My dear, sweet baby sister,
You’re going to be a wonderful mom. You know how I know? Because you’re the most loving person I know. Whenever I’ve needed a hug? You’ll give one. And not just one of those “Oh, hey, nice to see you” hugs, but a full body experience for at least the minimum required twenty seconds to get oxytocin flowing. You love, you love with your whole heart. You are the rare gem that makes everyone around her feel captivating and interesting because you listen with your whole body. You are empathetic, authentic, and passionate. Everything is your favorite. Everyone is your favorite. You care, about everything and everyone whether they deserve it or not. I have no doubt that your little girl is the luckiest baby ever to have lived within such a loving aura for these months and be so…. wanted and loved.
I have two beautiful girls that are my world.
There are moms that LOVE having babies and are really good at it, like my blessed mother-in-law who had twelve babies, and our dear aunt that had nine. I’m not one of those moms. I’ve know many people who said “childbirth wasn’t that bad…” and I have no idea how that is possible. My mom says it’s what you make it; if you see it as a blessing and a miracle, then it will be. I’ve tried, and I must not have been born with that muscle.
The first was born when I was seventeen, completely natural, at home, midwife and doula and the whole family watching. I struggled with morning sickness for the first eight months, or as I like to call it, All Day Sickness. I was young and didn’t really “get” what was happening, didn’t take much time to bond like I’ve seen you doing over the last months, and, sadly, the whole time I was more worried about myself than the baby, which I regret.
(Let me just plug this in here, that I’m very glad you waited until you had experienced life, got to explore yourself, found a wonderful man, and enjoyed him for years before you took this step, it makes me happy. My nagging works!)
My cervix never dilate by itself beyond 3cm during the eight and a half hours of hard labor, and so the midwife had to get up in there and open it manually. Twenty minutes later and my beautiful, albeit, cone-headed 7 pound 4 ounce baby girl was in the world. I didn’t tear, but I got a killer blood blister that made sitting down for a few weeks even more of a chore than I imagine it would have been otherwise. I breastfed, a couple of months of sore and bleeding nipples, but otherwise we got in sync and breastfed until she was one and a half years old. She was a screamer, but you remember all of that part. All and all, I would consider it a fairly successful birth story, and she has grown up to be a healthy and whole-hearted person and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Ten years later, and I’d finally found a great guy and married and am happy, and my husband and I wanted another kid. We got pregnant as soon as we decided, and I struggled with the same horrible All Day Sickness, and was all around miserable. I had thought age or maturity or something that had happened in the previous ten years of my life would have had an effect on the pregnancy, and the fact that it was planned, but I struggled just as much. I weighed more with the second, and ended up with gestational diabetes. Regardless, I had convinced my husband that a home birth would be okay, and we worked with a midwife throughout the pregnancy. The pains started just after dinner and the midwife showed up at our house a couple of hours later (don’t even get me started), and I’d already dilated my infamous 3cm and I’d warned her she might have to help me with that, but after another couple of hours she said I had to go to the hospital – my blood pressure was going up and I had a fever. I cried, I was mad, “I could do this!” I convinced her to wait another hour or so, and with tears in my eyes, and the worst back pain I’d ever had with full body contractions, we climbed in mom’s car around 4am and went screaming down the freeway to the hospital.
I know that to some a hospital delivery is wonderful, and the norm, and don’t get me wrong, they are an absolutely a gift to this world, but we had been raised quite hippilie, and I felt like I was letting my child down from the serene and natural entrance I had planned for her. Check-in, plug into wires, a quick monitor of all vitals and dilation (still a 3!), and they started pushing epidurals and c-section and every fear I’d ever had of the hospital. Finally, around noon, after fifteen hours of hard labor, my little one was brought into this world by c-section while fear made my body shake uncontrollably on the operating table. “It’s a girl! 10 pounds 9 ounces!” My husband brought her over to touch her head to my head and then I went unconscious for the next five hours. I woke up sad and in pain and my husband was there with the Thanksgiving day turkey-sized bundle of joy and he got to fill me in on the rest of the details of her first hours. Visitors and nurses and lactation specialists and no sleep no sleep no sleep for five days, so drugged up and miserable, that my milk wouldn’t come in and dad had to take to finger feeding formula and doing most of the work.
The day that I had woken up from the surgery, I had received a phone call from none other than your future mother-in-law who, at the time, was just a great family friend, and honestly, we hadn’t been that close in a few years. She randomly called just to tell me “You are no less of a woman or mother because of this,” and I thought, “Well ya, I know,” and she said it again more adamantly, “No, honey, this does not make you any less of a woman, you are a mom, and a wonderful mom at that,” and ultimately beat it into my head enough that it stuck and I started crying. I had no idea I was internally shaming myself for not being able to give her the natural birth I’d so desperately wanted. Since the dawn of time women have had children, and even though I’d already been a mom for ten years, I finally felt like I deserved to be a mom and belonged with other women. She was welcoming me into a unique club that day, and I pray that every woman on the planet has someone like her who steps up and makes them feel like they belong in this messy world of motherhood.
The healing from this surgery was much longer than my first birth. Not just the physical scar which I still have problems with, but the emotional toll it took on me. We struggled to breastfeed after our stint in the hospital and even weeks after being at home and trying, cracked and bleeding, painful nipples, we just could not make it happen. When she was three months old and her food allergies and eczema issues came to light, we had to stop breastfeeding altogether. Did any of this affect how wonderful my child is? Absolutely not. Shy, maybe, but I was worse. I love her and am proud of who she is.
Your mother-in-law’s heartfelt words that day, have echoed in my head repeatedly over the years when I feel like I’m not enough. “I am no less of a woman or mother.” My kids are both happy and healthy and I love them to pieces.
The majority of the people on this planet are female, and this female energy, I’m learning, is a beautiful, miraculous gift to this world. The yin to balance the yang. I believe more women are being born right now because we need more of the nurturing and healing energy. The female life cycle is quite amazing. From telling the kids in our neighborhood that my big sister got her period (again, I’m sooo sorry), to starting my own period at summer camp and having to borrow and hand wash my friend’s jeans and sit on towels all week, to honoring my daughters through the same experience, childbirth and the blessing of having my mom always there to help raise my girls, to watching my mom’s overnight menopause after having a full hysterectomy at the age of 36, all the way to the graciousness with which my great grandma helped her daughter, my great aunt, take care of her eleven children, and then in return, she lovingly took care of her ailing mother for the last ten to fifteen of her life until she passed away at the age of 93. This irreplaceable love that women have to be able to mother the world, whether you’ve had kids or not, is such an honor to have. Our scientifically proven ability to relate to the world through relationships makes our paths fascinating.
I think having had the wonderful home birth experience, and all of my fears manifested with the emergency c-section, I believe I have a semi-unique perspective on the whole motherhood thing. Each were hard in their own respects.
What I’m getting at, my brilliant, kind, eloquent, fearless sister, is that I want to make sure that you know, that however this ends up going for you, whether it’s exactly how you imagine it, or exactly the opposite, your membership in this club of womanhood is solid. On behalf of all mothers everywhere, I welcome you into this new phase called motherhood, with all of its failures and successes, love and rage, sleeplessness and radiance, imperfections and play, screaming and heartbreak and more joy than you can begin to imagine.
I love you baby sister.
Love, your Dodo