“But what I find most surprising is how much I miss him being with me every day. When I was pregnant, I knew he was safe, or at least as safe as I could make him. I knew what he was doing. I knew he was protected and I knew when he had the hiccups. Now, I have to make assumptions. I have to do my best to learn what his day was like while I was at work. I ask him every morning what he dreamed about, and although his answers are usually 1. Dada, 2. The Moon, and 3. Dog, at least I know he is dreaming.”—Annie Carroll Maffeo
Working Through Motherhood
By Annie Carroll Maffeo
BATAVIA Illinois—(Weekly Hubris)—March 2019—When I was pregnant, before I would fall asleep, my son would spend a fair amount of time flipping and kicking and punching inside me. This meant hours of me feeling him. He was incredibly active, mostly at night. He definitely had a pattern, according to which I could almost count on him waking me up at 3 a.m. to get the daily party started again.
Every day at about 2 in the afternoon, he would get the hiccups in utero. Which was funny and something I felt all the time. He still gets the hiccups now, whenever he laughs too much or eats too quickly. But I could count on that almost every day. The little blip of him hiccupping.
The first time I felt him kick was odd. Women have described it as butterfly-like, but that is an unsatisfactory description. It is its own feeling of loveliness, and honestly, it made me feel complete.
The first time my husband was able to feel him kick was Christmas Eve. One strong and mighty kick, right at about 18 weeks. It was authoritative, as if to say, Dad, I am right here. From that moment on, both my husband and I spent many minutes and hours with hands on my belly feeling our son move about. It was proof positive that he was healthy and thriving.
When I went into labor, everything became about getting the baby out into the world, healthy and safe. I forgot about those small moments of movement. I erased the memory of his delicate hiccups for the grounding reality of labor. Contractions trump all. All the sweetness of past months was swept away by the hurricane of a 12-hour drag race and simultaneous slow-motion movie of labor and delivery.
And then, there he was. I remember thinking, literally repeating this in my head, “Women do this all the time; you can do this too.” Five pushes and he was here. He was placed on me and my heart exploded. The world was over and time ended. Nothing is the same. He has no choice but to be here. I, whether I realized it or not, had no choice but to love him with my every fiber. Reasonable or not, that is what happens.
Maternal DNA doesn’t alter when you are pregnant. We know that. But my permanent self was forever changed. People do such a poor job of relaying what parenthood is like because it cannot be described. They give awful advice to soon-to-be parents, because what do you say when your heart is about to be enlarged and make space for a human that you have created?
There is an endless list of what I have learned, what I continue to learn and what I will never, ever know about motherhood. Truly. The number of things I have gotten wrong on the first round is surprising to a perfectionist like myself and the number of things I continue to get wrong on second and third tries has made the perfectionist in me finally shrivel up and die.
But what I find most surprising is how much I miss him being with me every day. When I was pregnant, I knew he was safe, or at least as safe as I could make him. I knew what he was doing. I knew he was protected and I knew when he had the hiccups. Now, I have to make assumptions. I have to do my best to learn what his day was like while I am at work. I ask him every morning what he dreamed about, and although his answers are usually 1. Dada, 2. The Moon, and 3. Dog, at least I know he is dreaming. I ask him every day how his day was and his answers are usually 1. Dada, 2. The Moon, and 3. Dog, but at least I know that his day was happy and positive.
That is the thing no one can explain about motherhood. Is how much you will miss them when they are not with you. The absence of my son, whether from my womb or from my day, is something I am hyper-aware of all the time. And the presence of my son here in the world was something for which my heart was not prepared, could not prepare.