Both my daughters were Caesarean births. Not the birth story I had in mind, but hey, that’s the one they got.
Picture this: my gyno drops the bombshell that I have an “incompetent cervix.” Seriously? Only a man would say that to a nine-month-pregnant woman about to give birth and embark on the scariest adventure of her life. Couldn’t he have used a less terrifying term? Like ‘you have a beautifully imperfect portal to give this child entry into the world beyond the womb’?
Needless to say, it took a lot of post-birth therapy to get over the trauma of his declaration. But, with a lot of my posse of girlfriends, not too mention wine, I’ve come a long way. I’ve even learned to laugh at myself for taking it so seriously. Back then, though, it felt like he was calling me defective, like I was less of a woman because my cervix wasn’t up to par.
Fast forward to the moment they lifted my precious newborn out of the shelter of my womb, and I couldn’t care less about how she took the final plunge into this world. She was perfect, and that’s all that mattered.
And then, the even scarier part of the journey began. Learning what it meant to be a mother.
Being an overachiever and go-get-er-done kind of gal, I figured I’d have the basics down pat and be sending her off to University in no time flat. And then, real life interrupted.
The next day, lying in bed, watching my child in the bassinet beside me, counting her breaths (you gotta make sure they keep breathing. Right?), with every rise and fall of her tiny chest I felt the tension ease. We were off to a good start.
Until, a lady named Jody came waltzing into my room with a too cheery hello and a booklet titled “When you’re not woman enough to have a working cervix” (Okay, I might be exaggerating the title). She explained she was from the Caesarean Birth Support Group and had come to help me get over the trauma of missing out on the most womanly of arts; pushing my child into this world through the birth canal. Seriously? I cringed and pulled away when she tried to show the booklet to me. Who even needs that kind of support group?
Lying there, listening to her go on and on, I wondered if I had so mis-judged my motherly capacities that my daughter wouldn’t be better off remaining under the care of professionals until her eighteenth birthday. Was my incompetent cervix an even bigger indication of my unfitness to be a mother? .Jody carefully explained all the feelings I should be having (which I had no idea I was supposed to be having) as I sank deeper and deeper into an ocean of self-doubt. When she again reminded me that she was there to support me, I didn’t laugh, cry, or chuck my brand-new breast pump at her. I politely thanked her and showed her the exit.
Why do we burden mothers with so much judgment and comparison? We spend ages scrutinizing each other, insisting there’s only one right way to be a “good” mom, or to become one. Why don’t we instead, do what we do for our kids? — Support, cheerlead, and create a loving space for growth and learning.
The fact is, before actually becoming a mother, motherhood was never on my radar; it terrified me. I’d spent my twenties declaring I wasn’t mother material. In fact, the medical experts agreed, after two ectopic pregancies left me with one tiny half of a fallopian tube, they told me I probably never could. Did I need more proof than that as to the motherly material of my make-up?
And then, at 32-years of age, the miracle of my daughter happened and I realized, ready or not, I had to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done, learn how to be a mother for a child who entered this world in her own way, without an instruction book on how to keep her alive and thriving. It was like diving into an on-the-job training course where I learned to grow up one step at a time while doing my best to not count all my mistakes, and dwell on the misteps and falling downs.
Even now, with my daughters and stepchildren as adults, I’m still learning. It’s a never-ending journey where I must constantly let go of believing I have all the answers or know what’s best for them.
So, Jody from the Caesarean Support Group, I didn’t deprive my daughters of anything by skipping the “birth canal journey.” And if they ever feel they missed out, therapy is on me!
What I’ve learned through diving into the deepwaters of motherhood without having any idea of the its destation is that while becoming a mother was accidental, the mother I am today is no accident. My children have taught me, every step of the way, more than anyone else ever could, that there’s no perfect way to bring a child into this world just as there’s no one way to become or be a parent. There is only the way it happens. And when we give it our best, when we stop looking back at all our mistakes or comparing our path to someone else’s or to an ideal we cannot attain, the road ahead is full of adventure beyond our wildest imagingings.
And, when the path is dark and the seas are stormy, when in doubt settles in like a cloud, choose love—it’s the best way to navigate this wild ride called motherhood.