Rewrite: I become a six-year-old mom today

Six years ago today, this happened:

photo by our doula, Candace Palmerlee

The celebration of this day feels more significant than any other in my life. It lurched me awake at 5am this morning with memories of that exact time on this day in retrospect. It moved me to get out of my bed in my sleeping house and re-write this post I wrote 3 years ago today.

The anniversary of my birth of Jo is about returning. Every year, I circle back to the same day from farther away. Every year, I remember the same but different. Today, I remember 5am on 09/09/09. It’s not written down in the birth log that our doula wrote for us, and I can feel it more vividly than the moments we caught on video.

It was the hour we drove to the hospital. The hour that the momentum I had built over 19 hours of labor came crashing down into anger. I pissed off the triage nurse by declining a routine but optional vaginal exam. She shot me glances when I would moan with my contractions that said, “Jesus. This one is an entitled drama queen.” And so began my visit in triage–that bed in an open hallway–that lasted hours instead of minutes.

My blooming anger all but stopped my contractions, and just before we were finally admitted to a labor and delivery room, I literally peed on the floor in protest. Squatting down to the toilet was so painful that I chose to stand. The pee ran down my legs into a pool on the floor, and I barked at AJ not to clean it up. If the women who work in this place where mothers go to have babies were not going to respect me, then I wasn’t going to put myself through ripping pain to respect them.

This is the unsung triumph of my first birth: I pissed on their linoleum floor on purpose, without a lick of shame or regret.

As I set off into my 6th year as Jo’s mother, let me grow that mother stronger. The one who knew the moment when politeness and compliance weren’t useful tools anymore. The one who easily sank into her formidable, animal self.

My experience of labor and birth has expanded my emotional territory in all directions. There are sublime moments of rightness beyond knowing, and despair that can sweep me out to the furthest reaches of myself. I never knew I was so big until I started becoming a mother.

No wonder I wake when I could be sleeping to remember it.

10 thoughts on “Rewrite: I become a six-year-old mom today

  1. I love your vivid wording. I do the same thing, for each kid I relive what was I doing in those hours leading up to, and right after their births…. and as they get older, I am amazed at how close I feel to those memories still, year after year. Thank you for sharing, it really drew me in.

  2. In Holland we say Happy Birthday to the whole family. The mom in particular deserves a Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday mom. This is your day as much as it is Jo’s

    1. Thank you, Niels. I realized yesterday that in terms of rites of passage, this day is my day, and as Jo said yesterday, “Today isn’t my birthday, mom. My birthday party on Saturday with my friends is my birthday.”

  3. I would assume it is easier to celebrate your child’s birthday as your birth day if your birth experience was what you expected. It’s important to remember that, for some mothers, such as myself, the births of their children were traumatic: not empowering, not worth lingering over. I would much rather celebrate my children on their birthdays, and not celebrate “my” birth day as such. The very existence of my children has changed me, not their births necessarily, and I suppose I’ll continue to learn about myself as they grow.

    1. I hear you, Corrie, though I wouldn’t say my birth experience was what I expected. The outcome in terms of vaginal birth was what I hoped for, but there were things (triage included!) that were very hard and even a bit traumatic, though not the same or as intense as your experience. Because I experienced a large degree of triumph in both my births, I think it is easier for me to celebrate them in the way I do and it’s also why I choose to do it. I know women have an incredible range of experiences with their births, and I do what I can (pee protests included) to change the birth system to listen more to women and respect their bodies, minds and wisdom. And since I have the honor of knowing a lot about your first birth, I can say that you brought a stunning amount of heart and strength to the process. I’m sorry you didn’t feel empowered. The medical system failed you big time and there’s no excuse. But deep in the heart of it, you were there, putting your whole self forward, focused, strong and open and vulnerable. It was beautiful. You brought and were everything.

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