Wednesday, October 25, 2006


It occurred to me last night that as Swee'pea approaches his 9-month birthday, he approaches a more significant milestone. Soon he will have lived outside of the womb for as long as or longer than he was inside it. I remember when he was just a couple of months old, Sugar Daddy and I talking about the whole holding him while he sleeps thing and how he made his preferences quite clear. And SD observed that even though we'd been holding him in our arms for 2 or 3 whole months, he still had a longer history of being cradled in the womb.

Today Swee'pea has been in our airy world for 37 weeks 1 day. Officially, he was in the womb for 40 weeks 3 days, but there is that whole 2 weeks they count before any identifiable Swee'pea cells actually existed. So let's say he was in there for 38 weeks 3 days.

I have to say that time seems to have sped up since he made his way to the outside world. I remember when I was pregnant, the weeks crawled by, especially the weeks in the first trimester, the weeks before I could feel his reassuring movement every day. I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks, or 2 weeks after conception. Which is a really long time to wait. During those early weeks I tracked his development online, and I worried. The number of amazing things that have to happen to make this whole baby is mind boggling and scary as hell to consider all the things that could not quite happen. I was keenly aware that the most critical development happens in the first trimester, and that life inside me felt SO vulnerable and fragile. The milestones were carved in my mind and I waited impatiently for them to pass: reduced risk of miscarriage at 12, 15 and 20 weeks; legally viable at 24 weeks; better chance of survival at 28 weeks; even better at 34; term at 37.

In those early weeks, I thought if we could just get past those milestones, I could stop worrying. That once I could hold my healthy baby in my arms, I could stop worrying. Of course, now I know that I will never stop worrying, that it is the yoke of parents everywhere to worry about their children.

Looking back, I loved being pregnant, once I could start to feel him move every day. I loved the companionship, I loved being my own walking affirmation of life at the two funerals I had to attend. I loved putting my hand on his bum, and I loved the way I looked. Except that I know I definitely didn't love the nausea in New Orleans at 8 weeks, when we couldn't find a single place that served a decent vegetarian dish (most didn't even serve any vegetarian dish, decent or otherwise), and I didn't love the rib pain that plagued me for the last few months. (You know how most newborns' limbs curl up in the position they were in in the womb? Well, Swee'pea's didn't curl. He'd apparently kept them straight, braced against the bottom of my ribcage.)

I guess I should say that I love the memory of being pregnant. At the time I thought it was the hardest thing ever: coping with the aches and pains of a body stretched to its limit, coping with the pressure of knowing that everything I chose to consume was also consumed by Swee'pea, trying to keep up with a body changing way too fast to keep up with. Now I know that that was the easiest part of my emerging motherhood.

Anyways, back to the milestone. I see on that separation anxiety hits its peak around 9 months. It seems so fitting that as Swee'pea crosses the equation of time in/time out, he becomes more aware of his status as his own separate being, a momentous and scary realization. Thinking about his history in the womb, even if he can't remember it consciously, and that he is only just beginning to understand that he and I are separate, makes me feel good about the choices we have made, that he has made us make, to hold him as much as he wants and to invite him into our warm bed.

Last night when I was contemplating Swee'pea's upcoming in/out milestone, I also started considering my development as a mother. Now, when his soother falls on the floor, I may wipe it off before I put it back in. I don't ache with anxiety every time he cries. I put him to my breast without a trace of resentment or ambivalence, knowing that the time left in this part of our relationship is short. But all this brought me to a question: when did I fully become a mother? Was I mother when I was pregnant? Was I a mother when, at 5 weeks pregnant, all my symptoms disappeared and I felt sure those precious few cells had died? Would I have still been a mother if those cells had died? Was I a mother when I laid on that table, after he was pulled from my body covered in shit, and ignored the silence? Or was it when I held him for the first time and finally stopped shaking? I really don't know.

What are your thoughts on when a mother becomes a mother? Any good links to other mothers' thoughts?


nomotherearth said...

Lovely post, and an interesting question. I think that the moment I officially became a mom was that first night in the hospital after The Boy was born. He slept the whole night through (or would have, if I didn't keep waking him to feed every 3 hours), and I stayed awake all night just watching him.

cinnamon gurl said...

Ok, so I've been thinking about this all day, and hoping for more comments (are you just gonna leave me hangin'?), but I have come up with my own answer. I kind of said it in my post but I've just added the bits together in my head now. The care a woman provides for her baby during pregnancy is pretty automatic. Your body takes care of most everything. Sure your choices may affect the baby, but often they don't; the pregnancy just keeps chugging along.

So, nomo (as Bubandpie calls you, and I hope I can too), I think you're right. I really became a mother after Swee'pea was born. That's when it got hard, and that's when I really started figuring out how to care for this precious precious wonder. And it will remain my priority to keep figuring it out for at least the next 20 years.

Em said...

I think I became a mother the second A was born... although I've grown into the role over time and now it is an integral part of who I am, whereas for the first 6 months of A's life I felt like an imposter a lot of the time.

Like you, I love the memory of being pregnant. After three, increasingly difficult pregnancies, the reality is somewhat different.

Beck said...

With my first baby, I didn't feel like a mother until we had to make the decision (the very frightening decision) to have a c-section - it was making a choice to keep her safe that made her suddenly my BABY.
With my second baby, I felt like his mother the second that second stripe appeared on the test, because this time I got it - and when I was put on bedrest for almost all of that pregnancy, I really knew that I was mothering my baby, even in utero.

penelopeto said...

cinn - i've been wanting to comment since yesterday, but this is a tough one.

i think i became a mother when i saw the 2 pink lines and knew we were definitely having this baby.

but really i knew i was a mother when i saw bee's little acid-blotter of a heart fluttering in the ultrasound.

and then i knew i was a mother when i freaking pushed the kid out onto my bed with no drugs.

and put her to my breast for the first time, realizing that i was also responsible for her life outside of the womb.

and on day 3 when she still hadn't had another poop and i understood what worry really was.

and everyday since, i have become a mother a little bit more.

Mad Hatter said...

For me it was in those first few times breastfeeding. It wasn't going well and I felt like a mother because I felt like a _failure_ as a mother. The love and all that came quickly, but with the breastfeeding there was this sense that I was a mother because I had to perform well in that capacity to keep my child alive.