I recreated myself, unintentionally, through motherhood at age 20. Having never planned on children at any stage, my pregnancy came as an unwelcome surprise. I worried what my father would think, how I would handle my course load and my finances, that I would have to get an episiotomy. I mostly worried that I would not like my kid (entailing psychological misery on all involved + the social stigma). But I grew accustomed to the idea in the 40 week span and when my daughter was born I began to fall in love. That love grew as I got to know her—that her hair was actually strawberry-blonde and it was only the blood that made it look brown, the difference between her hungry and sleepy cries, that she has a special affinity for apple sauce—and now I see everything through the lens of motherhood. In class and in life the first and foremost perception I have is now that of a mother. The question I inevitably ask of every protagonist is: “What would your mother think?” My work ethic has improved ten-fold because I am working with a sensitive timetable (ex: the baby does not sleep through the night so I have to work during the day), a skill I’ve retained even though she sleeps through the night. Though I was irreversibly altered, I still strove to preserve my pre-infant identity: I was back to school within a week of giving birth, I held fast to the ideals of non-attachment parenting, and I made time for sex. I remember holding the breast pump on with my right forearm, holding a book (The Woman Warrior) with that same hand, and feeding my daughter a bottle with my left at 3:00 a.m. Despite my initial resistance, my body and my psyche will never recover from giving birth. The experience was a form of rebirth because I changed but also because I created a life that is so inextricably tied to my own. In her book (Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar), Cheryl Strayed notes in her essay “The Future Has an Ancient Heart” that “A language that is descended from another language is called a daughter language.” I feel that my daughter is descended from me and thus speaks her own language—both similar to my own and yet not—grunting and babbling, and discovering the world for herself. She will always be a part of me, and I her, just as it was for my mother and I before, just as it was for all our maternal ancestors. Yet someday she will grow up to be taught how to say “to-may-to” instead of “to-mah-to.”
This was written as a scholarship essay for Sigma Tau Delta in an effort to raise funds for my summer semester at Cambridge University. If you would like to donate, click here.
UPDATE: I won the Sigma scholarship for $1,000! Which means I’m that much closer to achieving my goal, but also that I’m committed to going–so I need all the help I can get!