after this, I really began to realize that there was so much I had to teach Carter. Not only did he need me to care for him, love him, help him feel secure and feed him–now he needed me to teach. This was a very exciting turn for me as a mother. This, I thought, I can do. He needed to learn how to eat, how to sit in a chair, how to crawl, how to talk and so much more. I don’t know if every teacher is this way, but I thought that my child would be the first to do everything. Carter definitely wanted to humble me because that didn’t happen and it still isn’t happening as we wait for words. Carter first began moving through the world by rolling at 8 1/2 months. It worked out really well for him, so he stuck with that for a while. Finally, rolling turned to something
that looked like an army scoot that used mostly his arms and toes to get around. At 10 1/2 months he decided that wasn’t fast enough and got up on all fours to crawl. Just after his first birthday be began taking a few steps here and there, but he waited until my Dad bought him his first pair of Stride Rites before he took off walking. Really, that very day. It was as if he already knew how to do it, he was just waiting for an occasion.
All this mobility brought me into another stage of being a mother. I realized that I had to teach Carter discipline. I can tell you that after nothing but lovey, kissy, huggy and smiles for so long, it was a big struggle for me to begin to show Carter some disapproval for the purpose of teaching him right and wrong. There were tears and just recently there are lay down on the floor fits. But, the rewards do come. He is getting it. He does not throw the books and magazines in the floor. He does not pull trash out of the trashcan and he does not push all the buttons on the home entertainment equipment. When I tell him not to do something, he shows understanding. I can’t say that he doesn’t still test my resolve on many issues, but I’ll take progress any day on something as challenging as this is for both of us.
In the almost 15 months that Carter has been in my life, we’ve taught each other so much. We have both gone through stages and grown from them. We’ve put up with a lot from each other, too.
Through it all, there has been one thing that I have really been anxious for. This week Carter called my name. He called me “Ma Ma”. He didn’t just say it to the air or repeat the sound over and over and over. He called to me and when he said it, he meant me. He finally knows that I am a mother and I am his mother. From now on, he’ll know me as “Ma Ma”. It won’t always be this soft and sweet, I know. Some days he’ll cry it, some days he’ll whine it and some days he’ll even scream it. But no matter where he goes or what he becomes in life, I’ll always be his mother. That makes it all worth it.