Feb 10, 2012


There are many doorways that we go through during a lifetime.  Those moments, whether recognized at the time or not, after which things will never be the same again.  Little breaks in time of the before and the after.  Some of these doorways loom over us for decades before we step through them.  Some we step through before we even realize it, and some we have to decide to step through.  There will always be another doorway waiting, but no one ever turns and goes back through the same one.  This just isn't possible.  Life is reconciling oneself to the choices one has made.  The trick is to always be true to yourself, which can be hard sometimes, but one thing will shape in such a way as to keep you always ready to be judged by God at a moment's notice.  I speak of having a child.  Birth is one of the doorways that looms for women everywhere from the moment they are old enough to realize that they are "girl'.  It's what women do, what only women can do (transgender discoveries aside).  Whether one chooses to go through that particular doorway or not, many have found themselves staring at the handle nevertheless with a decision, sometimes a hard decision to make.

I tell you the truth when I say that you become a mother the minute you realize you are pregnant, and whatever happens, whatever happens after that moment, you will always be one.  And you will be a better person for it.  Whether that pregnancy ends in a birth, an adoption, a miscarriage, or an abortion, you will carry that child with you in your heart and in your mind forever, and it will color every day the way you think about the world, for better or for worse, and truth be told, you wouldn't have it any other way.  All this will happen in an instant, and I can tell you when it will be.  At some point, after counting days and taking several tests, you will stop wondering whether or not you are pregnant, and let your mind skip ahead to a scenario in which you are.  You might shiver.  Understandable, because you have just passed through the shadow of a doorway.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  Time has split into before and after.

What it is like to become a mother?  Such a simple question with such a complicated answer!  What is it like to become a mother?

It's terrifying.  First and foremost, this is what I remember.  The thought of giving birth is terrifying.  The thought of all that responsibility is terrifying.  The thought of all the things you don't know and how long this will go on and the fact that YOU will be the parent and no one will come and take over, like always before, is terrifying.

It's exciting.  It's wonderful.  You feel holy, if a little nauseous. Thrumming right along, under all the dread and preparation is the most exciting and exhausting sense of destiny playing out. THIS is what is going to happen to you.  You are going to be someone's mother!  Astounding as that is!  Maybe you didn't plan it.  Maybe you did.  It makes no difference to the ecstasy you feel, in between the bouts of incredulous confusion that this is really happening.  You are no longer alone.  You carry precious cargo every moment of every day and night.  You imagine what this child will be like.  I even had a dream in which I gave birth, which didn't turn out to be nearly as bad as I expected, only to see that I had given birth to a duckling.  Not that I didn't love it, in fact I think I loved it even more, but the guilt at the initial rejection of my 'baby' lasted for several days.  And yes, I knew it was just a dream, but pregnancy turns you inward.  You are constantly monitoring a whole other separate, even holy, world that is all within yourself.  If you didn't before, you start to get closer to God than you have been as an adult.  Which I believe is all part of the process.

Also a necessary part of the process is the waiting.  Nowadays, the waiting has largely disappeared, as it is not uncommon to pick a date and schedule a c-section at a convenient time, but I don't have any experience with that and personally I am hoping that is just a phase.  By the end of your pregnancy you won't be able to sleep much because you will be getting up to pee about every 2 hours.  Getting up will take a lot longer than you can imagine, and by then you will have lots of pillows placed strategically so that you are comfortable.  Your feet will be a lot bigger than they ever have been before and probably will never be the same size again.  You will have become familiar with all manner of hemorrhoid treatments, and you will have been wearing a maxi pad for a couple of months because you will pee your pants all the time.  Try not to worry about any of this.  Motherhood is not for the faint of heart!  Besides, this is the least of your worries.  Your main worry is how long is this going to go on???  Everyone you know asks you, no matter where you go, "You haven't had that baby yet??"  If you stay at home, they call you on the phone.  Then they frequently don't have anything to say, because "oh, you answered the phone.  I guess you haven't had that baby yet!"  Try not to take this personally, these same people will be helping you figure out the weird underwear in the hospital that you will have to figure out how to fit the largest  maxi pad you have ever seen in your life.  And you will thank God for them.  Try to remember this, as you feel helpless because you have no control over this and you really want to get it over with.  Everything is washed and ready and the room is waiting.  You are never really going to have any control again.  But don't worry, you won't care.  You are going to have a baby, and you are about to go into what I like to call "Lioness Mode".  You don't even have the faintest idea of who you are, but you are about to find out, and you are going to be so proud of yourself you won't even be able to believe it.

