Holy Mother! I’M a Mother!
Reflections of Motherhood Part 1
(Mother’s Day Series)
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
As a young girl, I was fiercely independent. Unlike my younger sister who secretly misinterpreted “apron strings” as “Siamese twins.” She was on my mother’s hip for a large part of her early years. Unlike me, who was content and unafraid to experience the world on my own. It’s not that I didn’t need my mother—I just didn’t need my mother.
Later, my ambition, which was sparked not only by my very first “academic award” found in my compassion to “share my crayons” with another child sitting at my table in Junior Kindergarten when I was awarded with The Apple of the Day Award from Miss Sherry, my beloved teacher—was further embedded by my parents’ generous praise of my work and my intelligence.
I was four.
And every picture that I painted or drew was hung up on the walls of our townhome laundry room, which was on the second floor.
Pictures of a crude, shaky hand: the ever-recognizable yellow-circled sun with straight lines for its rays of light; green scribbles of grass, over-exaggerated stems of tulips of varying colours and sizes (since I had no idea how to draw any other kind of flower); blue clouds, tiny m’s for flying birds, an apple tree with far too many apples and obvious stems; a box house with an attempted roof; and anatomically bare stick people who were taller than my boxed house.
Yes, these were the products of great praise. And so, I kept on drawing. I kept on painting. I kept on reading. And I kept on writing—I kept on.
As I grew, I became a scholarly and serious student, often, if not always at the top of my class. I even graduated as Valedictorian, winning a Brampton Rotary Award of Excellence that drove me to believe I could someday conquer the world (okay, not the world, but maybe a good two or three countries).
Needless to say, my drive for success propelled me into an accepted solitude with a focus only on a strong career and vocation, extravagant travel plans, a nomadic lifestyle, a few adventurous lovers, dependable and like-minded friends, along with a house full of cats (I later found out that I’m anaphylactic to cats and put myself at risk of death in ever being near them!)
Marriage or having children were not part of my long-term plans—or even part of a short-term one.
I had nothing against children. Or even men or marriage. I just had other plans. (And we all know how plans usually go…)
I’m not complaining. Some of the best things in life derive from spontaneity and surprise. And poof! I met someone who didn’t make me forget my plans or myself, but helped me acutely remember.
Two years into our marriage, “we made plans” to try for a baby.
Unlike some women (and my previous academic success), my pregnancy and that surrounding childbearing was not in any way, “textbook.”
I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix, a terribly insulting term, which alluded to the idea that my cervix was somehow wilful and unwilling to succeed in its primary function, which is to carry a child. And just as insulting to my very nature, which was not used to being called “incompetent” at anything I had set my mind to.
And so, I carried my child for as long as I could until my firstborn was born too early—the mere size of a pop can, born at six months gestation instead of the anticipated nine.
That’s how my personal experience of motherhood began. Not the wistful, flowing ebb of sentimentality usually associated with Hallmark cards, perfectly colour-coordinated baby showers, and gushes of congratulatory hugs, handshakes, and bravado cigars. No.
I had panic and pain when I should have been ethereally glowing. I had Level- Three-priority hospital care with the subjugation of pity, awe, and scientific wonder and study. I had worry, anxiety, and fear—first of labouring, which I had never experienced before, and second, of the potential death of my unborn and then “born-too-early” child.
It was an intensive time of postpartum hormonal change with the heightened stress of death banging on my son’s isolette incubator door. He was 875 grams when he was born. He was fully intubated, depending on the life source of CPAP machines, strong antibiotics, a strict visitation code, a revolving shift of surrogate nurses, and the grace of God.
I had missed my prenatal classes by two weeks! My son was born before I could attend my first session and so when the accompanying nurse told me to breathe, I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, nor did I know what it was to enjoy a baby shower.
I had one—an impromptu gathering of my mother, a few of my aunts who had thrown a few gifts into some gift bags, and a buffet of food I didn’t feel like eating because all I could do was worry about whether or not my baby would live or die.
Dramatic? Yes. True? Absolutely.
And rather than tell you in detail of the four years of frequent hospital visitations, medical appointments, tests, studies, and other forms of my son’s near-death experiences and medical scrutiny—I will say, that we had by no means, any plans to have another child due to the extensive care our son required and the fear of surrendering a second child to a similar fate.
But, you know how plans go.
And so, five years later, we put our faith into the possibility of having another baby…
Now, I have a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter!
What’s the moral of the story?
There isn’t one—but, it is my story. And that of my children. And in reflecting back, Mother’s Day isn’t a day to merely celebrate what it is to be a mother—but also to celebrate the children themselves who have made us so.
I know I will most likely be receiving a similar drawing to the one I drew as a child, on Sunday from my kids. The crude and shaky lines will most likely inscribe,
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! I love you!”
And yes, I will most likely post it our fridge door.
The yellow-circled sun will most likely be replaced with the steel mask of Iron Man and the straight lines will become its rays of light-beam weaponry. The green scribbles of grass will most likely be the bludgeoning green of Hulk, while the over-exaggerated stems of tulips will become the varying colours and sizes of enemy ships. The blue clouds will stand as Captain America’s shield and the tiny m’s of flying birds will most likely become boomerang discs. The apple tree will stand firm as the tree from Black Panther’s forest. And the boxed house with an attempted roof will most likely become a testament to the Superhero Squad’s secret headquarters!
And of course, the anatomically bare stick people—will now include two more!
How do you celebrate your children as a mother?
If you’re not a mother, how do you celebrate the children who are in your life?