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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Reluctant Mother

The Reluctant Mother

When I was a little girl my two dreams were to be a ballerina and a cardiovascular surgeon so it makes sense to me that I grew up instead to be a student and teacher of yoga.
I move my body with grace and ease to find fluidity in both form and mind.
I share my insight and experience with the intention to open and mend the hearts of the students who come to my classes, as well and there is extraordinary beauty in that.
Am I reaching a bit to make sense of my path? 
Perhaps but that not the point.
What I'm getting at is that on my list of things to be when I grew up...
Motherhood was not on that list.

My bedroom as a kid was room full of dolls. 
A lot of dolls.
During the day I would prop them up so they could watch me perform skits and dance routines and at night I would tuck them in and tell them that I loved them and hoped that they would get adopted. 
Again...I wasn't pretending they were my children but my comrades as I played alone dreaming that  someday I would escape the dusty desert town of my childhood and move to a place more green and rich in water.
I used to tell my parents that when I grew up I wanted to be ugly so I wouldn't have to bother with boys or marriage (as if beauty was a prerequisite to being loved or having to make a comittment) and could focus on becoming a doctor.
I can't say that any of that worked out for me.
I am certainly not afraid to embrace and recognize my own unique beauty and I let go of becoming a doctor as circumstances in my life changed and led me down a different road but still having a child was not a desire for me.
My long time boyfriend and eventual Ex-husband spoke of having children early on in our relationship and I told him over and over that I wasn't interested.
If he wanted children we could adopt.
I always figured that if motherhood came into my story it would be through the hips of another and not mine.
My body has always been something I guarded and abused on my own terms and I certainly wouldn't give that up to the variables of pregnancy.
Not me.
Not this girl.
I was going to be an Annie Hall- Holly Golightly type and not be pinned down with the seemingly confining duties of motherhood.

And then I hit 33. 
I don't know if that's a meaningful age to anyone else but for me that's when I finally began hearing the tic- toc of my own biological clock and man it was LOUD.

I quit using birth control, quit drinking beer, quit stealing random cigarettes and decided to let my husband know that if he wanted a child...well, I was ready and within a few months I was pregnant.
I was shocked.
Like an adult version of Juno, I took 5 pregnancy tests until I finally accepted that yes the incredible increase in my bra size was not just a stroke of luck but a function of my body preparing for motherhood.
I had lost control.

During my pregnancy in addition to teaching a dozen classes a week, I kept up my daily yoga practice.
It seemed my body didn't to want to slow down.
I enjoyed being pregnant (most of the time) and respected my body's need to create a safe place for my child to grow but I didn't relish in it.
I never got a big beautiful baby bump.
My hair and skin didn't glow.

4 days into Maternity Leave my water broke.
I was alone.
My husband waited until work ended to come home so I kept my chin up and told myself that it was okay to go into labor 3 weeks early and to have no contractions and be ill prepared to bring this little boy into a home that was far from child proofed.
I was fucking terrified.
A few hours later we made it to the hospital.
I was having no contractions and I have a heart condition.
I had expected that much like my pregnancy my labor and delivery would be done on my terms.
All natural.
No meds.
Hell...I figured I was going to pull that baby's head out all by myself.
I would be a strong savage beast and my birth story would be retold in small women's circles as proof that we don't need all these extras that come with the hospital birth experience.

13 hours later, pitocin contracting my insides with endless spasms...
My. Heart. Was. Not. Beating. 
My unborn son had been struggling against a wall that was not opening quickly and after a tough but loving moment with my doula I realized that what was important was to save my life and my son's.
In between tears and chants and last attempts to push him out I succumbed to an Emergency C-Section.
My ego was defeated but my son was alive.
All 5 lbs and 11 ounces of him was alive, breathing and heart beating.
His head was badly bruised and my body was over medicated.
I could not hold him in my arms but I heard him wail above the sounds of The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" as it blared loudly in the surgery room and I knew that the pulse of life that I shared with this powerful spirit had made a mother of me.
Me, the reluctant one.
Motherhood came.
Love finally came.

Disappointment from my labor lingered.
Again, I felt alone.
I had no clue what to do, my son was jaundice and this body of mine that had been a source of strength was having to be lifted up and wiped clean by the nurses in the hospital.
Things had changed and for the first time in a long time I was going to have to accept fragility.

A small boy with the big name of Atticus was in need.
I was tired.
He nursed every 2 hours and was colicky every night from 5 pm till 7, 8, 9 and sometimes even 10pm.
His dad would come home for a bit and then take off to hang out with his friends because he had a long day at work.
I was depressed.
I was not the mother I had wanted to be, I was becoming the mother I had grown up with and I was ashamed.

This year, I will be 40.
My son is now 5 years old.
Like me...his eyes are big, his energy is high and he plans to do it all.
After his father and I separated I moved in with my mother...
To say it was a challenge is to be diplomatic about the situation but we did our best to live together.
She has said she was a perfect mother and in many ways she was...
She was and is crafty, creative and a great cook but she also physically abused me on a regular basis, screamed at me and alienated my friends.
My ideas of good mothering were very much surface reflections and most of my resistance to being a mother was my own fears of behaving similarly to my own. 
I practice yoga and meditate because I am aware of my demons.
I continue to struggle with my own short temper and sometimes I hear myself raising my voice in a way that horrifies me.

But in between the peaks of exhaustion there are valleys that sustain a tenderness and beauty that I never expected.
Hugs, kisses, vomit, rashes, songs, insane questions, fantastic stories...
I never thought I wanted to be a mother and I relate to the women who never find themselves yearning to have children but I have never loved like I do now.
I never stood up and had a voice that wants justice the way that I do now and I think being a mother has made me realize my strengths and inspired me to face my weaknesses.

I love Atticus.
He is part of me and part of his father as he finds his way in his world...
1st kisses, disappointments, obsessions.
It's all magnificent and I pray that this world can nurture him long after I am gone.
I am lucky to know this little boy who sits down and tries to meditate when his mind has overwhelmed him.
This little boy who has a full dance routine worked out to a Daft Punk song, who writes love letters to his 1st 'real' kiss and tells me that he will always love me even when he is mad...
This little boy found his way into my guarded and vulnerable heart and I am so grateful to have met him, to love him and to be challenged by him on a daily basis.
It's not an over exaggeration to say that parenthood is difficult.
It is so hard and the desire to run away, take that bath, close my eyes and pretend that after a late night I can sleep in and not drag myself out of bed to make breakfast is always desirable but nothing can replace the sound of my son's laughter, the sound of him breathing and the sweet embrace that is so lovely when he takes my hand and we cross the street.
I've never known love like this and I will always be in awe of him.


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