But what of the mothers who are confused, saddened, or even angered at the thought of this child coming into their lives? What of the mothers who feel nothing as they stare at their child? My heart aches for them. To feel confusion and anger and sadness in the face of something so natural, so beautiful, is really a tragic thing.
My heart aches because I have felt that way about one of my babies, just as my mother felt that way about me.
We all want to know our birth story. I've heard mine a million times, and I love it. My mother was young - 26 - and she had two children under the age of three, a boy and a girl. She had made it through my father's deployment to Vietnam and a move across the country from Washington. Her husband was home safely, and her family was happy and complete. But then, she found out she was carrying another child, and she felt sad and confused. She hadn't planned on another baby, didn't want one. She was tired, as all mothers are, and didn't think she could handle another baby so soon.
A few months into her pregnancy, the doctor discovered a suspicious cyst on her ovary, and it had to be removed right away.
"But what about the baby?" she asked.
"Well, when the surgery is over, it will either be there or it won't," her doctor told her matter-of-factly.
And that's when she prayed like she had never prayed before.
She prayed that God would spare her baby. She prayed for forgiveness for her angry and confused feelings. She prayed because she wanted that baby.
That baby survived the surgery, and thrived inside her. She would later recount how every time she turned on her old, clunky washing machine, the baby would jump and kick. To her, that meant he was okay, and she felt joy and relief every time.
That baby was born two weeks early, weighing a mere five pounds, ten ounces, but left the hospital weighing over six pounds because she ate like a champ.
Yes, that baby she was so sure she didn't want, and was so sure would be a boy, was me. She always ends her story by telling me how happy she is that I survived. I like to say that I turned out the best of her three children, so it's lucky I did.
I love that my mom has always been honest about her feelings about my birth. I love it especially now that I am a mother, and especially because I can relate to her feelings almost exactly.
When I became pregnant three months after Joey died, my first reaction was confusion. It wasn't in my plan to have another baby. I had given everything away. My next reaction was fear. Fear at all the potential defects this baby could have. Then my feelings turned to anger. Anger at a God that took one son away from me, only to give me another, who could potentially bring even more heartache. I knew I wasn't strong enough to handle any more pain, so I prayed, I begged God to take the baby away.
I prayed because I was scared.
But the baby came, his birth was perfect, and he was wonderful. And when I looked into his beautiful, dark, wide open eyes, my love was simple: I knew he was wanted.
It's ironic that Baby E looks like a perfect mix of my mom and me as babies. I feel as though I will always have a special bond with him, just as I have a special bond with my mom. She gave me the gifts of honesty and acceptance, and I hope to pass those on to Baby E.
My mom has given me so many parts of herself. Some I don't really like, such as her big feet, her oily skin, her squinty eyes, her inability to accept compliments on any of her many talents, and the stubbornness that she sometimes uses to her detriment.
She has also given me some amazing parts, too, like her tiny waist (we both once had one), her skin that shows few wrinkles, the brown of her hair and the beautiful blue of her eyes that I see reflected in my sons, her humbleness, her loyalty, her acceptance, the stubbornness that keeps her moving forward, her willingness to listen without offering unsolicited advice, and her love of words and ability to spin them into music better than I will ever be able.
She has given me her love and her friendship and shown me that while a mother's love may at times be multifaceted and complex, it's simply always there.
And for this, I love my mom.
* * *
What A Mom Knows
A mom knows that you'll be her favorite
as soon as you're in her arms.
She knows all the words to your favorite book
and when to give in to your charms.
She knows how to fix a boo-boo,
a prom dress,
a broken heart,
and she knows how hard it will be
when you will have to part.
She knows when to swarm in
and when to back down,
And she always knows the right thing to say
when all you can do is frown.
She knows all your friends
and their folks,
And knows just how much to laugh
at your made-up knock-knock jokes.
She knows how to be strong,
and when it's okay to cry,
She knows when the truth should be told,
and when it's time to lie.
She knows your outsides,
and all of your insides, too,
For every situation,
she's taught you what you should do.
To a child,
Mom knows it all,
No matter if you've grown big,
or you're still very small.
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers and especially to my very own beautiful Mom. I love you.