There are things in life of which I am certain that I want — to travel and see as much of the world as I can, to be stable, to be happy and healthy, to be well fed, to be comfortable, to always be learning, to have a fulfilling career, to love and be loved. But there was always one open question that loomed over me: do I want to be a mother? Probably not. Well, maybe one day.
Come May 2019, Anthony and I will have been married for 10 years and we’ve been able to do and accomplish a lot together: we’ve grown up with each other, learned and discovered new things together, we’ve lived in one of the greatest places on earth, New York City, and then planted our roots in another wonderful city, Austin, that we’ve now called home for 6 years, traveled all around the world, figured out how to be financially responsible, and we started a company that we’re so proud of. To be frank, we lived selfishly — our lifestyle was centered around doing what we wanted whenever we wanted. Having a child came up in conversation every now and then but our response was always “we aren’t ready for the responsibility” but what I think we were really saying was that we weren’t ready to give up our independence, freedom, and spontaneity. (Of course, our perception of being parents was skewed and those were the sacrifices we thought we would have to make.)
On top of that, Anthony and I never really spent significant time with babies. We’ve never really changed a diaper or had to console a crying baby. I was still afraid to hold them and was more comfortable keeping them at arm’s length. Based on our repertoire, we weren’t equipped to be left alone in a room with a baby let alone raise one.
That was until about 3 years ago.
We found out that we were pregnant in late 2015 right after we had moved into our new home. We were a little ambivalent at first but as the news settled, we got excited at the prospect of being parents. We found ourselves completely changing the plans for our house and the furniture we were buying so that we could accommodate a baby room.
“No more guest bedroom, so a pull-out couch is a must!”
The cosmos had a different plan for us and it wasn’t meant to be; we miscarried a few weeks later. I never really spoke openly about it but I’ve since realized that it‘s a part of my journey and personal growth and I need to embrace it. When it happened, I felt disappointment and sadness. Having those feelings wash over me made me realize that perhaps I did want to be a mom after all.
The Second Time Around
In November of 2017, we found out that we were expecting again. Because of our previous experience, we handled things a little differently this time. We contained our excitement, we didn’t immediately call our parents, and we didn’t make any rash decisions.
When we made it to the doctor’s office for the first time, neither of us knew what to expect because we didn’t get this far the first time. We were ecstatic and it felt surreal to see a little tadpole on the screen. Holy sh*t, we’re going to be parents. This time, it was pure excitement.
My pregnancy, luckily, was a breeze. I didn’t have any kind of sickness, never hurled once, and didn’t crave anything weird (mostly fruit and Jamba Juice). The baby’s growth was on track, my weight gain was manageable, we passed every test, and we were both as healthy as can be.
Week after week, prick after prick, sonogram after sonogram, we were inching our way closer to the July 9th due date.
We had the opportunity to find out the sex of the baby through a DNA test (modern medicine, amirite?) and opted in because I’m not one for surprises. We didn’t have a preference for a boy or a girl. “As long as it’s human”, Anthony said.
A friend generously offered to help put together a gender reveal box for us so that the surprise would be more exciting than just opening an envelope. We took the box home, worked ourselves up, and pulled the lid off.
It’s a boy.
The anticipation was mounting as we got closer to the finish line. Every twinge, spasm, and movement had me on my toes. It was pretty exhausting.
A day after my due date, as I was doing everything I could to get some kind of action, it happened. My water broke. I finally made the call that I had been waiting for.
“Hey Anthony, I think you might need to come home. It’s happening.”
We calmly went through the motions: we called the doctor, put the bags in the car, buckled in the car seat, packed snacks and ate lunch, and waited for contractions. Once 4pm came, there was nothing. Per doctor’s instructions, we hopped in the car and made our way to the hospital to check ourselves in.
