These last few weeks of my pregnancy have been, well, pregnant with emotion.
Up until this point, I’ve had an uncanny knack for observing what was happening to me and, generally, finding it fascinating. It was interesting when my nose started bleeding and curious when my knee stopped knowing how to be a knee. I’ve met all of the changes – the big, the beautiful, and the downright gross – with about as scientific a perspective as I think any pregnant lady could be expected to muster.
But over the past week or so, I’ve noticed a change in my attitude. Differences in the way I look and feel, now, are fuelling emotions – hope, excitement, fear – rather than thoughts.
Certain words seem to linger on the tip of my tongue, as if I’ve never really considered them properly before. Some words, like ‘transitional labour’ and ‘mucous plug’ (don’t Google that) are, in fact, still pretty unfamiliar, but others are words with which I already have deep emotional associations.
I have a mother and a father. I am a daughter. And I have 27 years of experience with these words, so why do they now taste so foreign when they rest on my lips? I guess their significance was never really in the forefront of my mind before.
These words are defining. Binding. Eternal.
These words are relationships strung together with woven strands of deoxyribonucleic acid. They are bonds that – while incubated inside my body for nine months – have divided and grown more times that I can possibly fathom.
These words signify the beginning of a life and the beginning of all kinds of possibilities. These words have the power to change existing lives, too; they force us to cross that threshold between a couple and a family.
These words keep me up at night.
Well, that, and the frequent need to urinate.
As we race towards this finish line (Or is it a start line? Surely there’s some wisdom in there somewhere about every new beginning coming from some other beginning’s end), I find myself burdened with an endless list of questions. How will I cope with labour? How bad will late night feedings be? What will it be like when this Little Parasite smiles for the first time? What about the first time we can’t figure out why she’s crying? Will our dogs still feel loved? Will I ever leave the house again? Why do we need baby lotion and baby oil?
The biggest questions, though, revolve around those words. What kind of mother will I be? What kind of father will he be? What kind of daughter will she be?
And an even more philosophical question, still: What does it mean to be a mother?
I’ve been wondering about the implications of motherhood while simultaneously wondering whether I’m already in that situation. Do you become a mother when you make the decision to try for a baby? When you see a positive pregnancy test? When you hear a heart beat? When you get kicked? When baby takes her first breath?
(For the record, I think it’s the last one. If someone were to ask me today, “Are you a mother?” my answer would be, “Almost.”)
Looking at this post, I see a lot more question marks than I’d like. Periods, commas, en dashes, and the occasional colon and semi-colon – this is the world of punctuation in which I’m comfortable. But a question mark denotes uncertainty – a quality that I most definitely do not associate with mothers. How can I be a mother if I don’t know how?
(Although thanks to the prevalent “bumbling dads” stereotype, uncertainty seems a little more likely for fathers, particularly for those entering the realm of diapers.)
I thought, somehow, that when I was in a place where LP could theoretically arrive any day, I would know more. I thought that, on top of having the nursery completely set up (nope), weeks’ worth of food ready in the freezer (nope), a hospital bag packed (nope), and any kind of understanding of how a breast pump works (yeah, nope), I would have some answers to some of these other questions.
It’s taken me a few late-night cry-festivals (hormones are no joke, yo), but I’ve finally realized that somehow, whether I have answers or not, I am going to become a mother. (Upon further reflection, I don’t think the duct tape solution is going to work out.) LP will enter the world and I will be responsible for making sure she stays alive. It doesn’t matter if I know what the difference is between baby lotion and baby oil, as long as she doesn’t drown in either. She also probably shouldn’t eat them. Or get them in her eyes.
This might be tough.
Regardless, I think that’s probably the first real lesson of motherhood. I can’t plan for everything. I won’t always be prepared. As much as I’d like my children to think the opposite, I probably won’t always know the answers – especially to the big questions, the ones you can’t just Google.
And that’s okay.
As long as we’re all alive, we’ll be okay. We’ll get there. We’ll figure it out together – that’s the plan from here on out.