On Becoming a Mother
I can’t say I was deliriously happy to be a mother at 15. But I wasn’t utterly miserable either. I am a nurturer at heart. I loved my little sister and cared for her emotional well being from an early age. So the concept of having a child to care for wasn’t abhorrent to me. Just not yet.
The regular checkups and blood tests were a trial, but bearable. Something to be grateful for that my baby was being cared for even before she was born.
The actual birthing process wasn’t pleasant. She was born in a teaching hospital so I was surrounded by student doctors and midwives. The practice of using stirrups hadn’t been phased out. Intellectually I still think that was the most barbaric and unnatural way to expect a woman to give birth, but probably easier for the attendants.
But the most amazing thing happened. I remember the feelings still. As soon as she was born, all the pain and embarrassment disappeared - replaced by the wonder at her perfection and a perfect feeling of love for another that was so strong I thought I’d burst. Cliches about a mother’s love are founded in that emotion, I’m sure.
From that instant I held her in my arms I was smitten. She looked up at me with her beautiful, trusting eyes, holding my finger in her little fist. What would she have said to me at that moment if she could speak? My imagination runs wild. In my heart I hear her say ‘Thank you. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for not giving me to someone else to raise. We’ll be friends, you and I. And you’ll have many more children. I’ll help you. I’ll be a good big sister, just like you are. And we’ll have fun. I promise.’
I am told I was a good mother. But to be honest, I had a ‘good’ baby. At the time, Dr Benjamin Spock was the go to authority for motherhood. (shudder! shudder!) I used to say she’d read that book before she came to me, knowing how inexperienced I was and how much I wanted to do right by her. She did everything by the book. Fed at the right intervals, slept through the night at the right age, got her first tooth and said her first words at the expected time.
And she brought me joy. She was a happy little soul. With a hearty laugh and winning ways, she charmed us all. She whistled and sang almost before she could string a sentence together.
And all through this time I was filled with fear. My own childhood memories at that time were full of pain. She gave me hope - hope that I wouldn’t make horrible choices that would give her similar pain. I desperately wanted to do the right thing. I needed a guidebook, a set of rules, like Dr Spock’s book on raising babies, I needed something to keep me focused, to make my path clear, a set of principles for living to keep my family safe. I started to look for that something.