I vividly remember those hot Summer days leading up to the birth of my baby, the one child who has and will come through me. I will not refer to her as only. To me, the word suggests a lack of something more, a shorting. We do not lack, nor have we been shorted. This I now know. The journey we embark on as mothers are both incredibly similar and very different, no matter how many children we have. Yet, I think the experience a mother of one has, is again unique. The decision to remain here can be fairly easy or challenging. For me, the journey towards making this choice was certainly a challenge, until it wasn’t.
Being asked the ages of my children and working through the emotions which surfaced from the assumption that there was more than one, watching a mom attending to her children, as if effortlessly or hearing the sounds of siblings breaking out into laughter together, thinking to myself that I was robbing my daughter of that joy. These situations would stir thoughts of failure, which consumed me deep within. I would, of course, remind myself how blessed I was to have been made a mom, yet the triggers were still there. Facebook pregnancy announcements with a cute kiddo holding a big brother or sister sign were probably the deepest felt or even those family stickers on the back of cars, where I then began to question why I didn’t have a dog. I found my childhood dream of having a “well-rounded” family of four; well, five including the dog, slipping away.
So back to the Summer of 2013. My due date had come and went and I was often found walking, trying to get the birthing process underway. I would daydream about my baby and the life we would have. I loved being pregnant and never had any doubts about becoming a mom. And how blessed I was to be giving birth in the sunny month of July. Before I knew it, I would be out on the patio nursing and cuddling my newborn while sipping lemonade. Yep, that was my exact thought.
Yet, from the moment I entered the hospital to be induced, motherhood quickly became something very different than what I thought it would be. After a difficult, long and disempowering birth, I was depleted, both physically and emotionally. Nearly requiring a blood transfusion, I was left weak; unable to steadily walk, stand in the shower or successfully nurse my baby. Fast forward two days and I found myself in the car being driven home from the hospital, wondering how I was ever going to take care of my precious newborn. On the third morning of being home, I focused on my baby laying on the bed right in front of me. I was exhausted and completely terrified to be alone with her. It was in that moment that I felt an intense feeling move through me that I had never quite felt before. That was that day that anxiety became a prominent part of my life. It was also the day that a deep feeling of failure and grief flooded into my heart, for not feeling overwhelming joy and gratitude for the amazing and beautiful baby girl in front me. I was sure it should be around the corner. I was just unable to find the turn.
The first three years of motherhood were a blur; survival. I worked full time, largely from home, while taking care of my baby too, which I now realize was a move that likely left me in the blur longer. Financially this was important for us, yet I can now see that I was trying to prove something, namely to myself. Breastfeeding was emotionally and physically excruciating, filled with perhaps the harshest self-judgment of all. I so vividly still hear the sound of that pump working day and night. After six months and near insanity, I turned in the towel with breastfeeding, which was one of the most liberating moves I made, especially after I let go of the shame of not measuring up to my own expectations. As time went on, I began to feel more like myself, yet so slowly it was hardly noticeable. I would see my friends, other moms, the world around me having more babies. Self judgement began to implode, yet again. Was something wrong with me for being incapable of having that too? Was I a broken mom? After all, that is what I had always thought I would want.
Then my daughter turned three and it was if I suddenly I found that corner. I began to settle into this thing called motherhood. I knew I was now in my groove as I no longer looked for excuses to run away when I got the chance. I was taking better care of myself, nourishing myself on all levels, and I began to truly love and experience joy within motherhood. These feelings grew steadily over the next few years and here I am today; with a six-year-old who I can’t get enough of.
Yet, does this new frame of mind have me wanting another baby? Nope. Admittedly I still, although very infrequently, grieve the reality of me not being a mom to the two kids I always dreamed of. Yet there are many reasons I find myself settling into my choice, which I am thankful my husband supports. It is when I sit with this choice, the one that is honest and true for me, right here and right now, that I find inner peace, which allows me to enjoy every precious moment I have with my daughter. My only hope for the mark I leave as a mama is to show my daughter what it means to truly love herself so she can love her life and share that love with the world. To do so, I choose to be that demonstration, which requires me to be honest with myself and live that truth.
So, for the mama of one child who mourns her experience, I have been there. I am you. Be kind to yourself.
For the mama of one child who wants to try again but worries about her mental and physical health, I have been there. I am you. Take care of yourself.
For the mama of one child who feels like a failure when she compares herself to the mama next to her; feeling broken for both wanting and feeling incapable of having what she has, I have been there. I am you. Be honest with yourself.
And for the mama who is clear and at peace with one gorgeous child, I have not always been there but I am now. I am you. Celebrate yourself.