Labor was the opposite of my pregnancy. It was excruciating and difficult. After 24 hours of laboring with little progress, my temperature was rising and the baby’s heart rate was dropping. I could barely keep my eyes open from exhaustion and drifted in and out of consciousness. I remember seeing, with hazy vision, the doctor and nurses privately conversing in the corner of the room with worried looks on their faces. I found out that because there was a high risk of infection, they needed to prepare me for the operation room for an emergency c-section. There was no other choice. It wasn’t the ideal scenario but at that moment I wanted them to do anything they needed to do to keep our baby free from harm. I knew I’d deal with the mental and physical repercussions later but that was the last thing on my mind.
Once I was thrusted into the operating room, the only thing I had to look at was a blue sheet and a ticking clock while Anthony sat behind me holding my hand. As quickly as I had arrived, the procedure was done.
The doctor held him up, in the most Lion King-esque way, and the first thing I asked Anthony was “Does he look like a Julian?”. He says, “I think so”.
“Would you like to hold him?”
The feeling was indescribable. No words can express the emotion that rushes over you as you stare into the sleepy eyes of this tiny human that you have been carrying in your womb for 9 months.
It’s real. He’s real. I can’t believe we made him.
“Nice to meet you, lil’ guy.”
Welcome to Motherhood
As we were preparing to leave the hospital with our new baby, we were unexpectedly told that we would need to spend a few extra nights there because they discovered that he had come down with jaundice. This was the first time that I felt like a failed him somehow and it was my fault that he had it. I probably would have given up a limb so that he didn’t have to go through whatever it was that they were going to put him through.
Ah, sacrifice. I hear it’s all a part of this motherhood thing.
I bawled my eyes out thinking about what I could have done better as I held my UV-blanket-wearing baby, but the doctor quickly dispelled my self doubt by explaining that it was fairly common.
Julian spent the next couple of days wearing the UV blanket (and it completely broke my heart seeing him in it). The good thing was that it helped expedite his recovery and we were finally on our way home.
The first few weeks after his birth were arduous. Why is it that when we give life, everyone keeps talking about death? The fear-induced thought was crippling, especially when you’re still dealing with the fact that you’re now responsible for something so tiny and so pure that can’t sustain itself and relies on you to keep it alive. All the while, every person, thing, and label around you is screaming “watch out for sudden death”.
One of the biggest hurdles I had in those first weeks at home with him was that I didn’t believe in my own instinct as a mother. I cried intermittently because I didn’t think I could do it. Something about that time felt lonely, even when I was sitting amongst a village of people ready and willing to help me. I had to Google “postpartum depression” more than once and each time, I would carefully read out the symptoms, analyzing each line item, trying to match the things I felt against the bulleted list — I was looking for affirmation that I was okay, and luckily I found it. However, I didn’t feel like I had the confidence that was required to be his mother and I was perpetually anxious because I wasn’t sure if I was doing anything right or if it was all completely wrong. You read articles about all of these things that your baby should be doing and that you, as a mom, should be doing. It sets this false expectation that you need to follow the same path as everyone else and when yours feels slightly off course, it triggers so. much. anxiety. It was only when I recognized (and fully embraced) that everyone’s journey was different that I got some relief from constantly comparing my decisions and my baby’s milestones to everyone else’s.
After awhile, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having a support system with friends checking in on us helped carry me through the hard times, as each “how are you” was an outlet for me to get reassurance that everything will be okay.
The days drifted by, each one stitched to the back of the last, creating what felt like an endless loop of feeding, diapering, changing, and cradling. It wasn’t glamorous, but slowly, it started to feel rewarding.
Although time cannot be slowed, it can be embraced. There is delight to be found in our ordinary days. While they may pass by seemingly uneventful and unimportant, there is no such thing as an unimportant day when you are shaping a child’s life. Embrace the time you have. Enjoy the season you are in. Each season is sweet in its own way, and each one will be missed when it is gone.
The time was passing and with each new day I found myself growing with Julian as he was growing. I could feel my patience and compassion expanding alongside his understanding of a new world. My confidence grew ten fold as we got to know each other and I started getting tiny glimpses into his personality. We might not have spoken the same language (I’ll never know what “bah boo boo bah” means), but him and I, we‘re now on the same page.
