A lot of people tell me I’m strong.
I’m not so sure about that. I’m very determined, willful, and outspoken. Is that strong or just belligerent? I think that might depend on how much wine I’ve had. Right now I’ve had none. But I’m also not done with my coffee either so that sounds like a smart state of mind to blog in.
A lot of people have been telling me, Happy First Mother’s Day.
I’m not so sure about this, either. Last year, I was pregnant with Connor. I had gone through natural labor during my miscarriage of Noah after years of infertility, medicine and appointments. This may be the first Mother’s Day that I have a living baby in my arms and these people undoubtedly have only my best interest at heart, but their message is more like alcohol on a burn. It throws me back to the “You’ll be a mom… someday” comments I received by the pound after our loss. I think it is perhaps because of our miscarriage that people think they should take the time to honor me this year. Like a “Hey – you did it!” And I don’t mean to be ungrateful. It’s just mixed feelings.
That being said, I felt a little bit like a fraud this past Sunday as I sat and listened to the many stories about motherhood that were told by amazing women (and one pretty standup guy) that I got to share a stage with. Stories about grandmothers and raising multiple children and battling snakes and having hard talks and overcoming great obstacles.
Am I a legit mother? These ladies were mothers and grandmothers and the ones that weren’t? Well they were talking about the women that raised them. That’s what I was doing – talking about the woman that raised me. And I kind of raised my brother, especially after Marti left. And I did get and execute legal guardianship of him after dad died. And I did spend a week in the hospital with Connor. Was all that good enough? I decided that, yes. Raising Alex gave me at least a half point. Our time with Noah gave me the other half point. Connor was just icing on my mommy cake.
Then the cards came.
Oh good. Perhaps my mommy-hood points were a bit premature.
If I were reading this blog right now, two things would come to mind:
1. This woman has more issues than Time magazine.
2. I wonder how many mommy points I have.
The latter because yes, I do have many issues with self-validation. I think that comes from having to fight for so damn much all the time. This is where I was last night, while I was trying to sleep. I thought about the cards from my sweet Aunt and best friend, wishing me a Happy First Mother’s Day. And because I have a very active psyche, I kept thinking. I thought about my fertility journey.
All the negative pregnancy tests.
The precancerous cells that would not go away (until they did).
The appointments with Dr. Reshef.
The positive pregnancy test.
The missing heartbeat.
The two week period where I walked around with a dead baby inside me.
The natural miscarriage.
Holding our sweet, tiny Noah.
The initial tests and diagnosis.
The miracle pregnancy.
The most stressful 41+ weeks of my entire life.
And then Connor.
I turned over so that I could glimpse at him via the app that J put on my phone. Sometimes I just wake up and stare at him on video, making sure that his stomach or chest is going up and down – making sure that he is breathing when I can’t hear him. He’s so quiet. Even though his crib is in our room, I miss the days when he would only sleep on my chest or in my arms. I think we practice attachment parenting as much for ourselves as for Connor.
I smile as he straightens his legs in his sleep. This is good enough to calm me down and I flip back over or I’ll keep opening my eyes to check on him. I still can’t sleep. What are we going to process now, dear brain? The show, my brain replies. Let’s finish processing the show.
Up until now, at 1AM on Wednesday night, I had only spoken about the show in the most general of terms. When asked about how I did, I would say something like “fine,” and ramble on about other stories. Internally, I just wondered about the tiny bit of liquid snot I felt threatening to drip out of my right nostril. HAD IT MADE IT? WOULD IT SHOW UP ON VIDEO? SHOULD I HAVE WIPED IT AWAY? In the moment, I had decided that it might make it worse or more noticeable. I was trying really, really hard not to cry and that right nostril was my biggest enemy… or so I thought.
My husband told me about all the times my voice broke. Because he’s my sweet husband, you must understand that this was not said as a criticism. He was telling me how beautiful he thought my story was. He was telling me how strong he thinks I am. And he said, “Every time your voice broke, it made it that much harder.” I responded that I thought I had done a good job of pushing down those feelings. He was silent. Oh. Well. Okay then. I flashed back to this discussion and found that I didn’t really need to process it. I could let it live in its own simple truth.
I thought about all the women who came up to me after the show. I went over all the amazing, kind words they said to me. I remembered showing Connor off and being secretly very pleased that our babysitter had cancelled last second. I felt better with him in the audience. Why do I not have to process anything, I thought. This is not like me.
And then I thought about our cast. I hadn’t been with them during the read-through. For many of them, that afternoon had been the first time we had met. But, for some reason, they are why I didn’t have to process anything. And it was them and their validation that I belonged there, not my lame mommy point scheme, that made me feel like a legit mother.
I realized how much I missed them, this group that I barely knew. I realized how much they helped me in ways that I hadn’t been able to tell them, because I hadn’t known, until now. I realized how instantly I felt accepted into a tribe. It made me think of the other naturally minded parents I’m connected to on Facebook and how they have accepted me, too. I realized that I have never felt more accepted or more whole or MORE LIKE A MOTHER in my entire life. And I cried. A lot. I cried until I fell asleep.
I am a risk taker, sometimes. It’s no surprise to me that I put myself in this position. But I gained so much more than I ever could have ventured. I have a new perspective and a new appreciation for the people that come into my life. I have wrestled so much with loss since Connor’s birth – being a new mom when most of your friends are still childless can come with a really harsh and distancing reality. It’s been ugly. It’s been so very hard and lonely. Yet, here these people were, welcoming me. Validating me. Nurturing me. Holding me up. Barely knowing me but getting me. Breathing life into me.
“Your story is my favorite,” she said in whispered breath. Funny, because her story was mine.
“I am so glad you’re here,” she said. “Thank you so much for sharing your story,” she said. “It is SO NICE to meet you,” she said. “I cannot wait to hear your story from your voice,” she said. “I could not be more proud of you than I am right now,” she said. “It was the most uplifting, healing thing I have heard in a long time,” she said. “Try the hummus,” she said, “I’m going to treat you like I treat my kids.”
I recently read that if you don’t have the support system you need, you must build your own tribe. This little group, for however long they’re in my life, was handed to me. All I’ve had to do was show up. I am so grateful for the chance to be in Listen to Your Mother but even more grateful for the double-edged sword that is social media for keeping me connected to all these new, beautiful people.
You are strong, they tell me.
No. Not quite. Not alone. Alone I am weak and scared and unsure. But with you by my side, I am stronger. You are the bees to my pollen. The school to my fish. The band to my solitaire. You may have had no intention of helping this girl, with all her issues and loneliness. But, you can’t go back now.
Well, I guess you can. But I hope you don’t. And if you do, I will be so, so grateful for the time we spent together.