So here’s a story for you.
Once upon a time when Joel and I found ourselves pregnant for the first time and rather…we’ll go with confused, I found myself sitting in front of a psychic (clairvoyant? fortune-teller? witch?). As you do. I am curious, but always a bit skeptical of these types of things, because really. She came recommended by people close to me and honestly, Joel and I were so lost at the time, we would have taken advice from the postman.
I plopped my seven week pregnant backside down on the chair in front of her, not saying much because, you know, I wanted to see how good she was. She took my hand in hers, closed her eyes and went quiet for awhile. I sat there awkwardly because how one is supposed to act in a situation like this I was not sure. I eventually decided to sit up very straight and smile a lot.
After the longest time, she looked up, dropped my hand, exhaled deeply and said, “Well, you are highly fertile. There are babies floating around you everywhere.”
I stared at her, the slapped-on smile slipping from my face.”Are you joking?” I said. Because I’m composed like that.
“I am not joking”, she said. “In fact, you will be very fertile until well into your 40’s, so you’ll need to watch that.”
I tugged at my dress and mumbled that oh yes, I will watch that, thank you.
I tried not to say much, and as it turned out, I didn’t need to. She gently told me that she knew I was pregnant the minute I walked in but she didn’t know if I knew I was yet. Still keen to avoid too many details, I reassured her that I knew I was pregnant, to which she then explained that this soul wanted me to know that it was incredibly excited to come through, but that it did not want to cause me stress and heartache and that it would wait. If now was not the right time, it would come again. This little soul would wait.
I pretty much swallowed my own voice and decided right then and there to keep my mouth shut and listen to what the strange but very kind woman had to say.
I sat there for close to two hours, in this strange in-between place I find difficult to describe. I felt lighter and clearer and stronger than I had in weeks, and I walked out her door with hope in my heart and a mind made up. Shortly after, Joel and I committed ourselves to both each other and our baby, popped champagne with our families and began to forge a life together. An imperfect life, but a beautiful one nonetheless.
Seven months passed. Our baby was born. We were basking in that euphoric high of birth and new parenthood, slurring drawls of wild love and desperate devotion, deciding that she was absolutely the most perfect thing ever to grace the earth. After three days, we had finally decided to call her Ella, but omitted a middle name because, honestly, one was hard enough. What in the sam hill are middle names for, anyway? We were tired. Ella Delaney would do.
Day Four rocked by. It was time to check messages and emails and respond to the outpouring of love we’d received. And there she was in black computer print: Nicole Cody. AKA The Really Expensive Psychic Who Saved My Life And Who I Had Completely Forgotten About.
I had not seen her in seven months. She had received no information from us about whether we did or did not have the baby I was pregnant with. Nothing. But this is what I read when I clicked on her email.
Congratulations, gorgeous mummy!!! Ella loves her name! I’ve been speaking to her a bit. If you want a second name she says she likes Grace because she used to be Grace one time before when you knew her. Except her name was Zaina then, and she doesn’t like that name for this life, just the energy of the name. She won’t mind either way – she’s a terrific soul, so happy and easy to please. And she loves you both to bits. She’s feeling very good about life. Use scent to soothe her too, she’s big on association with smell and memory. Much love to you all, Nicole xx
Sisters, if you want a sure way to make a new mother cry, I would suggest an email like that. I mean, we knew each other in a past life? We have bonds and connections that span lifetimes? She loves me, this itty bitty tiny angel in my arms? To bits? I couldn’t even handle it. And I’m sorry Miss Psychic but WHAAAAAAT? HOW DID SHE KNOW THESE THINGS?? How did she KNOW? From that second on I basically revered her like she was the Pope, because although it all just freaks me out a bit, sister’s got some crazy links to some crazy knowledge.
I have to say, Grace is not one of my go-to names. It’s pretty, but I can’t say it’s one I’ve ever particularly liked. But with a story as meaningful as that, I could never say no. Give me a rich, juicy background to endorse a decision and I’m a goner. Besides, we like to err on the side of weird, Joel and I, and naming our child after a tip from a psychic? That is exactly the kind of thing we’d do.
A year and a half passed. No contact with Nicole in that whole time. I was a couple of months pregnant with Billy, vomiting out the bedroom window by night and unpacking boxes in our new home, our little house by the beach, the home we live in now, by day. I turned on my computer one morning to find this email waiting for me:
Needless to say, I melted into a puddle on the floor, called Joel and creaked (cry-shrieked) into the phone that we basically have this spiritual warrior on our side who totally knows everything and we are just so where we’re meant to be right now and OMG our babies have had past lives together and HOLY FREAKING HELL I’M JUST SPINNING OUT.
I don’t know how. I DO NOT KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT, but she’s the bees knees of spiritual sorcery, our Nicole. And all this is to say that I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately. I remember something she said about the kind of mother I’d become.
She said there are Bibs & Burps mums, the kind of mothers who become fixated on the baby stage of parenting, who love it like nothing else, who go back again and again for more and more children because they love babies and thrive in all things babyhood. She said I wouldn’t be a mum like that. She said that I would find my greatest joy in the guiding of them, the raising of them. And by the end of last week, the memory of her words slapped me in the face like a sudden jolt, because I had reached the point where I knew exactly what she meant.
Last week was the greatest, proudest, most rewarding, most enjoyable week in motherhood I have ever experienced.
Ella has been suffering lately. Suffering at daycare where she cries a lot and appears anxious. Suffering at swimming where she screams the entire lesson. It’s troubled me, obviously, to watch this, to understand it, and to find ways to help, so I quieted myself, watched my daughter, followed my instincts and gave her strategies to cope with the things I got a gut feeling about. I felt as though I tapped into her emotional world and then gave her the tools to guide herself out, repeating day after day what she could do if she ever felt certain feelings.
If changing nappies and sending out birth announcements wasn’t enough to make you feel like a proper mother, helping your children overcome problems is a sure way to make this gig feel legit. I’m not playing house anymore. This is the real deal. And while it feels nice to learn your baby’s needs, to anticipate cries and problems before they happen, to feel soft newborn skin against yours, this was where I’d found my greatest pleasure.
Because I sat there at swimming on Thursday, inched forward with my head in my hands, watching her dive forward, put her head under water and kick – over and over again for twenty minutes – without crying once. She even looked at me, smiled and waved at one point.
And because I picked her up from daycare on Friday and was met by a child grinning from ear to ear, who had made new friends, who had bonded with several other carers, who had repeated to herself throughout the day the things I told her in order to feel safe. She had not cried once.
I stood there blinking back tears because I was so proud. Of her, but also of myself.
I thought back to that scared girl in Nicole’s room, riddled with fear and confusion, feeling utterly incapable of being a mother. I thought back to the first few months of Ella’s life, how deep in doubt I was, how insecure and fraudulent I felt about the whole ordeal. I thought back to how replaceable I felt, that somebody could do a much better job than me, and how I then clung tight in order to feel important. And now here I was, the matriarch of my little family, instinctually knowing my little loves inside and out, utterly capable of giving them the tools they need to become resilient, courageous, happy and wholehearted people.
I am these children’s mother.
Completely irreplaceable. I know them in that sixth-sense way only mothers really can.
It can make me just weak with gratitude.
Sisters, if any of you are knee-deep in bibs and burping, feeling cheated by the blissful images of motherhood you’ve been fed, slightly bored and then immediately guilty, wondering with rising panic if this is it?
It’s so not it.
You’re just not a Bibs and Burps mum and that’s totally okay.
Grab your newborns and smell their skin and kiss their noses and love them for the beautiful angels they are, but know that there is so much more. I promise.