"The Church of Motherhood" by Jillayna Adamson

Published on Topic: Guest Blog, Parenting

Jillayna (said Jill-anna) Adamson is a SheByShe guest blogger and in the riveting post below she shares her first-hand story of childbirth and finding her peace with Motherhood. Jillayna is also a writer and photographer with a background in Psychology and Anthropology. She is currently working on her masters in the mental health field and is interested in all things people and culture. Jillayna also writes about and advocates for her passions-- which include third world countries (namely, Haiti and areas in Africa), child and adolescent mental health and the psychological and social implications of the modern western world.  She currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and son.  Learn more at www.Jillayna.com  Find her photos on facebook at Facebook.com/photostoriesbyjillayna

She was holding me up over the toilet. I couldn’t yet stand or walk on my own, and sure as heck couldn’t sit down—even on a toilet seat. There was blood running down my legs, there seemed to be blood everywhere. My legs shook, my whole body seemed to vibrate. None of it fazed her. Not even remotely. She strapped an icepack between my legs, hoisted me back up and hauled me back to my bed. All with a smile on her face. That’s how all of them were. None of them flinched at the pools of blood coming out of me, my vomit, the sight of my third degree tear. In fact, they were encouraging. “Wow, you’re not even swelling! You look great!” or, “that’s totally normal, it feels awful now, but you’ll heal up quickly”. Most of them talked to me as if we were best friends. They stroked my hair, held my hand, told me how great I had done. They were casual. It was no big deal. I did great and I would be absolutely fine.  That third degree tear? Well, don’t worry about the details now, and as for the number of stitches? I was sweetly told that hardly mattered. In other words, “you don’t want to know”.  For the nurses, this was their everyday life.

In two days, I would be going home. I would pack up my little family—my brand new, perfectly born son and my overjoyed and exhausted husband—and I would go home. Despite the fact that I’d still scarcely be able to sit or move, and that I’d be downing Tylenol codeine every 4 hours. Despite the throbbing shock in my body, and the strange state of emotions I was floating in—a mix of elation, surrealism, and fear—I would also be entrusted with a new, entirely dependent tiny little life.

He looks up at me with blue eyes and already seems to know me. He follows my voice at only an hour old and snuggles to me easily. I love him instantly, and I suspect, even if instinctual now, he loves me too.

My pregnancy was anything but enjoyable. I was horribly ill throughout it and dropped 20 pounds in the first 2 months. My entire life went on hold. I vomited constantly, could rarely lie all the way down because of horrible heartburn, and felt so much physical discomfort and nausea that I was almost always miserable. Labor and delivery, and the recovery afterward was the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life. I entered into a new world of pain; I seriously felt at times that I would not make it through it. The state of being entirely unable to physically care for myself, of relying solely on doctors and nurses and praying they knew what they were doing—that was new to me.

I have done plenty of brave things. Moving to an island 4,000 miles from home where I knew no one as a young teenager, working in an impoverished village in a third world country with no electricity or running water, cliff jumping. But none of those takes the cake. The bravest thing I ever did is something that women all over the world have done for centuries, in various conditions and surroundings—many far braver than I. It is something so many people do; it is normal, a part of life.  It is also entirely incredible, miraculous, physically traumatic and somewhat terrifying. I slipped into a new realm of womanhood, of vulnerability and love. I have experienced what it is to be human in the rawest, and most natural of ways. Pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

We see it constantly, and we are almost immune to just how incredible and miraculous it is. We almost forget the bravery required in the stages of bringing a new life to the world.  True appreciation comes from the experience—motherhood, fatherhood—and the ‘getting there’. It comes from living it, seeing it. I know didn’t understand the bravery of mothers and mothers-to-be all over the world until it was me.  Because it truly is that powerful, that grand. What my body did, and what I went through physically, mentally and emotionally—what women everywhere go through—it holds some kind of warrior’s badge. All to be given a job people describe as life’s most terrifying, yet most rewarding. And it is. This love is one beyond words.

My son is now 9 months. I have all but forgotten the trauma of my agonizing pregnancy and his birth. Truly, many of the details are hazy and I remember them only because I wrote about some of my experiences days after he was born.  9 months removed, and heavily in love with my growing boy and his growing personality, I already think, ‘It wasn’t that bad’.  I don’t feel it as I felt it then; the hormones, the connection to my little family—it has all but washed away the more painful parts of ‘getting there’. Some days I almost miss being pregnant, feeling his little (and big) kicks and daily hiccups vibrating in my belly. (Those days, I am clearly not remembering my inability to sleep, the heartburn and the vomiting.) And other days, I am aware that I could do it all again soon, that I even want to.

As a partial stay-at-home mom, my days are often filled with the feeling that I have accomplished absolutely nothing. The kitchen remains a mess, dirty dishes fill the sink, there is no food in the fridge, the rugs need to be vacuumed, and the dogs need a walk. Instead I have played on the floor with my son as he wobbles, trying to master standing up. I have sat on the couch tickling and cooing and watching his smiles and giggles. I have nursed, and nursed again, rocked him to sleep. Held him so he WOULD sleep. Taken him for walks, given him a baths. Many days, it seems my only accomplishment is caring for this boy, attempting to enrich his brain, keeping him happy-- and from pulling the dogs’ hair or putting my jewelry into his mouth. And why society has told us this is not enough, that this is not ‘work’, I am unsure.  It may actually be one the greatest of accomplishments-- to jump right into learning the art of every trait you never thought you could master: patience, unconditional love (because any parent that has been awake for 40 hours knows unconditional love), battling cabin fever and a lack of adult conversation (you know, that ‘groundhog day’ repetition of your days).  And of course, there is that learned ability to sit completely still for 3 hours watching the belly of your baby rise and fall, his little lips parted, eyelids fluttering…  This is the Zen of motherhood. The gift of appreciation, small victories, simple joys. What many seek in life is what you learn and receive in parenthood.

And so, I have not sacrificed anything for this. I am not accomplishing “nothing”.   Some days, it may not feel like this. And society as a whole may continue to forget the category of motherhood as a part of a woman’s career. But I like to think I have finally joined this secret society, this quiet understanding that only mothers know and feel. That I can lock eyes with a fellow mom toting an infant in her Moby wrap at the grocery store and, without knowing her, know and understand many things about her. From that first positive pregnancy test, to the agonizing hours of labor, to laying on the floor singing and giggling, and up-all-nights—this is the ultimate faith, love and career; welcome to the wonderful church of motherhood.