As I write this I am sitting next to our chocolate Labrador named Winnie, a maiden, about to give birth for the first time.
Is she only then entering motherhood, or has she been a mother since the moment her puppies were conceived? Opinions and definitions on this vary. I’m in the camp of believing that we become a mother at the point of conception. I certainly felt like a mother during pregnancy.
Here’s an excerpt from my book The Art of Trying, pg 38:
Two pink lines. Or in this case the word PREGNANT. It astounded me then, and still does, that in the space of one moment you go from being not pregnant to pregnant. From being just you to being two of you. From being a woman to being a mother. From pregnancy being a hypothetical, to it being a reality.
You go from clinging to hope that you’ll create a baby, to clinging to hope that you’ll keep it. And just like that you’re thrust into the next chapter of your life and you are fantasising over due dates, which doctor you’ll use, where you’ll deliver and is it a boy or girl. It is the most incredible, scary, wonderful feeling. If the feeling was a man made drug, addiction would be rife.
I stare into Winnie’s troubled eyes, sending her strength, wondering what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling. I reflect on my feelings at this same pivotal point in my motherhood journey, trembling on the precipice of being a mother to an actual baby, inching ever so close to joining the ‘baby club’ that I had yearned to belong to for years.
From The Art of Trying, pg 61:
I didn’t really fit in anymore. I had had my fill of partying and getting drunk on weekends at the pub, races or rugby, but I wasn’t yet in the Mum-with-a-pram stage. I was in between in the trying club, and it was a lonely and confusing place to hang. It’s a club no one wants to be in and membership should be free because it has shitty benefits. Everyone in it is looking over the fence at the baby club, craving to be with those cool cats instead.
Course through my mind.
Will I be good enough?
Will I get it right?
What will happen?
Will I be okay?
Will my baby be okay?
Will we be okay?
Will we get it right?
Will we be good enough?
There was so much I did not know, could not know, about being a Mum.
I hoped I had enough of the basics under my belt to get me started, the belief that I would work the rest out as we went along, and the contact numbers of people to help us when we needed it.
I really wanted to be good at it, great even. I hoped I’d be a natural. I prayed that I’d like it. I desperately hoped that I’d love my baby and cope with it all okay. My first pregnancy had ended with heartbreak.
From The Art of Trying, pg 50:
For one week I got to experience the pure joy of being pregnant. During that time it was pretty much all I could think about and all I wanted to think about. Like a soft warm blanket, I wanted to wrap myself up in it and feel the beauty of it, over and over again. I wanted to roll around in the bliss, bask in it and hide away with it, all to myself. For so long I had wanted to feel it, and, when I did, it was better than I had imagined.
For one week I imagined his sweet little face, touching his perfect soft skin and breathing in the unmistakable, addictive baby smell. For one week, I pictured myself up at night breastfeeding him, holding him, kissing his forehead, pushing him in the pram when we went out as a family of three. I was gleaming with pride and happiness as we walked along. I had begun to plan the nursery and started a mental checklist of what I’d need to prepare before his arrival. I could picture my bulging belly, smiling as I rubbed the spot where he was kicking me. I wanted to go through labour, I wanted to be the tired mother of a newborn, I wanted to experience all of it.
Now there was nothing except a throbbing emptiness, more cramps and a bloody reminder every time I went to the toilet. Oh, and the general sense that I should dismiss how I was feeling because it was just ‘the products of conception’ and it happens all the time.
I’d been through that and I was ready now, for this. What I wasn’t ready for was the primal ferocity of birth, the will to get it done so I would know for sure that we were going to make it. I didn’t know that with the birth of our first son a new version of me would also be birthed. I would become a woman and a mother. I would become me + motherhood.
How could I know my capacity for love would expand beyond my wildest dreams. My ability to hold so many feelings at once would baffle me. My edges would be stretched time and time again. There’s a lot I didn’t know.
I wonder if Winnie knows the enormity of what she’s entering into. Does she know the depths of the transition she will move through that will challenge her more than she can imagine and bring her joy beyond belief? I suspect not.
She rhythmically births six healthy babies, one after the other, while cleaning the others and positioning herself for them to suckle safely. It brings tears to my eyes – her instinct, her care, her gentleness, her knowing, her instant love. So wild, natural and beautiful. She looks up at me occasionally for encouragement and I wonder if she’s thinking: am I good enough, did I get it right? Perhaps we are not so different after all.
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