I remember the birth of my first son, Eric, like it was yesterday. Actually, I don’t remember the actual birth at all. What I do remember is screaming at the anesthesiologist to “KNOCK ME OUT!!!!!!!” to which she replied, “Are YOU an anesthesiologist? NO? Then let me decide when to knock you out, now QUIT SCREAMING.” A few hours later I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a herd of wild boars. They wheeled me to the nursery to see my new baby. They handed him to me and I stopped breathing for a moment…Eric lowered his eyebrows at me like he was thinking “I’ve got a headache, I was stuck in some tunnel for 19 hours. Who the hell are YOU?” I looked back at him with astonishment and then an overwhelming wave of emotion that I didn’t understand.
My second son, Greg, chose to begin his arrival into the world during a “Mary Tyler Moore Marython”. I still get cramps when I hear that theme song. It was an average length labor, but at one point, I was feeling contractions more than I thought I should, so I asked my husband to get the nurse. He looked at the contraction monitor and said “Oh, they aren’t bad yet. You can wait a little longer…” and I didn’t let him even get a breath in before I screamed “GET THE DAMN NURSE!!!!!”. Greg arrived safely without me being totally anesthetized and having to go through surgery. The nurse put him on the warmer bed and dried him off and put a blue and pink striped cap on his head. He ripped it off and simultaneously, peed all over her. She handed him off to me because she had to change her scrubs and I stopped breathing for just a moment. Greg squinted at me through the eye ointment in his eyes. I looked back at him with astonishment and the wave of emotion broke over me again.
My daughter arrived when I was older and had no idea I could even have any more children. Her story was a series of constant trips to the hospital for false labor during which I was deemed “A Senior Pregnancy”. Don’t think I wasn’t offended about THAT. We finally made it to the day when I was having regular contractions that actually said “HEY, We mean it this time. FOR REALS.” So, off we went to the hospital which was 40 miles away because I was “A Senior Pregnancy” and had to deliver at a hospital that had a Level III NICU. Emma was firmly ensconced in my uterus with a bag of chips and a 48″ TV. She had no intention of coming out. Why should she? It’s warm, lots of food, not much room, but hey…no rent. One of the obstetricians finally decided she needed to be evicted and after giving me an IV injection of something wonderful, suddenly there appeared to be crowds of cheering people in the hall and I waved like a princess on my way to the OR. Of course, they really weren’t there. It turned out to be something called Fentanyl and it made me instantly unaware that I was even in labor. I even talked about going home and coming back the next day. That wasn’t going to work out apparently, as I learned when they wheeled me into the OR and moved me to the table. There was Native American Flute music playing in the background. I might have asked the anesthesiologist if he had Peyote. Suddenly, I felt a rush of nausea and the anesthesiologist said “Here’s your friend! Mr. Puke Pan!” and then just as suddenly, I could breathe more than I had been able to in 5 months. I yelled “She’s OUT! Oh she’s OUT! Oh that’s so much better!” About that time, a nurse from the side of the OR said “Mommy and Daddy! Look at this!” and he held up our naked, squinchy eyed, squealing daughter. The neonatologist check her over and the nurse brought her over to me. Her eyes opened for a moment and I stared into them…knowing I was nothing but a blur to her. I wasn’t breathing. She was so astonishingly perfect…and then the wave hit hard.
I recently had one of my hens hatch a clutch of eggs. I knew that chickens protect their young strongly, but I’d never actually witnessed the relationship that occurs between a hen and a chick. I waited the three long weeks and one day we discovered that the eggs were cheeping under their mama. She clucked contentedly…unless we tried to touch her and then she tried to tear off our arm and attach it to our ear. Touchy. We figured it was just hormones. The next day…a chick and later, another. I watched with amazement as she checked her babies with obvious astonishment. Clucking first with confusion and astonishment and then the wave must have taken her down as she began to cluck softly to comfort her new little ones.
Time after time, I’ve witnessed that bond between mother and child that occurs in that first astonishing moment that’s filled with crashing waves of emotion. Of course, it’s astonishing, because what miracle isn’t? The wave of emotion carries eddies of fear and swirling vortexes of uncertainty, but then…there’s something else. It’s overpowering and almost primal. It lifts you higher than you ever thought you could go and you know in that fleeting moment that this is the most important thing in your life. When another is born, you add another “most important thing in your life”, and so on. You know you’d die for this creature, you’d sacrifice your very soul, that they are a piece of you and that they’ve lived INSIDE your body. They know you and you know them better than anyone else ever will. They carry your heart, and you, their’s.
On the day that every child is born, every creature for that matter, there comes the first moment when you’re alone with your baby. You examine them head to toe…checking every finger and noticing the shell-like perfect ears and finally, burying your face into their downy, baby hair and breathing deeply to fill your senses with their intoxicating scent. Breathing it in again and again, because you can’t get enough. You promise your baby that you’ll protect it always, support its every dream and be there like no one else. People might say it’s love…but it’s more than that. It’s something higher and more powerful than that. It’s something that only mothers understand because that wave that crashes over them, hits no one else. It’s a wave meant just for motherhood and it carries with it strength, resolve and a feeling like love…but so much more.
This Mothers Day, I want to honor my children. They gave me the gift of being a mother. They gave me the responsibility and the joy and the fear and the astonishingly strong love that only mothers feel. It’s a gift. I may not have been the perfect mother, but I did what I thought was my best and learned along the way and have never ever stopped feeling the crest of that wave of emotion for my children. Eric, Greg and Emma, thank you for giving me the ultimate gift of motherhood. Not all women are fortunate enough to have children and have missed this astonishingly beautiful love that I have for all three of you. I want to tell you how lucky I feel, you all still astonish me every day, closely followed by that wave of emotion. I love you.