When I felt my baby girl kick me for the first time, I felt a million different things. The joy of new life. The fear of the unknown. The awe of the human body. All the things I’d been told that I might feel, I think I felt.
But, in that sweet, quiet moment, I felt other things too. That teeny tiny kick was my first gentle nudge towards staying at home with my girl and walking away from you. A sweet suggestion that creating the space in my life to be a momma meant giving up the space you took up.
I let the idea sit in my head, tossing it around when my tiny dancer woke me at night. I’d consider what that life would look like during the rare quiet moment at work. I wondered if the joys of touching your life and the joys of being a mama were substitutionary. If I could remove the one and fill it with the other. And if they weren’t, then what did I want?
You didn’t make it easy, the decision to walk away.
I loved being a part of your story.
You’d come in huffing and puffing, fear, pain, joy, etched all over your face. “How far apart are your contractions? Has your water broken? Boy or a girl?” No detail unimportant, no fear left unaddressed. This was your first baby, didn’t I know? You were so excited, and scared, and you had every reason to be both. Becoming a mama is not for the weak of heart.
I held your hand while we ran to the OR, my coworkers behind me efficiently doing all the things that needed to be done so I wouldn’t have to leave your side. “Someone start a second IV. Did we call the NNP? How long have heart tones been down?” You were scared of course, as any one would be. And if we’re being honest? I was a little scared too. But I knew you could do it and I knew we could do it. So I stayed by your side while they opened your belly and I watched that first tear of relief slide down your cheek when your sweet baby girl cried for the first time.
You were so confident, third time mama. You knew what was in front of you, you knew your body could do it, and you knew your little man would love you completely. You didn’t ask me any questions, because you already knew the answers. So I quietly did my job and let you labor, watching with my own tiny bit of awe. And when you told me it was time, I called the doctor. You knew what you knew, mama, and I felt no need to confirm what you told me.
There were more of you, so many more.
You let me see the good, the bad, the ugly. The desperate, the broken, and the empty. You let me teach you how to breastfeed, to swaddle, to change that first tiny diaper. You let my hands be the first to cradle your baby’s head. You let my eyes be the first to catch a glimpse of that face. And you let my hand be the first to hold yours when the tears wouldn’t stop.
You invited me into your biggest days. You gave me access, authority, and privilege in your most precious moments. You showed me the power of a mother’s love. You showed me a woman could do it.
You showed me I could do it.
Don’t you see it? I know you’re grateful for everything I did for you. But did you know that I am grateful for everything you did for me?
Today, away from you and at home with my girl, I can say with absolute certainty that I love her and this time with her wholly and completely. The joys of being a mama are unlike any I have ever known.
But I did not substitute her for you. It didn’t work like that at all. And I don’t think it was supposed to.
There are many joys in this life. You were one of mine. And she is one too. For now, I can’t have both. And that’s okay.
I will miss you and keep right on loving her.
Someday, I hope to come back to you. I hope you welcome me with open arms. But if I don’t, or if I can’t, or if you won’t, know this. You were one of my greatest joys. Your sweet babies’ births were some of my greatest privileges in this life. So, thank you for letting me in. Thank you for making me a part of your stories. Thank you for sharing your babies. And thank you for making it so hard to say goodbye.
Be well, mamas. Be well.
[This piece first appeared on Scary Mommy]