Tough as a Mother
Learning what Becoming a Mother Truly Means
Written by Grace Motto
When I got pregnant (January 2020), I very well knew I was going to be a mom to a tiny human. I mean, that’s how it works, right? The birds. The bees. Science. We all know the basics. What I didn’t know was what that meant—like what being a mom really meant. But I’ll get into that more later.
I will say, being pregnant for the first time during a global pandemic was, in a way, a blessing. I was forced to be more adaptable, something very, very difficult for me. I’m a planner by nature and by trade; anxious type-AB with a masters-level understanding of time management and punctuality. If you’re on time, you’re late; get with the program. COVID pregnancy was hard, even though I have nothing to compare it to—I’m convinced all pregnancy is hard in its own way. Women are awesome. I digress.
Although there was a lot of fear in the unknown and scary moments in our world, I gained a lot from COVID quarantine. It allowed me more flexibility with work when I felt like garbage. I could nap over my lunch break in the comfort of my own home, puke in my own toilet when morning sickness got the best of me, make healthier meals and get out for walks in our neighborhood more frequently to try and beat COVID fatigue. I also got to spend way more time with my husband— time spent enjoying the quiet together, just the two of us. Between meticulously planning the nursery, discussing names and crafting the perfect registry, we were forced to slow down and adapt. I think this was God/the universe preparing me for motherhood. I needed a little grace… a lot, actually. Practice makes perfect; I’m forever grateful for that extra time.
When I announced my pregnancy at the 20-week mark on social media, people came out of the woodwork to give unsolicited advice and anecdotally-based evidence about how things might go. The best piece of advice I got was a dose of much needed reality from my older sister, a mom of my three favorite little minions. When I was regaling the stories from others and started to spiral, she said, “Grace, no one knows what they’re doing, and we’re all just doing what we can to keep ourselves and our tiny humans alive.” Cut to me throwing all the pregnancy books out the window.
After hearing that, my pregnancy was way more enjoyable. I didn’t concern myself too much with other peoples’ opinions. I was very much of the mindset that, “ignorance is bliss,” and whatever happens, happens—I had faith that everything would be okay, which, if you know me, you know that is the mantra I try desperately to live by but am often consumed with worry, fear and anxiety—this was somehow different. I was actually calm and kept the faith. I followed my gut, my “maternal instinct,” if you will. I started to take everything with a grain of salt (and a metaphoric shot of tequila, am I right?), and the only people I really cared to listen to were my doctors, mom and big sister. And yes, if you’re wondering, third trimester I allowed myself to have sips of red wine and the occasional piece of deli meat. I even took a bite of raw cookie dough once because in that moment, it’s what I unequivocally needed.
Pregnancy is a bit of a blur in general. The days were slow but the weeks went quickly. It’s funny because that’s still how I feel now that my daughter is here. Once I got to my due date, my little bundle still hadn’t arrived. I hadn’t even “dropped” yet. Talk about frustrating for someone so punctual!
I chose to get induced at the 40.5-week mark because that’s what my doctor said would be the safest option for both of us— she wouldn’t let me go past 41 weeks. On October 11, I went into the hospital to be induced. Nearly 40 hours of labor, 6 hours of pushing, 14 bags of vomit and an epidural later, it was determined that I would need a C-section because my kid has a head the size of a giant watermelon (okay, it was 14.5 inches, but hyperbole felt necessary here).
I think it’s important to note that I never had a birth plan— shocking, I know! Again, I’m an event planner… who makes plans to make a plan… I’m not sure how I was so calm, cool and collected about such a major life event, but here we are. My only plan was to have a baby and for both of us to make it through labor and delivery. There was nothing else I could “plan.” I wanted to live, and I wanted a healthy baby—that was my simple end goal. I let modern medicine help with the rest.
After determining a C-section was necessary, I burst into tears. In that moment, I felt like a failure— I was so defeated. I was scared. I was exhausted. I was so.freaking.thirsty. On the other side of the coin, I was relieved. It was all the emotions I had felt for 41 weeks bubbling to the surface. I was ready to have this baby. After a quick pep-talk from my husband, we headed to the OR.
Shortly thereafter, my sweet Amelia Jacqueline made her entrance into this world! October 13, 2020 at 9:07 AM. It was the absolute best moment of my life. I’m leaving out a lot of details because the overall birth story was a little traumatizing. Maybe someday I’ll share more, but the important thing is, our girl was perfect. And we were parents.
We were in the hospital for three more days post op. It’s all kind of a haze now, but I do remember crying a lot. I remember thinking how no one really told me about this part— the postpartum part. Or maybe they tried to but pregnancy clouds your ability to think beyond labor and meeting your baby for the first time. I can’t be sure.
What I learned is that postpartum is messy. You need to live it to understand it; and even then, nothing makes much sense. In my experience, the first hours, days, weeks even, is survival mode. A mix of high-highs and hormonal lows all while trying to keep yourself and a little tiny human alive. After experiencing childbirth, whatever that looked like for you— possibly traumatic— you’re expected to heal and mother a brand-new person while existing in a haze of sleep deprivation, hormones, blood and breast milk. To reiterate my very wise big sister—no one knows what they’re doing— you just do everything you can to keep yourself and your tiny human alive.
My one piece of unsolicited, anecdotally-based advice is this: nothing can prepare you for the reality of what becoming a mom is like; the gravity of it all. Who I am as a person has morphed tremendously; I’m still Grace Motto— I’m still a funny, thoughtful, hard-working woman; a wife, a best friend, a daughter, a sister, an aunt—but adding “Mom” as a title… it’s the best, most cumbersome promotion there is. It changes everything—I am forever re-coded. Being a mother is tough as a mother, and there’s no one better for the job than you.
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