I didn't want kids. My life was mine. The oldest of seven, I saw what my mother had been charged with, and I was not gung-ho about being a mom. The lack of freedom was a major turn-off for me. That decision solidified as I endured two painful miscarriages; I knew that I could never again experience that. The feelings of failure, remorse, and hopelessness took over, and I swore off having a child.
Fast-forward years later: I turned 32 and was feeling icky. I swallowed the nausea as I got ready for my birthday. I knew what was going on, but I just wanted so badly to ignore the obvious symptoms. I did not want to experience this again. This time, it stuck. This time, She stuck. That January, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Zuri. I did it. She was here! And she was perfect. But I was still horrified about being a mom.
Three years passed since that birthday. The same nauseous wave befell me; I was in denial even more so than the first time. Now, life was different. I was enduring a nasty breakup, and I wasn't sure having another child would help the situation. I contemplated abortion; how could I have two kids on my own? After much thought, I knew that even being pro-choice, I couldn't terminate. I had so much trouble keeping a positive pregnancy before, why would I reverse fate? Through the most depressed state I'd ever been in, I decided to give Zuri a sibling. Beautiful Amara came almost three years to the day after Zuri.
The trepidation that I experienced throughout the volatile time of getting and staying pregnant has now manifested into the task of raising my girls. The depression has waned, and I have begun to understand my role. Instincts develop, and these are so abundant in nature that it has proven to make childrearing the most involved and scariest job I have ever had, or will ever have. These emotions swirled through my mind and heart, and now I can write about them. These emotions are fueling me to wholly focus on my girls' needs. I want to ensure I provide the protection needed to guide them into adulthood. Ultimately, my crucial wish is to not let my girls down.
Out of all the ways people describe being a parent, I can now identify four traits of my personal motherhood. It is evidenced through fear, anxiety, faith, and love that this is now my life. Fate has revealed my responsibility to two other people: I am able to identify my place with my daughters.
Fear: An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat
Why must I be afraid to raise my girls? Fear is catalytic in ensuring that I keep my children protected. Mundane parts of my childless life are now grouped in the "may cause death" section of my maternal guidebook. It was a harrowing thought to realize that it was my responsibility to provide everything they needed to survive. My innate fear of failure has also affected my motherhood. What tools would I need to help raise two girls? Am I doing the right thing? How will I know if I'm not? I dreaded becoming a mom. The distress has since melded into other components of this new mom life.
Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome
Anxiety was already commonplace for me; now it has compounded. Panic ensues when trying to get to dance lessons on time, or stressing about making enough breast milk, or pacing the emergency room waiting for the doctor to stitch a cut on Z's brow. I become nervous over most things involving my kids. I go over and over lists in my head, just to make sure that I don't miss any detail of my day; what's ironic is that many things do get missed over the course of the day, causing more anxiety! Somehow, this nervousness aids me in raising my kids, although I admit that I do need to worry a little less.
Faith: Complete trust or confidence in someone or something
I am not religious, but I do believe that there is a force emanating from within us all. I avow that said force helps us understand what life is. I know that no matter what is going on in our lives, there is help all around us. Faith did not come quickly. I didn't trust anything or anyone at the onset of this maternal journey, and I am sure that I will question it all again in the future. Only with childbirth have I truly begun to understand that we are not alone. I have faith because I see happiness and fulfillment in my girls every day, and we will get through it all, together.
Love: An intense feeling of deep affection
Some nights, gracious tears fall, as I reflect on where I was five years ago. I am not the same person. There is one last piece that validates the others. The culmination of these aspects of my motherhood has resoundingly brought me to one place: love. They are strands woven into a great swaddling cloth of love. Love is fear of the unknown. Love is anxiety about putting it together. Love is faith that we will prosper in the long run. Love is free of condition. Love is in my lap right now, nursing from me as I try to finish this piece. Love is the sleepy almost-4-year-old who keeps asking me what I am typing. Love is the catharsis I am experiencing as I finally put these thoughts on paper. Love is all I need to make this motherhood thing work. Love of my girls saved my life.
And love is definitely not failure.