The moment she was born, I was born.
I recall this moment where I was pushing- surrounded by nurses, legs warm and heavy from anesthesia, bright lights in my face, and realizing this was it. She was coming. I believe this moment stands out so clearly in my memory because I stood at a threshold between the life I was so familiar with, and the one I had longed to live for years. Suddenly, she was there in my arms, on my chest; squinty-eyed and grappling for some familiarity in her bright new world. Suddenly, there I was: mama. Beholding the very one who made me so.
She was new, and so was I. We both had little idea of what to expect. We both had learning to do. I learned her cues, and she learned I would respond. She learned how to eat, and I learned how to feed. She learned I was ever-present, and I learned I couldn’t bear to have it any other way. As I sat uncomfortably in a hospital bed performing this endless cycle of syringe-feeding, nursing, expressing, and pumping, I began to understand the cost of becoming someone’s mama. For nine months her body relied on me for life, and for many more she would continue to.
Upon going home a few short days later, we were surrounded by countless faces. Visitors bringing gifts, meals, and eager for baby snuggles. At the end of our days though, it was just us again. It was her and I in the middle of those quiet nights sitting on our living room couch beneath dim lights. Nobody told me my body would feel as though it suffered through a round in a boxing ring. Nobody told me my back would bear the brunt of my lack of nursing experience. Nobody told me stitches would make sitting down comfortably nearly impossible. Nobody told me how I might cry, and cry, and cry because the beauty of the life I birthed would be so overwhelming. A depth of love so unfathomable my heart felt as though it could no longer contain it came pouring out in heavy, silent sobs in the still hours of those nights. My body had physically been pushed to a limit like never before, and my emotions wound and wrapped as a vine around a trellis in ways I never imagined.
Though sleep-deprived, I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t want to miss a moment of her. Though healing from birth, I was already anticipating how I could protect her heart from hurt. Though struggling with cracked, bleeding nipples and mastitis, I was stubbornly concerned that she was eating enough.
Though I was a grown, adult woman with a child of her own, I was this brand new person. I was someone’s mama, trying to get up on my own two feet, and solely motivated by love. Never at any other time during my pregnancy with her, or with subsequent children, did this reality ever weigh on me so heavily than in those first weeks following the birth of my first child. Those first few weeks after she came into our lives, everything was new. Everyday brought new firsts. My husband and I lived for each moment, completely enamored simply by who she was. She was beautiful. Every breath wonder-filled. Every sleepy grin awe-worthy. Every small stir attention-grabbing.
Then there I was. A love-struck, messy haired, sleep deprived, pajama wearing, milk and spit-up covered, amateur mama. I didn’t realize it at the time, but alongside all the unglamorous things, there was something wonderful in who I was becoming in those days too.
Just as she was a baby all nine months I carried her, I was a mother all along, yet her birth ushered in my own birth as a mom. Becoming a mama was all at once messy and overwhelming, but riddled with moments of surprising beauty. In an unexpected way, I found that I was somehow myself AND someone new at the very same time.
I birthed her, but she made me.
Mary Kate Brown is a homeschooling stay-at-home mama living in the suburbs of Chicago. She is married to her high-school sweetheart Brian, and together they have three daughters. She decorates cakes, is a hobby gardener, enjoys reading, and she writes about faith and motherhood at www.choosinggraceblog.com.