I had read books about childbirth, books that described contractions as “waves”—manageable ones, if you had the right attitude—and birth as a warm, glowy experience best concluded with champagne.
But when I went into labor with my first daughter, I felt no glow of incoming life, just the repeated beating of city-high waves that, from the beginning, thundered over me without a break between them. My tiny boat of coping techniques promptly capsized; I couldn’t think or breathe. After ten hours of pummeling, the doctor handed me some papers, said something to my husband who tried to translate it for me (but I was underwater and couldn’t hear him) and then: the OR. An unexpected c-section. Lots of light, but not the kind mentioned in the books. Our baby’s face as a nurse on her way to the NICU held her up for me to see.
Birth stopped being something I did, and became a thing that happened to me. It required, in the end, not strength but surrender.
And so, I would learn every day afterward, does motherhood.
My first daughter was born on Mother’s Day. This week, as we celebrate her ninth birthday, I got to celebrate my entrance to motherhood by writing a piece for Deeply Rooted on becoming a mother and being one.