Once I was ambivalent about motherhood, my life was beautiful yet terrible, an enormous experience and I needed, wanted nothing else, to make it more. But somewhere on my journey, I realized that I was denying myself motherhood not because I didn’t want children, but because I didn’t trust myself to do a good job. I’d felt like a fraud and a failure for most of my life, I lived afraid of making mistakes. Making mistakes for myself, seemed acceptable, if not desirable. Inflicting my mistakes on my future dependents seemed selfish and unforgivable.
As my self-esteem improved and my behaviour nudged the needle occasionally over the mark dividing destructive from constructive, I got to a point – admittedly later than many women – where I thought, yes, I can do this. If I am ever asked about why I became a mother, the answer is simple. Because I could. Not only because I thankfully had requisite fertility, but also because after many years of working on my self-esteem, I finally believed myself capable of being a mother I thought might be halfway decent. But I was still afraid and post-natal anxiety didn’t help…
It’s a boy, said the nurse looking hard at the scan of what looked like a knobbly potato during my second pregnancy. And I burst into tears of relief. Not because I had been afraid that I was in fact, gestating a potato. Not because I had any preferences for male babies. Not because I wanted a pigeon pair. But because I was so terribly afraid that I could not love any other child as much as I loved my first born. If it had been a girl, the comparison I thought, would be unbearable. She would be compared like my adoptive mother compared me to the idolized child which should have been hers.
And so where others were interested in finding out the sex of the baby so they could ‘buy pink or blue’, I was waiting so that in case it was a girl, I could try and grapple with my fear of not loving my new baby as much as my first born daughter. So that I could learn ways to shield them both from this terrible and hurtful knowledge. At least I thought, I can as much work as possible in the time I have left to prepare myself mentally to lie, as I felt I would have to… for their entire lives. Such a prospect was awful, but not as awful as ever, ever letting them know how I really felt. I was afraid because I knew that they would feel it, sense it, in tiny reactions, the absence of a loving glance, an unintentional twist of my mouth, if not in overt gestures. During that pregnancy I wondered whether I was a good enough mother to have really had a second child at all, but for the fact that I never wanted my beloved daughter to grow up an only child as I did.
That was three years ago. This weekend has seen my daughter’s and my son’s birthdays, born two years and two days apart. In that time they have both transformed my life, even if it took a little while. I love her, love him, and love some more. Love their quirks, love my daughter as she discovers the power of her voice, love my son who at the tender age of three has turned out to be the joker of the family. I love them not for what they do, but for who they are.
My children are my greatest teachers simply because they possess and embody the ultimate teaching tool. Unconditional love. It has given me the platform to become a better person – and a better mother – than I ever thought I could be. Sometimes I’m still afraid, but when that fear overwhelms me I take a deep breath, I sink myself deep into that love.