I reach out and nervously embrace this precious gift. I wait for her cry; instead, her striking blue eyes take in every inch of me and our souls connect.
She doesn’t realise it yet – she couldn’t – but this moment will be fixed in our memories as we are allowed a lifetime to explore this unfamiliar territory we are both entering. As warmth radiates through our exchanged energy, I can’t help weaken in an instance of guilt that suddenly floods every part of my being. How do I reach out and commit to this angel? And how on earth do I try and fill the void from which she came?
Desperately trying to find an instant bond, I am conscious it will take time. Should I feel any less of a mother for not having endured the pain of labour? I am not sure. And is it natural for me to feel this sense of sadness that grips my every thought that somewhere tonight, a woman will suffer emptiness so that I can experience fulfilment?
Both my mind and body are absent of the nine months preparation most mothers get; and for my daughter, my voice, my touch are foreign. As I explore her features – her perfect existence – she leaves me breathless. Life has changed and changed quickly – dramatically – without warning. There is no time for preparation; instead a swift transformation from study to nursery is made. I rush out to buy clothing, but what size do I get? What formula is she on and what size nappies does she wear? My head becomes filled with a sea of questions, but the sheer exhilaration of becoming this little girl’s mother overcomes all the underlying anxiety I could quite easily drown in.
My dreams and prayers have finally been answered; a stranger’s trust has been bestowed in me, their faith and their acceptance.
So why in a heart beat do I find this new responsibility so hard to cope with? Why has happiness suddenly turned to fear while belief has turned to doubt? I can no longer remember the absence that once controlled my existence but instead I struggle with sleep deprivation, as I also struggle to understand my daughter’s needs. I question my abilities to parent over and over as I climb back into bed at three in the morning and reassure my tired mind that this most precious gift is in no way transferable. I must learn to cope, to understand, to stand strong and believe in myself; to believe in us.
I watch as new mothers pass me with their newly decorated prams and notice the peace in their eyes, the smiles and laughter they share as they sit amongst their newly formed mothers groups. Do they cleverly disguise their frustrations; their fears as I have succumbed to do? My love for my daughter is unquestionable, so why do I worry for what the future will bring? And when she calls me Mummy, why do my thoughts instantly reflect on the woman who gave her life? This poison of uncertainty grasps my fragile mind as I desperately try to ease her pain, her discomfort, her need to be held and reassured.
I am her mother and she is my daughter. Our love is pure and undivided, so does it matter we are not flesh and blood or that I am not scarred by stretch marks or from an incision of an episiotomy, just as I didn’t feel her kicks from under my ribs or experience the bulging and stretching of my body as she grew?
Instead I have nursed her close to my heart while she touched my face with her tiny fingers. I cherish the first moment we fell in love, I recall her first words, her first steps and her first tooth.
I watched as she fell asleep while in the safety of my arms, but missed the anxious countdown of the last trimester, just as I missed her first cry. I didn’t endure morning sickness, nor did I crave for ice-cream or strange and exotic delights, but instead I craved to become a mother, a parent, while suffering years of heartbreak and bitterness.
I see and feel her unconditional love. Her trust is bewildering as I find my place as her mother. She understands my flaws yet never falters. I live for her existence, her touch, her love. My heart melts when her heart is broken and I am overcome with joy in her presence. I yell and scream to get my own way; but it is always in vein. I long for time alone, for peace and quiet, yet I can’t stand the silence. I look for help but don’t want to take it. She is rambunctious and gutsy, as she is sweet and girlie. She is as blonde as I am black, yet you could be forgiven for mistaking our similarities.
When the time is right I will find the courage to tell our story and share her place in history, her origins and let her know how lucky she is to be loved not only by one mother but two. Until then I will embrace every precious moment of parenthood and share it with my daughter. I will dream of the future and what it might hold, and pray that each day will bring happiness to what is miraculously my own.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem