Being a parent

When You Really, Finally Feel Like a Mother

Written by Devan McGuinness

I can still remember the way the nurse looked at me as she handed me my first-born child. This little baby was tightly bundled in a light blue blanket, and the echoes of my husband on the phone with family members lingered in the background. I had just given birth after nine months of uncertainty and a very stressful labor.

My boy was here, and breathing.

The team of doctors who helped this baby fill his lungs with breath had just left the room, and I remember feeling totally drained – more tired than I’d felt in my entire life. The nurse’s gaze made me feel strange like she was expecting more emotion, any emotion, but all I wanted to do was sleep.

It’s not how I thought I would feel after finally becoming a mother —I didn’t feel too much at all. There was a lot of build-up to this moment, but there was a whole lot of fear, too. I had no faith in my body’s ability to protect this baby, so I did what I could and protected my heart and kept my emotional distance.

With every doctor appointment and ultrasound visit, I was waiting to hear the phrase I had heard two times before, “Sorry, there is no heartbeat.”

As each week progressed, and even as I felt the strength of my son’s kicks from within, that fear never left me. Instead of celebrating the milestones of pregnancy – like exiting the first trimester, hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time and feeling that first kick – I kept myself at a distance. Emotions weren’t part of this equation.

And yet there I was, holding a baby that I so desperately wanted and I was still cautious with my heart. Was I ever going to feel safe in allowing my heart to love him? Miscarriage and grief robbed me of the innocence and joy of my new baby because I was waiting for that other shoe to drop. When was he going to be taken away from me, too?

Weeks went by, and as I tried to settle into some form of routine at home, the distance between the baby and me was still thereWith each diaper change and quiet moment of breastfeeding, I waited simultaneously for something bad to happen where motherhood would be ripped away from me again, and for that moment where I would finally feel like he was mine. Weeks when by and I started to wonder if maybe I was too broken from the pain of past losses to fully embrace motherhood.

Each day was built on the same routine, going through the motions, but all that changed one morning. My son was lying on the floor with a toy that was supposed to foster his development at 6-weeks old. I went to go tidy up the neglected kitchen. The radio was on in the background and when a song came on that was the perfect motivation to clean the dirty dishes, I walked to turn the volume up and noticed something that changed everything.

When I crossed the room, my son’s eyes were focused on me, not the toy in front of him. His dark brown eyes followed me as I moved from one end of the room to the other and back again. He saw me, and I finally saw him. It was a moment I thought I was too broken ever to experience. There he was, his perfect little self, and he was my child.

As months passed, my son started reaching those milestones doctors look for, and parents look forward to — that first smile, the joyful giggle at something silly, blowing kisses and missing you when you’re gone. With each one, I felt more of my heart coming back. These were the moments I dreamt about when I started the path to becoming a mother. Watching my son reach those milestones was the key I needed to move past the grief and anxiety left from multiple miscarriages.

Reaching those milestones was more than a bragging right for my son’s accomplishments and more than a checkmark at the pediatrician appointment. It was a sign to my fear that my son was staying here with me, that he was mine and that I was more and more a mother.

About the author


Devan McGuinness