I was a reluctant mother. When my girlhood friends would sigh, coo and reach out to hold babies, I would quietly wonder at the attraction. My lovely, loving mother herself said she pitied the child that would have me for a mother. And yet, when I accidently became pregnant at the age of 30 by a man I knew I shouldn’t have married 4 months before, I couldn’t bring myself to have an abortion… and my fate was sealed. At no point during the 9 months of that pregnancy did I relax, marvel at or revel in the growing life inside me. I dreaded what was to come – awaiting the fulfillment of my mother’s fateful prediction.
The day my perfect first-born came into the world was the day my Motherhood was born. The instant he was placed in my weary, 36-hours-of-labor-arms, all my fears washed away – as I knew him. The feeling was, “Oh – it’s you! If I’d known it was going to be YOU, I wouldn’t have worried.” And with a trembling heart, I held on to my son, knowing we’d breathe love and life into each other – and somehow – stumble through it.
With a burgeoning career and wobbly marriage, I was more than complete with one child, but my much-loved son wanted a sibling like he wanted air. So 5 years, 6 early miscarriages in-a-row and 1 placenta previa pregnancy later, son #2 rolled into town, his place in my heart firmly anchored the moment his star-laden eyes popped open. Now I had the bookend for the first, my procreative work was done – and I knew my marriage was too.
And yet – the Universe had another plan – and 1 year later, I found myself to be yet again, shockingly pregnant. (Yes – you’d think I would’ve figured it out by then). After 9 months of frenzied denial, in the midst of training a group of displaced employees and only 10 minutes after arriving at the hospital, my final baby – careened into the world. The daughter I never dreamed I’d have, stepped onto the stage of my life.
Whereas the boys were always mine first – my daughter was a Daddy’s Girl, tag-along big-brother-worshipper and her own woman, willfully doing her own thing while looking to the men in her life for attention and approval. When my cancer-riddled marriage finally imploded when she was 13, her devastated, terrified heart found stability in her father’s home.
Many of my peers lamented the pain and bitched about the excruciating struggle of raising a teenage girl. I did not. I quietly keened over not having her and the slings-and-arrows of teen girldom in my day-to-day life… not having her asleep in the next bedroom at night or snarling at me over eggs in the morning.
Her tumultuous adolescence passed, filled with: father’s girlfriend rapidly displacing her in her dad’s attention; adored brothers leaving for college; childhood friends assaulting and exiling her at school; and a BFF killing himself. All this trauma – natural and un – I observed from an achingly respectful distance, every fiber of my being crying out to comfort and guide, yet knowing she already had the shoulders she wanted to cry on. And so grateful she had 3 strong men to count on who loved her absolutely and steadfastly. Because of that unquestioned connection, I knew she would have the deep capacity to love and trust men, the foundation for a lifetime of joy and fulfillment. That was worth it. And I trusted that I held a trump card no other held. I was her mother. I was the female that gave birth to her. And someday – someday, when her female body held a new life in it, I was the only person on the planet who could tell her what holding her in my body was like. My time would come.
College years came and she went – far away – so our relationship trickled off to shopping trips during the much-anticipated vacations when she was back in town in her father’s basement, and the blue-moon texts when she needed some urgent assistance. My job was to not want – not push – not intrude – but to simply be available, responsive and lovingly, non-judgmentally present when allowed. To read her Facebook odes to her Dad and not flinch, comment or despair. To believe in and witness her flowering into the strong, tender woman she was always meant to be. Biding my time and trusting in us.
And almost imperceptibly… over the past year, there’s been an uptick in phone calls. After years of my mom-friends interrupting our walking conversations to take daily calls from their daughters, my daughter is calling me too. Not just for a prescription, purchase or resume assistance – but just to chat. When she asks to go clothes-shopping over vacation, I sense she wants my company as much as my credit card. There’s a lingering over lunch – and often an unbidden sharing of not just activity, but angst too.
And I’ve come to trust that, that long-awaited mother-daughter time has come. On the eve of my girl’s graduation from college, I know in my heart that my daughter is My Daughter – years ahead of my hoped-for schedule.
The other day, I received a singular text from her – unlike any other:
Thankful for you and everything you do for me. With it being the Eve of Marathon Monday in Boston, I am even more aware of it than I usually am. I truly am blessed. Love you mom.
Was it worth it? You bet it was. Every minute.
Because ultimately –
despite all our mishaps, mistakes and missteps…