Today is my son’s fourth birthday and it feels like the first one I’m authentically happy to celebrate.
I’ve always felt enormous joy for his presence in my life. He is hands-down the best and most effective teacher I’ve ever had. And in that role has taught me how to embody joy, contentment and love. But due to the traumatic events surrounding his birth, it’s been a struggle to let go of those memories and focus primarily on the fact that he is here: healthy, happy and whole.
I was never that young girl who wanted lots of babies. When I played house with my younger sisters I was always the great auntie who babysat but was always happy to return the doll when my sister came back. And when I was told I was pregnant by a clairvoyant woman I met at a conference (full story to come in a later post) I was a not in the least excited. I literally cried upon hearing the news. Yes, full heaping sobs. (There! I’ve admitted it! Praying that the parenting gods forgive me!) I will forever be grateful for the friend that rode in the taxi with me as we headed to the airport that afternoon and just kept giving me tissues without questions. It would take me weeks to be able to verbally explain this reaction.
Eventually I got on board with being pregnant and envisioned a beautiful natural birth at a local birthing center. And while my pregnancy was experientially perfect, the birthing process left me in disarray, deep sadness, physical pain and emotional scarring. And I can confirm how much I hate hospitals. Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. That first week I remember feeling all kinds of confusion at how my heart could possibly feel anything but love surrounding the arrival of this being.
Yet, the disappointment was real. The shame was palpable. The fear at what could have happened kept me from enjoying the celebration of his arrival. His father and I choose to not have a traditional naming ceremony in the Sierra Leonean tradition a month after his birth or a party to celebrate his first birthday. We blamed it on finances, but for me it was an inability to feel good about the story I created in my mind about how he arrived.
About a year and a half after he was born, I was gifted my first acupuncture session and was able to talk about my birthing experience for the first time. I sobbed through all the traumatic details and the patience that therapist embraced me with as she held my hands and passed on lots of tissues without questions continues to bring me peace to this day. I recognize that afternoon as the first day of my healing.
Other experiences came as the years went on to allow me to really challenge the story I had made up about what the actual circumstances meant. I began to recognize how much pain I continued to hold in my body for my physical inability to birth naturally. And eventually I was able to feel worthy of being a mother. In the beginning I felt that title was a burden, but I began to accept the title as a blessing. I began to feel proud that this soul choose me to enter the world through. And to honor my responsibility to teach him about this world as best I could.
Finally I feel healed.
Finally I feel at peace with being a momma and celebrating his blessed arrival.