When I stared down at that positive pregnancy stick almost 7.5 years ago, I was convinced I was having a girl. I was elated and on top of the world. I imagined that she might have my dark hair and brown eyes and take on my husband’s slender build. It was exciting to think that I was creating a little mini version of myself.
While I was pregnant with her I dreamed of the days in the future when we would spend time running errands, laughing together over stories, and thoroughly enjoying each others company. I imagined it this way because this was how it had been with my own mother. As a child my aim was to please my mom, to make her happy not because I felt I had to but because I wanted to. I loved pleasing my mom. If I did something to disappoint her or to upset her, I felt awful. I rarely disobeyed.
My own daughter was born in late October in 2002 and her birth was not what I had planned. She had a plan all her own. I remember feeling like I had somehow failed her as a mom because I couldn’t push her out. She was cut out of me and it seemed so disruptive and jarring to both of us. I hoped she didn’t feel abandoned in those first few hours when they separated her from me because her apgar score was only a 7. My arms ached to hold her even through my exhaustion.
When the tight swaddled bundle was put into my arms at 2am it was just the two of us awake, staring at each other. I looked into her face. Her blue eyes were watery and deep; I ran my fingers through her tuft of strawberry blond hair. Who was this little girl? She looked nothing like me. It surprised me when an overwhelming emotion of love enveloped me and even though I desperately needed to sleep, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, this little stranger.
I think the challenge that began that day and continues today is not wanting her to be like me. She’s her own exuberant, joyful person. She doesn’t necessarily want or need to please me nor does she deliberately seek to disappoint me. She’s confident and bright. She’s independent. I know we’re connected, yet not in the way I had imagined we would be when she was growing inside me.
Parenting her is like white water rafting. I’m thrilled and terrified all at the same time.