On Being and Becoming a Mother
The most intense phase of labor during childbirth is called ‘transition.’
For me, it was a whirlwind of uncertainty. As the challenging minutes passed, the familiar world crumbled away. I remember hearing the voices of those who were around me but being absolutely contained within my experience and my body. It was during ‘transition’ that questions crept into my mind about my ability to birth and even my survival.
Those moments melted into the actual birth of my daughter who arrived just a couple of hours after my water had rushed out in a Seattle restaurant. She came quick and certain. I was awed by her arrival and at the same time unsure about what would happen next. I remember it feeling foreign to hold her for the first time outside of my body.
Osho said it: “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.”
And as I held her, I lavished in the idea that I was also born into my new role: Mother.
The truth is that I was given quite a bit of time to prepare; for nearly nine months I had been serious with my mom-studies. That is in my nature: to prepare. I read books, I observed other parents, I googled endlessly, and I daydreamed about what it might be like. Of course, like many things, expectations don’t always match up with reality.
At birth plus perhaps two minutes I began to realize that actually all there was is ‘not knowing.’ I had no idea what to do with a tiny baby. It was all to be a great experiment that starts with learning how to trust instincts and ability. Yes, I had in some ways been born into my new role as a mother, I looked the part, but it quickly became clear that actually, the long initiation was still underway.
Motherhood is a time of unimaginable change. From the very first moments after birth until today (and into the realm of forever) I was and am filled with overwhelming love for my child. Somehow I expanded as I saw my child for the first time. I, in many ways, became more myself when I embraced the role of mother in my life.
On the other side of the coin, with birth came also an overwhelming feeling of loss. My sense of my individual self perished. More or less I was hurled into a whole new world filled with new responsibilities and duties and very little guidance. Four hours after my daughter was born, in the earliest hours of the morning, we were sent home from the birthing house. The day that followed exists somewhere in my memories between dream and reality.
The night though, just 24 hours after her birth, I remember vividly. That night was a test. My newborn daughter screamed inconsolably for seemingly endless hours. Her cries, which felt to me like messages of pain, were shrill and infuriating. It seemed like nothing could be done.
After nearly 24 hours of trying on my new role, every bit of confidence I had in my mothering had been effectively dispatched. As the cries continued, I questioned my ability and myself once again. I remember even telling my partner after quite some hours of the crying that our daughter hated me. Somehow I was completely broken down and at the same time aware that my only option was to continue to try to trust in my capabilities.
The first two years of my life with a child felt like the trials. So often I felt myself being called to get in contact with deep resources within to make it through the tests. This is where all the real learning has happened. And even now as I am a little more confident in my role it is still an evolving process. On the day my child was born I joined a sisterhood of moms, but I am still becoming a Mother.
To me, there are two stages of becoming a Mother: the first, yes, it happens just as the child is born. Externally, with the baby as your newest accessory, you look the part and in status you become. But the second step is internal and much more uncertain; seemingly arriving and resolving in waves. The actual mother remains in limbo and the real transformation happens slowly.
Even today I live in what I would call the in-between, liminality, where disorientation and doubt are integral to the growth process. I am still learning how to be a Mother and it is a slow and arduous journey. I still become and un-become and then become again. There are moments of isolation, loss, and discomfort. And those are balanced and contrasted by deep joy, celebration, certainty, and strength.
Although my daughter will undoubtedly hurl me into many more spaces of uncertainty, I hope I can remember to find some comfort in knowing that each of them will be an opportunity for becoming more as a Mother.