In 2013, I was pacing in my bedroom, willing my body to stop. I looked at the clock: 10 a.m. It had officially been 28 hours since I’d slept. I did the only thing I could think to do. I called my mom.
“I don’t know what’s going on. Every few minutes I just have this extreme pressure. Horrible cramping. But he’s not supposed to be here for another month!”
“Oh, honey,” she said, “That’s labor. You’re in labor.”
I was 23, a first-time mom-to-be, and I was terrified. When my water broke in my kitchen an hour later, I realized, like most of the times in my life, my mom was right.
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My mom and I have always had a close bond. I’ve always looked to her as a baseline for strength, beauty, consistency and grace under pressure. She blessed my childhood with the constant reminder that she would always be in my corner. That bond only intensified the moment I gave birth to my son.
An hour and a half passed between the moment I stood, dumbfounded, in my kitchen to holding my perfect baby boy. My mom quietly led everyone out of the delivery room to give my new little family some alone time.
The nurses came back in to check on my tiny baby. After listening to his lungs, and exchanging nervous glances, they explained they needed to take my boy to the NICU. He was OK; he was just so early that he needed some assistance. His father squeezed my hand and followed them.
Looking back, we were so lucky. My son only needed to spend a few hours in the NICU. We were able to leave together two days later. But, at that moment, when they took my baby out of my arms, I felt as though my heart was literally being ripped from my body.
When my mom came back to check on us, she found her firstborn sobbing alone. In one look at her, I saw in her face every new raw and wild emotion I was feeling.
A few years into motherhood, I understand my mom in a way that wasn’t possible before. I understand the fear in her face when she saw my empty arms that day. I understand the instant surge of fierce protection she felt. I understand more than ever the sacrifices she made and the countless sleepless hours she spent.
This Mother’s Day, I am grateful to the woman who taught me how to be a mom.