Saturday, May 9, 2009
Mother's Day story
Happy mother's day to all moms.
This story is written by a woman who described a conversation with her daughter about childbirth, and I received it when I just gave birth to my daughter almost five years ago. I loved it and have saved it in my drawer. It seems like a good day to share it.
We were sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of starting a family. "We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know" she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a pie or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation. I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professional derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going to an important meeting and will think of something her baby did or said. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from dropping her work responsibilities and running home, just to see her child and make sure she is all right.
I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right here, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in the restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second guess herself constantly as a mother.
Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give up her life in a moment to save her child, but will also begin to hope for many more years to watch her child accomplish her own dreams.
I want her to know that a caesarean scar or stretch marks will become badges of honor.
My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to clean and diaper the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child and read to her. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the joy and laughter of your own child when she touches the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time.
My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.
"You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
All so true. Happy mother's day!