These days, most likely you will have to drive quite a while to get to the hospital (since no one in small towns can afford the malpractice insurance to deliver babies anymore), and odds are that you will have a C-section scheduled (because it's too inconvenient to let nature take it's course and/or the insurance has already agreed to pay for a C-section, you figure out which, if either, is more true).  I can't really speak about this without sounding bitter, but giving birth is about the most natural thing in the world and there is largely no reason to even have a Dr. or a hospital, in truth.  Having said that, however, in the interests of full disclosure, I will tell you that I have had an emergency c-section and it saved both my twin boys lives, plus my own.  Long story short, I had an amniocentesis to see if the twins' lungs were developed enough for me to schedule a c-section because I could no longer really breathe if I was lying down (not that I did that very often in the last months...).  The amnio needle caused a placental abruption, which is a way of saying that my placenta tore away from my abdominal wall and both babies and I were bleeding out, albeit very neatly inside my body somewhere and I had no clue (NO CLUE WHATSOEVER) that I was in the midst of dying along with the babies inside me.  I didn't die, and neither did the boys, despite being born with no heartbeats and only hald of their blood volume.  But that is enough of that story for our purposes here.  In short, while I strongly disapprove of c-sections just because, in emergency situations they can save lives, and of course you should never turn one down if you really need one.  That would be stupid.

This is to deal with normal deliveries, where you are taken through an ever increasingly painful, exhausting, and seemingly unending time where you are laboring.  You may have tried to get out of doing this by this point.  Don't feel bad.  It's only natural, and I have seen even animals try to run away rather than go through labor, but you will reach a point where you will realize you are not going to get out of this.  You know it's going to be bad.  It's been bad for quite a while now, but you know it is going to get worse.  A lot worse than this.  Don't be embarrassed if you get ugly.  I even tried to kick the Dr. at one point during my first delivery and he was not even the least bit surprised.  Never will you be so grateful for people who have the attitude of having seen it all before. You will feel yourself go into a "zone", or a spiritual state where your pain, your exhaustion, and most probably your "birth plan" no longer matter.   It's OK.   All that matters is the baby.  You may be looking at the clock but only out of habit, because the clock cannot keep track of this kind of time you are in now.  Time doesn't matter except that it is passing, passing, and no  matter how long it takes, you are going to see this little soul safely into this world, even if it kills you.  It occurs to you that it might, indeed, kill you.  You do not care.  It occurs to you that this state you are in is probably equivalent to an LSD trip, but that doesn't seem strange.  The idea of dying is put on the list in your head, but not at the top spot.  It is second on the list now, right behind See Baby Into World Safely, because you are now in Lioness Mode, and you are a fierce warrior, who will stop at nothing before her job is done.

For many women, even ones who have been Christians for years, this is the first time that they can say they actually know what it is to love someone more than themselves.  It comes to you crystal clear, you just know it in your soul, and you know that no matter how bad it is or how hard you have to work, this is what you were born for.  This moment.  This is it.  You are the doorway.  Even if you still don't think you are doing it right, your body knows exactly what to do.  This is the miracle of life, your life, and it is happening.  Nothing will ever be the same for you again, no matter what happens next.  You have carried this child, sacrificed for it, loved it, dreamed it's life, prayed over it, and now you are going to deliver it into the world.

