When a child is born, so too is a mother. My son gave me that title nine years ago today. All at once it feels like two weeks and a lifetime ago.
His birth was fast, intense, and private. I awoke at 3:00 a.m. one week past my due date with the sensation that someone had stabbed me in the lower back with an ice pick. I woke my husband up with my attempts at climbing out of my own body and when he asked if he should call our midwife, I believe I spun my head around 180 degrees to nod yes. Four and a half hours later, my son was born into her arms while Bobby was trying to move her car out of the neighbor's way. He often uses the trick of going to the bathroom when we are anxiously awaiting our food at a restaurant because he swears it makes it arrive faster. I should have known.
Six years later, my daughter was born. I was induced a week early at a local hospital due to a (stupid) condition called cholestasis. My plan of a repeat stranger-free, natural home birth was simply not to be. Instead, a small village of people chatted over coffee and my vagina. Basically.
In weighing both experiences, I can't say that either was better. On one hand, birthing at home was nice because I didn't have to meet new people while I was sweaty and naked from the waist down. On the other, it was pretty awesome to not have to wonder who was going to clean up after God knows what gushed out of my body. Plus, hospital ice.
My babies are obviously the most beautiful and tangible products of these hours of my life. But the life lessons that came from them are as important to who I am today as my children themselves.
1. Self-preservation is not selfish.
There's a difference between not inviting an annoying co-worker to your Christmas party, and not asking family to attend the nitty gritty part (or any part for that matter) of getting a baby out of your body. Luckily for me, I never had to shoot down anyone's expectations outright, but in some ways, I wondered if perhaps I should feel guilty for keeping the guest list tighter than Brad and Angelina's wedding.
Nope. Not for a hot second.
The same goes for the early days of having a newborn. It is not your obligation to keep your door unlocked and open to anyone who wants to visit. For one, it's healthier for the baby to avoid basically everyone. Second, I haven't taken a real shower yet, I feel like I sat in a meat grinder, my boobs are leaking and I'm pretty sure there are dishes in the sink from three days ago. I don't want to waste energy worrying about any of those things. I know you don't care, but I do even if I shouldn't. Sometimes the answer is just "no."
It took making a person whom I always put before myself to in turn occasionally put myself before the rest of the world.
2. You don't always have to be polite.
The hospital where I delivered my daughter happens to be a teaching hospital. And because I was there as an "emergency intervention," I was under the care of whomever happened to be on call at that time. The nurses were all phenomenal. The doctors were ding dongs. But the WORST was one of the residents that came with the second shift. I should have banished her from my room from the minute she introduced herself. She barely looked me in the eye as she spoke, and when I outstretched my hand to shake hers she offered her finger tips as though it were some bizarre custom of which she knew nothing. Soon after she returned to check my progress. She scrubbed up and applied her gloves. What happened next suggested that perhaps she'd been trained in vaginal exploration by a pack of sexually over-excited, 15-year-old boys. She rammed her stubby fingered hand all up in my business while my squirming body language would have clued in anyone with a human brain that perhaps I was uncomfortable. Instead of asking me to re-position, she continued with zeal as the nurses shot looks of "WTF" to one another. "Um, she's a three. No. A four. Well, maybe a three." As she prepared to dive back in, I snapped my legs together. "You DON'T EVEN KNOW? After all that?" After she left, I told the nurse, "That woman is NOT ALLOWED IN HERE. She may not touch me EVER AGAIN. Has she considered accounting?" Her shift continued for a few more hours and at one point I heard her ask outside my room where she should attend to since, "this woman does not want me to participate in her birth." I have henceforth always referred to her as Stabby McLeprachaun Hands and I curse the ground she walks on.
3. That which makes you feel like yourself is not a silly waste of time.
As I packed my bag to head to the hospital to have my daughter, I had no idea what I was doing. Only hours before I had gone to my 39 week appointment. Suddenly, doctors wanted her out ASAP. So I threw shit into a bag. Some newborn clothes, a robe, my phone charger. Finally on top, I dropped my make up bag.
When my son was born six years earlier, the first time I left my bedroom was at my mid wife's insistence that I pee. She helped me hobble the dozen steps and once inside, I washed my face and put on mascara. Did anyone care how I looked? Was TMZ dropping by to get the first blurry shots of my wrinkly baby? Hell no. But did it make me feel good? Yes. (Did it make peeing feel less like I'd slept with Tommy Lee? No. No it did not.)
Everyday I wake up and do the few things that make me feel like me. Kids are searching for library books, orange juice is getting spilled halfway across the counter, sibling drama is unfolding over whether or not someone happened to be sitting somewhere first, but I make time. I'm a better mother when I feel like my best self. And if it takes some spackle and sparkle to do that, who cares?
4. I am actually a badass.*
A person came out of my body. A PERSON. I know that's kind of the way it's been going since the beginning of time, but I'm sure I'm not alone in finding the whole thing relatively mind boggling. One night, I went to bed like I had every night before. I woke up in the middle of the night and shortly after the sun came up A PERSON CAME OUT OF MY BODY. On to the same bed that I went to sleep on. One that made noise and had ten fingers and ten toes and eyes and stuff.
So many times since then I've fallen back on that thought and been like, "Stop whining and get your ass in gear. You pushed people out of your hoo-ha and you're too tired to go to yoga. Right."
(*I don't care how your babies got here. If there are people walking the planet because of you, you're a badass too.)
Find more from Sara on her blog Oddly Well Adjusted