“Hey monk-monk, where do babies come from?” she asked.
“Offices,” I replied, without missing a beat.
I was six years old, and that was my reality. One day we were a family of three, and the next, four, and later, five. Pregnancy skipped a generation in my family. While I vaguely understood how other people’s babies might be welcomed into the world, I believed my existence began at day three when I entered my family. Offices were where I came from and were where you went to get siblings. In fact, it wouldn’t be years until I witnessed pregnancy firsthand by watching my co-worker’s belly grow daily.
Growing up I had no real desire to be a mom. Childhood games of “house,” with my siblings, revolved around the premise of orphans dealing with some sort of crisis (shipwrecked or lost in the woods, etc.), and I, as the big sister, was tasked with caring for them. I played with dolls, but they were never my babies, always my friends. Even into my early twenties, I had no maternal drive to procreate. Boof and I talked about having kids someday, and both agreed that if it happened we would welcome it, but we certainly weren’t going to stress about it if we couldn’t. In the back of my mind I always just assumed I would never become a mom. And I was mostly okay with that… or so I thought.
So when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant (yes, it only takes one time without protection folks), I realized I better get my act together and explore my relationship to this reality that I would become a mother…and a biological mother at that.
Having two mothers is sometimes confusing and painful. There is one woman who I knew for nine months and then didn’t see again until I was 25. Then there is another woman I met on day three and have not known life without. Both mothers have informed my existence, and yet here I was trying to figure out what kind of mother I would be. I will have given birth to a child and will never be apart from him in the way my biological mother was apart from me.
During the first few weeks I literally felt like the only woman to have ever been pregnant. And in some ways, I was. I could go to my mother for support, but found myself censoring my thoughts and feelings to protect her from the reminder that she never experienced pregnancy herself. We mostly stuck to facts, and part of me was sad as I was the one teaching her about cervical dilation and signs of braxton hicks vs real contractions. I practiced becoming a mother by teaching my own about what physically carrying a child was like.
And I couldn’t very well go to my biological mother during this time, as my pregnancy is a painful reminder of carrying and not raising a child herself. So while I knew a few things — like that I was born c-section — I was mostly flying blind about how my own pregnancy would progress.
What I was able to do during this time was explore my own feelings about becoming a mother, without having to compare myself to my own mothers. I got to listen to my body and respond manfully to my own self and not second guess whether I was doing it right. While it could have been seen as re-inventing the wheel, giving birth to my son felt more like creating a beautiful piece of original art, rather than trying to create a poor imitation of a masterpiece. He is the first biological relative I will have known from the beginning, and I am enjoying being his mama. How could I have ever thought otherwise?