As babies, our first love relationships are formed with our caregivers. Usually the parents, but you get the picture. So for me, my first love relationship was with my mother.
I always had the youngest, prettiest mother of any of my friends–although I really didn’t understand at that time that the 18 years between us was probably too small of an age gap. And while my mom would have benefitted from becoming a mother later in life, there wasn’t one day of my childhood that I didn’t know that she loved me with all her heart. She was my first friend, my best friend, the person that I could run and tell my troubles to, the one that would hold me when I cried and celebrate my successes with me.
A lot of times it seemed like I was my mother’s parent and maybe I was just as much of an anchor for her as she was for me. At times in her life, she had to allow each of her sons to live with their fathers, and I know this broke her heart. While as a child it seemed to me that being a daughter was seen as a defect by my father and step-fathers, it would not have mattered. To tear my mother and I apart would have been nearly impossible and probably would have killed us both.
So I turned 18, and I was in such a hurry to leave my mother. Not because I didn’t love her, but I needed to escape her husband. He was an ill-tempered, functioning alcoholic of a man who never saw anything wrong with the fact that he beat the living daylights out of a child half his size. And even he couldn’t come between us, even though he tried. One night, I was probably 15 or 16, and I can’t even remember why I was crying, but I was very upset. And I heard him tell my mother to ignore me, that I would cry myself out. It took 90 minutes of inconsolable sobbing, but mom finally came to me and had me calmed down in 5 minutes. He didn’t have a chance in hell of winning that one.
So in my 20s, I lived in southern California, and only saw my mom once or twice a year. But my mom was always just a phone call away, ready to help with advise and encouragement and love. By the time I had moved to Washington state to be near her, I knew it was a good plan, because I knew it was time to have a baby, and I would need her with me in the delivery room. I knew she would be my birthing room coach before I met my husband, before I conceived, because I knew there was no way I would be able to do it without her.
So when I learned I was pregnant, I knew immediately it was a girl. I just knew . . . can’t tell you why, I just knew I was destined to have a daughter. I was not a happy pregnant woman. I was miserable . . . I had gestational diabetes, the edema swelled my feet from a size 5 1/2 to a 9, I just looked fatter than ever rather than pregnant, and my asthma acted up to the point that I was on bed rest. I wondered how I was ever going to form a love relationship with this daughter of mine, when all I could think about was how I wanted this alien invader out of my body.
I believe that even in the womb, Darling Daughter was trying to take care of me. On Friday, we selected a pediatrician, on Saturday we toured the birthing portion of the hospital (it was also my birthday), and on Sunday, Darling Daughter decided we were ready enough and it was time for her entrance. After months of nearly hacking up a lung with my asthma, in my 33rd week of pregnancy, I had a little throat clearing cough, and my water broke. And after 30 hours of labor (all but the last 6 without any medications) my tiny premature daughter arrived. And Mother of the Writer is the only one of the three of us with the stomach to witness her actual arrival. I’d seen the films, I didn’t want the image of Darling Daughter exiting my vagina in my head–not enough brain bleach in the world to get that one out.
It was such a relief to have the alien invader out of my body. And then I had the worst 11 days in my life. The days in the NICU, the tiny sunglasses to keep the bili lights out of her eyes, the IV in her foot, the gavage tube to feed her. I can’t tell you when it happened, but by day 7, as I spent my first mother’s day in the NICU rocking my daughter, not wanting to let her go, I realized that Mom had dropped to number two on my list of most important love relationships.