A few days ago, I asked my cousin, Jill, to see if she could get her mother to tell her more about my birth. I've always wanted to know if I was born vaginally or via a c-section; how long my mother labored; how she felt when she saw me for the first time. Since having my own baby, knowing has become that much more important. I can't help but try to picture the circumstances of my own birth. I imagine that most women ask their mothers about their births; but as with so many mother things perhaps this is part of my mother fantasy life.
After first writing to me with news that her mother would not share anything further with her about me or my mother, she called last night with some news: I was born vaginally after two days of labor. Barbara drove my grandmother and my mother to the hospital. My grandmother never left my mother's side; she was my mother's only source of support. I will never know the details of my mother's experience of birthing me; but now I can try to imagine my way back to what she must have felt at least physically. Emotionally, I have to wonder how she fared, knowing of her illness, being without a loving partner, having a mother by her side that did not know how to soothe or nurture.
I have to admit that I was terrified of giving birth. Part of me was convinced that I would revel in the process completely and the other part of me was truly convinced that this mother experience would be the one to send me into a hole from which motherless daughters never return. So I began to prepare vigilantly for the birth of my son. I read book after book on healthy pregnancies, natural deliveries, took a private class with a doula, hired a doula to work with us, wrote a birth plan and then another, journaled my feelings, asking for and received support and pampering from my husband and still I felt the need for women to contain me like a mother would do for her daughter at birth. I wrote the following letter to a group of friends and family and most of them replied gifting me a wealth of insight and encouragement to read as I labored.
As I reread my plea and the responses that followed, I am reminded of how much it meant to me to know that I was a part of a continuum of women who become pregnant and birth and care for their children and to understand and trust that from the moment I gave birth I would now be a part of this web of mothers. I want to believe that, even if my mother didn't ask for it in the way I did of the women in my life, that the energy of this collective motherhood did reach her and hold her up in those moments before and after I was born. That at least she had that sacred time as my mother.
What does it mean to be a woman on the verge of creating something new and wonderful? What does it mean to be a women with her biological destiny looming so close? And what does it mean for me to be traveling such a momentous path without a mother to guide me?
I find that my mother yearning intensifies as each day brings me closer to becoming a mother. The realization that there will not be a mother sitting beside my bed offering her wisdom and strength as I bring our child into the world hits me even harder than any of the landmarks that I have traversed without a mother by my side.
A few weeks ago, several close friends gathered to prepare me emotionally and spiritually for this journey. They offered stories, song and chanting: friendship, good food and unconditional support. I wished then that I could have had all of them with Aaron and I in the hospital room, bringing me to a place of empowerment rather than fear. This is what I imagine a mother does for her daughter.
All of you know that in Aaron, I have perhaps the best one could hope for in a mother-- a tremendous man whose love and presence is constant and strong and beautiful. I know that he will be an amazing partner in this experience. We are also fortunate to have our doula Deby, who will be there with us guiding us with her wisdom and compassion.
But of course, I am finding that I want more--that my need for mother will not go quietly. I desire that mother's hand in mine. And so I turn to you, my community of women that I admire and care for--our family and friends--and ask that you gift me with me your wishes and thoughts, stories, and insights. They can be about motherhood or womanhood, reflections and memories about your life or what you and I have shared together or wishes for this baby or for Aaron and I as parents--truly anything that you wish to share. I plan to bring your replies with me to the hospital and read them or have Aaron read them to me while I am in process. In this way your words will become a collective mother's palm leading me closer to my child.
Baby boy Sasha is full engaged in my pelvis and my cervix is softening so there may not be much time left before we meet.
I will write again when I go into labor. Some friends have suggested that they will light a candle, others will send their prayers that the experience goes well and safely for us all. And of course, Aaron or I will let you know when he is in our arms.
Much love and thanks.....