–all quotes from “Surprised by Motherhood” by Lisa-Jo Baker—
“Children arrive and blow through what used to be your routine. They huff and puff and they blow your life down.”
May 6, 1993. We didn’t know if it was a boy or girl. We didn’t know that babies usually don’t arrive on the due date. I didn’t know you really aren’t supposed to drive yourself when you are in labor because I didn’t know labor felt like. So many things we didn’t know when this date arrived. We certainly didn’t know what life would look like 21 years down the road.
“Becoming a parent is a lot like breaking up with yourself.”
Our lives are filled with pages and pages of stories. Some forgotten within days. Others written in permanent ink that looks like blood and smells like tears. Those are the stories that we can flip to in our minds and the memories are still in vivid Technicolor.
This is how we mothers carry around our birth tales, carved on our hearts, tattooed on our tongues ready to be pulled out to share when given the chance, with a friend or a stranger. These are the stories that never get old in the telling. Our babies turn inside us and turn us inside out and we are never the same after their arrival. We are completely wrecked and so delighted and overwhelmed and befuddled. Whether those stories are filled with joy or sadness, terror or amazement or a combination of all. Whether that day brought us to a hospital or a bedroom or an airport across the ocean.
What better story to fill a page than the miracle that turned me into a mom?
“So moms might not know it, but they are the bravest of the brave for taking this risk. Against all odds, knowing that sickness, sin, failure, and disaster lurk on the fringes of every day, we choose to embrace life. We open up ourselves–our bodies, our lives, and our futures–to the whims of another human being, and there is no going back. And perhaps what makes this kind of everyday courage the most remarkable is how very seldom it gets recognized.”
21 years ago. It was the end of my second year helping children learn to communicate at an elementary school where my caseload was over 100 and the walk up and down the halls of the school was starting to get old. I was 4 days shy of my 25th birthday, 4 days before the day that my first baby was due to arrive.
I went to bed the night before angry and upset. Some now forgotten argument between Todd and I blowing up the night. I woke early, swollen from eyelids to ankles, dressed sullen and quiet. The thoughts in my head so loud the pings across my middle went unnoticed. Pouting and oblivious, I drove to work. I remember passing the entrance to Dyess Air Force base when my brain registered that first signal that something weird was going on with this watermelon I was carrying around. Now what? My due date wasn’t for 4 more days. This must be like the pre-game show or something. Indigestion from the night before.
So I went on to work but had enough sense to keep track of these unusual pains. 9 minutes, 8 1/2 minutes, 7. I remember the tow headed first grade boy looking quizzically at me when I abruptly took a big gulp of air and told him to go back to class. I waddled down to the assistant principal’s office and apologized (??) for needing to leave. I said I think I needed to go to the doctor. Not the hospital, no I just needed to go see my doctor because something was wrong. No thank you, I don’t need a ride. It’s ok. My due date isn’t for 4 more days.
I. Had. No. Clue.
But I drove home first to get my packed bag, just in case. All the way fuming that I had to break my pouting silence with Todd to call and have him to meet me at the doctor’s office. I wasn’t fully finished with my “I’m really ticked at you” mood. I may or may not have had to get down on the floor to let a contraction pass in our living room on the way to get my bag. I just remember thinking I needed to hurry up and get to my doctor so he could tell me what was going on and if this was a normal thing to happen 4 days out from your due date.
By the grace of God I made it to the doctor’s office, roll my eyes at Todd, and fall into a chair in the waiting room. They take one look at me and gently say I need to get my butt across the street to the hospital, for pete’s sake.
Ohhhh…and suddenly with those words May 6th became my due date. The day I’d become a mother.
It was the eve of a full moon and all beds were full in labor and delivery. So we were somehow escorted to the surgery recovery room, past all these poor folks just coming out of anesthesia to the last bed available. As the thin curtain was drawn Todd and I made eye contact and whatever leftover tension that remained seemed childish and ridiculous. The fear of what lay ahead bonded our hearts right back together in a flash.
Finally we got a room and I experienced the beautiful gift called an epidural. I caught my breath and tread water for a bit before they said it’s go time. This is 1993, before the brilliant concept of birthing suites. So my first ride into a surgical room had nothing to do with surgery. While everyone was out doing who knows what, I laid alone for a minute or two in that cold sterile room. I remember looking at the old-fashioned clock on the wall at 2:15.
It was one of those moments of clarity that my brain felt hyper aware and I am so grateful. In come all the green scrubs and Todd is there beside me and with a couple pushes at 2:27 pm…she was here.
Caitlin Faith McKnight. A girl. Our girl. My girl, my daughter.
“No, God doesn’t ask us to trade who we are for the label of ‘Mom.’ Rather, He builds all the courage and calling of a lifetime into a story line big enough and rich enough to encompass kids, passion, work, creativity, and dreams that don’t end in the labor and delivery ward.”
A day later I laid in the hospital bed early in the morning, listening to a spring storm sweep across the town. I watched the bundle of baby sleep and swallowed down the knowledge that I had no clue what I’d gotten myself into. How could they allow me to a mother when all I wanted was MY mother? In the little journal I’d brought with me, I wrote about feeling as if I were at the top of a roller coaster, all at once terrified and thrilled at the adventure.
How do you raise a daughter to adulthood? One day at a time, one story at a time.
In hindsight it was all in all rather typical I suppose, when you look at the details. And yet it was the most extraordinary thing that had ever happened to me up to that point. She and I will forever share this miraculous story. The beginning of two new lives. Hers and in so many ways mine too.
How can someone who was so tiny and dependent just yesterday, already be 21 years old? She’s grown into a woman, strong and independent and fierce, making her own beautiful stories. Happy Birthday babe!
I firmly believe the best thing you can do for a mother this mother’s day is to listen to her stories. Moms, the best thing you can do for yourself? Write them down before the gift of memory fades.