For much of my pregnancy I was weighed down by shame, that prevented me from fully connecting to myself as a mother. There was a part of me that didn’t truly appreciate the life I was growing inside of me, like it was somehow less special due to my age and circumstances. However, a moment stands out as the turning point in my journey to motherhood. I wish I could say it was the first time I heard my baby’s heartbeat or when my bump became too big to hide or finding out I was having a little girl or when I felt her sweet little kicks. All of those moments were meaningful steps in the right direction, but what changed my perspective completely was the first day of birthing class.
It wasn’t anything the instructor said about breathing techniques or channeling your pain, but it was one expecting mom who made a bigger impact on me than she ever could’ve known. We sat in a circle introducing ourselves and giving brief stories of our pregnancies. My daughter’s dad and I were the first to share with the group. I explained how I had just graduated high school and having a baby at 18 was completely unplanned. I shared my shock and disappointment upon finding out I was pregnant, fears of young motherhood, and coming to terms with it all. I expressed my intentions to be the best mom I could be, but I knew they could hear the immature nervousness in my voice. I listened as the next couple shared their story. The woman explained that she was in her late 30s, and this was the first pregnancy she had carried this long. She cried when telling us about miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. She told us about the extensive tests, doctors appointments, and treatments it took for her to carry this baby. Infertility had tormented her for years, and even then, her and her husband were filled with fear of losing that pregnancy too. It was a long, grueling battle for her to get to that point, but she was deeply grateful for the little one inside her.
I sat there stunned. I had just gone on and on about my accidental baby, that required no intentional effort. Even worse, I described my initial letdown of having a baby, right next to a woman who put stress on every aspect of her life to have hers. I had no doubt she was thinking “Why was it so easy for her?! She didn’t even want a baby, and I had been trying so hard for mine?!”, and understandably so. My heart broke for this woman, and I felt a whole new wave of shame; this time the shame for ever having felt the way I did about my pregnancy.
For the first time, I truly saw the other side of motherhood. While I was devastated by my positive pregnancy test, another woman was devastated by her negative one. When all I felt was fear and guilt in telling people about my pregnancy, another mom was grieving the loss of hers. All the moments I was ashamed of my growing belly, another woman was begging God for a baby of her own. The time I spent wracking my brain over the sacrifices I would have to make, another woman would’ve given up anything to be a mother. I was doing myself, my baby, all the mothers before me, and all the women longing to be mothers a huge disservice. I let my unconventional circumstances overshadow the incredible joy that is motherhood. I decided that day to never waste another precious moment with my baby on shame, and I’ve stuck to that for the past three years of her life.
Each woman’s journey to motherhood is unique. Every woman’s experience of motherhood is different, and no condition makes a woman any less of a mother. If her child is unplanned or a choice. If she’s a teenager or a woman reaching the end of child-bearing age. If her children are biological or adopted or in her heart. If she has one child, ten children, or babies who never made it into her arms. One thing remains the same: With the creation of a child, is the creation of a mother.
My heart often goes out to the woman from birthing class. How opposite our journeys to motherhood were, and yet we both will be celebrated today on Mother’s Day. I pray she has a healthy, happy three-year-old running around her house today, too. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, in every sense of the word!
“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even if you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”Donna ball
Sincerely, M & E