When I first saw that positive on my pregnancy test last year, I didn’t feel joyful right away. It was too formative and consequential a moment for joy. Joy came later, in unbelievably large amounts, but until then I was just like, “Whoa.” Literally. “Whoa.”
The plus sign appeared immediately, getting darker by the second, and time seemed to stop. Thunder clapped outside. Whoa. My husband was out walking the dog and I sat there in the bathroom alone saying, “Whoa, whoa, whooooaaaaah” in a conspiratorial whisper to the universe, with shaky hands that flew awkwardly to my belly and stayed there for the next several days. This was the belly that was going to house — in fact did house, was right that second housing — my baby. My baby. My baby.
And so I sat there going “whoa” in disbelief until I heard the dog come back inside, followed by my husband coming back inside, and I said, “Come in here?” in a voice that wasn’t really mine because I was elsewhere completely. I just held out the test going, “OhmygodLOOKohmygodLOOK” at which point we both burst into tears. He hugged me tightly and said, “Congratulations, Mama!”
Mama? No. Call me anything, I thought, but not mama.
[related-post align=”right”]I couldn’t wait to be a parent but “Mama” was not an identity I particularly wanted. Given my very complicated relationship to my own estranged mother, the concept of “Mama” meant a lot of things to me — but most of them painful. In fact, I wasn’t comfortable with the “Mama” title until embarrassingly late in my pregnancy. “Mama” was a foreign word that felt odd on my tongue and looked insincere on the page. I wrote weekly letters to the fetus and signed them with my first name until one day something inside of me shifted.
As my belly grew, I started to recognize that the sleepy hamster thing roaming around inside me would eventually leave my body as an actual live baby human. I suddenly could imagine that baby human growing big enough to sweetly say the word “Mama” to me, and I desperately wanted to be and become all the good things worthy of that name. Or rather: I started to believe that I could be and become all the good things worthy of that name. That I would be a good mother. That — most importantly — I wasn’t my mother. That I could and would be the kind of mother my child deserved. That woman was named Mama and I would soon be that woman.
The fact that my son has now started to smile in direct response to my smile makes me wonder how I ever seriously considered having him call me by my given name.
Though my baby is a long way away from calling me anything, the fact that he has now started to smile in direct response to my smile makes me wonder how I ever seriously considered having him call me by my given name. My maternal instincts well up inside me like I’ve just taken a hit of pure dopamine. I awkwardly sing Patsy Cline to him and he grins and does his adorable proto-giggle, and dude, I can only be Mama in response to this smiling/giggling business.
Because of this creature, I’m more than I was before. I’m old grinning fool Mama, baby-talking Mama, raspberry-blowing Mama, food source Mama, messy unkempt unglamorous Mama who has bags under her eyes like you wouldn’t believe. I am the woman who babbles, “Mama loves you, Mama loves you, Mama loves you!” so that someday he’ll know what my name is and say it back to me.