By now they are telling you you are almost done.  You are not aware of the people around you except that they are manipulating your body, trying to help, and you don't even care.  They are on your side, you don't know who they are, you don't care, it doesn't matter, and then, suddenly, it's done.  You are distantly aware of feeling cold suddenly, you look up and see your baby, which is unceremoniously plunked down right on top of your huge, now jelly-like, sloshing stomach. You see that baby, and that baby cries.  They tell you what it is but it doesn't matter if it's boy, girl, or even duckling, it's your baby and it's alive.  You feel as big as the whole world!  You are not actually as big as the world, it's just that your world has just shrunken.  Everything that really matters to you is in that room.  You see your baby and your baby sees you, and the time that has been running so strangely stops for just an instant.  Everything else just drops away and you know, in your heart and your soul, that this is what it's all been for, and it's all been worth it, a thousand times over.

They take your baby away, throw it down (you will think) on a table under a bright light and rub it roughly with a towel to get the gunk off.  Should your poor husband still be under the impression that you are the center of the world, you quickly disabuse him of that notion with possibly stern orders spit in his direction to "GO WITH THE BABY!!"  Or not.  Maybe you will be a nicer Lioness than I was the first time.  Probably, though, you will at least consider him addle brained, perhaps for the first time.  Sorry about that.  It's hard for the fathers sometimes, I think, to make the transition.  He didn't just reconcile himself to death, and gladly, for the sake of the life of this child.  He made no bargain with God, he missed all that, and you haven't had the time to fill him in.  Don't feel bad about it.  Just blame it on Lioness Mode.  At any rate, he will go over there and they will hand him that baby and he will be lost, and for good, and he will figure it out pretty quickly.  Take heart!  He is about to discover that the wife whose temper he wants hates to deal with can be used as a shield that will protect your whole family.  Many is the man who has traded his dreams of a perfect woman in for a trusted comrade in arms.  You will work it out, and pretty easily, because you two have just hitched yourself into the yoke of parenthood, and whatever comes, you are never getting out of it.  Never.  No matter what.

Never in the history of birthing stories have I ever heard anyone talk about the afterbirth.  You will know in your mind, because you read the books, that the afterbirth is delivered.  I can vaguely recall that happening once, but not with any details.  Your legs might be shaking uncontrollably right after, and they once made the most interesting long bag of ice, slapped it right between my legs, and then covered me up with the most wonderful warm blankets, and I didn't even care!  I couldn't feel the cold, and they seemed so sure of what they were doing, I just went with it.  I think this is normal.  I can remember being back in the room then.  Whether I passed out, went to sleep, they gave me good drugs, or what happened between the baby being on the table and me being in my room is still cloudy to me, and so much the better, I say.  It just doesn't matter that much to you.  People who love you will be waiting in your room and they will fuss over you and bring you wonderful things, and if you take a moment, treasure that, because this is the last time that anything is ever going to be just about you.  From now on, no matter what happens, your child is going to color everything that happens to you, you are their mother, forever.  Now you are wanting your baby brought to you, and here it comes.

This is it.  You have been trusted with this life.  You are about to dive into the deepest water, with no assurance of survival but the biggest commitment of all.  You have been the doorway and now the safety of the realm rests with you.  Have faith, thank God, listen to your heart, and do what's best for your child.  Know that what's best will hurt, sometimes, and that's OK because some lessons are that important.  Know that everything else is just details.  It just won't matter to you as much, ever again, as it once did.  You will put it away with your other childish things and treasure the memory of the girl you were, before you walked through the doorway of motherhood.  You are so much more than that girl could ever imagine, and she would be so proud of what you have become.

Welcome to best club in the world!  You are a link in a chain that has no beginning and no end, it transcends language and cultural barriers, and has never changed...... Find a mother in any time period in history you will find yourself.  I wish you joy, and peace, and, it should go without saying, as few hemorrhoids as possible.  I already know you will have love in abundance.