How did my child just turn 26? It sometimes feels as if it was yesterday that she popped into the world. I recall so clearly the labor — 24 hours and counting in all, before they cut her out of me (when initially I thought I had indigestion, the bane of my pregnancy!). I recall my father driving me to the hospital in the back of my red Nissan. I think he was going about 5 miles an hour with this 200-lb beast — me — cussing and writhing in the back seat. I also recall my mother trying to make me eat before we left for the labor ward — ever the European Mama, insisting that a good meal would solve everything. I seem to remember it was beef stew she was trying to feed this poor monster in labor.
And then once I saw her, the world stood still. No matter they had cut through 18 layers of skin to get at her and my body systems were all messed up when her blood got into mine due to our different blood types. None of that mattered when I saw her and discovered that she was “normal.” I had made it through and so had she. Then the healing could begin.
Before I had my daughter, I had never once changed a diaper; not something I’m particularly proud of, but it’s the truth. I had not been what you might call a maternal type. I didn’t babysit infants or covet the idea of being a Mum as my life goal. Friends of mine had mothered already and cast a suggestion that you have to have at least one; but I was left unmoved by all their persuasions. I was quite happy with my dogs, thank you very much. But when she showed up, the only thing I felt was complete and utter pureness of love. I saw her perfect face, her dark hair and blue eyes and I was instantly smothered with adoration. She was mine and I was hers and that was all there was to it. I remember my Mum telling me something similar.
Having had no practice at any of the early day stuff, I relied entirely on friends who had done it before. Thank goodness, there were some super handy types close by, who had graduated that class and were able to coax me along. As a new and clueless mother, I was stumbling through the dark.
The early years were tiring but fabulous. She was so hilarious and curious about the world. She had funny habits … who eats one cheerio at a time? Who will go to a restaurant and want only ice? Who will not be able to walk on sand or grass? Yes, that would be my girl. Fortunately, when she turned about 1.5 years, I met my life partner and this was not his first parenting rodeo, so he started guiding me toward the light and helping me to navigate those early years when “no” is the majority word of a toddler, closely followed by “I don’t want to.”
The later years might be diagnosed as a little bit of a challenge; but most of us old mothers agree that it wouldn’t be normal otherwise. You can’t just have bliss-bliss all the way through. They would never leave home and you would never want them to. She went through all the teenage tussles that most of us do (though she wasn’t a patch on her naughty Auntie Rosie!). She came through the other side and then we would do fun things together, instead of fighting. We would travel, go to concerts and have fun wherever we went. We still do. We will plan a fun day out — lunch, shopping, sometimes a mani-pedi.
We haven’t traveled together for a while, since, yeah, no one has been able to do much of that; but everything we do together is so memorable. I realized, thinking about her birthday, that she and I are mostly the best of friends. Sometimes I get on her nerves (“Are you home for dinner? Did you have fun? Did you eat? …” you know, annoying mother banter). Sometimes she gets on my nerves and me on her last nerve; but, as I have reminded her time after time, she is mine and I am hers and there is no amount of annoyingness that is going to change that.
I promised not to be a burden on her in my later years … who needs that kind of garbage in their lives. And I promised to try to not ask too many annoying questions while we are, likely temporarily, sharing the same roof. But one thing we do know for sure is that I will love her forever, regardless, and she me. My own mother has been gone from this planet nearly 20 years and I will still love her forever. It’s the rite of passage, the way to be; the absolute blessing of a mother-daughter relationship. We fight like sisters on occasion; we will spit at each other like llamas; but the love is deeply entrenched. We are part of the same tree, a branch each of the other. I am hers and she is mine.
My friends were right way back when, a hundred years ago — or at least 27. You do need to have at least one — not necessarily birthed the uncomfortable way I did it, because there are many ways to bring a child into your life, without all the 24-hour labor pains some of us endured. My daughter has driven me crazy in a whole host of ways over the years and I have been crazy in love with her for over 26 years now; so that’s not likely to change much as she evolves into a beautiful 26-something in her own right and I watch her go there.
It’s stunning to watch her develop as a mature and kind person. My friend describes her as an old soul and she is that. I see my grandmother in her and my baby sister too. The middle sister is there also and, once in a while, she has the tongue of my mother and the innate kindness of my father. I see all kinds of strands within her and it is a delight to behold.
Thank you, Universe, for letting me be her mother. It’s been quite the job, but not one I would have missed for the world.
Francoise Kallista Liberty Mason Jensen is my baby girl and she just celebrated another birthday.