She tells me the story with relish – more than 20 hours of contractions, no drugs, back labor, and “you were sunny-side up!” She sneers playfully while she reminds me that I am the reason she got the drugs with my brother.
I’ve done this now, become a mom. I’ve gone through my own labor stories which I relay with indulgence to the people they bore. I have held my firstborn with tears in my eyes and loved her more fiercely in the moment of her birth than I had ever loved anything, funneled all my hope and imagination and compassion and affection into a moment I never could have prepared myself for. I dropped everything at her tiny, wrinkled feet.
So I know. I know the humble, maybe even subconscious celebration of the Birth of a Mother. Every birthday is special for the one born and it’s special for their family, but for the mother – especially with the first – it marks the day everything changed. It marks the day her world stopped hard on it’s axis and started spinning the other way.
I asked my mother what changed when I was born.”You taught me to be selfless,” she says and all I can think about is how beautiful the irony. I have spent my life studying this woman and watching the varied ways a person can pour herself out for others. I’ve heard her up late at night cleaning while the rest of us were tucked warm into beds she’d made. I’ve eaten protein-full breakfast burritos she prioritized over her own self-care at 6am. I’ve been the last kid picked up from day care while she sat on a freeway bumper-to-bumper in the hustle when she would have much rather been the mom with the freshly made cookies on time for pick up. I have watched her work hard and enjoy things she wouldn’t have needed to enjoy if it weren’t for her family.
She never asked me to be anything – she has been happy to follow my lead and cheer for all my endeavors. I imagine she had hopes for me, but she has never imposed any of them. Having babies has always been something I’ve wanted to do and she has always been excited for it, but she never made me feel like I had to have them for her.
But there is a very real sense in which these babies are for her. I wanted them regardless offer desire to be a grandma, but my wanting to be a mom comes from watching her. I saw how much she loved us, how she seemed happy to sew costumes and throw parties and look at homework. I saw her tired, stressed, in pain, but I also saw her face when Kaleb played football or I sang in church. I remember her inviting us to sleep in her bed when dad had to be out of town – how she just loved our presence. She showed me Motherhood in it’s banged up glory. I saw that it was hard, but also that it was worth it.
Today I celebrate 29 years being in the world and I get to do it with her. And while we care for my own children together I join in quietly celebrating what this day is to her, too. The day my Mother was born.