When I was carrying him in my belly, I felt the love that was there for him but I wasn’t able to fully distinguish it. It was only when I spent more time with him after he was born that I began to understand how much love was emitting for him and how it’s a different type of love. It’s a mother’s love — one that is strong, nurturing, and unyielding. I would and will always try to move mountains for him. To protect him and keep him safe. To make sure he’s comfortable and happy. To do what I can to give him the best life possible.
Time has flown by, as most people said it would. He’s now 6 months old and I’m sitting here wondering where the time has gone. I find myself staring at him in amazement and wonder.
Will I be able to teach him to embrace who he is and never settle?
Will he be patient? Will he be kind?
How will I raise him to be a gentleman?
Who will he fall in love with? Who will hurt him?
What will he be when he grows up?
Will he be cool? Will he be bullied?
Will he turn to me when he needs comforting?
What will be his favorite color?
Anthony and I have had long conversations about how we want to raise him and something that a friend shared with us a few years ago really resonated with us: “The way I see it is that you’re introducing a child into YOUR life”. It made sense — he was joining our family. There are obviously adjustments that have to be made but that doesn’t mean that we needed to lose the things that we love doing, including the spontaneity that we enjoy. We just now get the opportunity to share those moments and memories with our son. We’ve also realized that being parents doesn’t mean that we have to lose our own identities but that “being a parent” is something that’s added to the list of the things that define us as individuals.
As for me, going back to work was agonizing because I felt like I was going to miss out on his important milestones. There was an irrational fear that he was going to think someone else was his mom because I no longer got to spend every single minute of the day with him. I also wasn’t sure how I would be able to handle the responsibilities of being a partner at a company with being a mother that needed to care for and feed her baby. It felt like a juggling act for awhile, constantly running between home and office. I was torn between being excited about the work I was doing and the pensiveness that came from constantly wondering what he was doing at home and if he was okay.
Once that dust settled, I knew in my gut that persisting through the fear and continuing to do what I love would make me a stronger person, which would in turn make me a better mom. The reality is that nothing is perfect and accepting that gives me both humility and confidence. I know that I can do anything but that I can’t do everything, and that’s okay.
Also, when he’s old enough to understand, I hope that I can be a role model to him by showing him that he can grow up and chase his passion and achieve his dreams, too. I also hope it shows him that both women and men are equals at home and in the workplace, and that the responsibility of raising him falls equally on both his mother and his father.
Six months have now passed. Everything else that was difficult has now become second nature. My body has learned to operate on autopilot. Life has fallen back together and things are feeling normal again (minus the sleep that I no longer get). I still don’t feel like a “mom”, whatever that’s supposed to feel like. I just know that I’m trying my best every day to be someone that deserves him.
To My Son
Julian, you’re growing up so fast and I will embrace every second of every day that is spent with you. Whatever you decide to become when you grow older, I will help guide you and teach you. Up until my last breath, I will keep you safe.
I will always remember the very first smile you gave me, after a long night of restlessness, that melted away all of my fatigue. And the smile I get every morning as you open your eyes when you wake up. And the way your hand falls to my chest as you fall asleep. I will never forget how your nose scrunches up when you open your mouth to laugh. Or how soft the top of your head feels when I kiss you on your forehead. Or the way you laugh when we “achoo”. I will never forget the tiny grunts you make when you roll around on your belly, trying to crawl. Or the sweaty, tiny hairs on the back of your head after you’ve taken a long nap in my arms. I will always remember how your legs kick and your body wiggles when you see something that excites you. And the way your eyes light up with wonder. I will never forget the way it sounds when you blow bubbles. Or the coos you make when daddy plays airplane. Or the way you can light up a room with your laughter.
Everything about you is beautiful and amazing.
I’m so glad you’re here and that I get to spend the rest of my life watching you grow up. Six months down, a lifetime to go.