What does it mean to be a mother? Exploring the experiences of a daughter raised by a single mother, a new mother whose life is unexpectedly transformed by the birth of her child, and a gender-neutral parent raising children in a non-binary environment, the reflections in this series are as insightful as they are personal, offering a powerful look at the meaning of motherhood.
By Nicollette Ramirez
My experience of motherhood was a long time coming. One friend on social media said, “Welcome to the club!” and I replied, “I declined the invitation many times before.” Living in New York City and working in the Arts without a steady income or partner and with a hectic travel schedule combined to put off motherhood for a long time. I wanted a baby although I didn’t know how I could manage to have one.
Nature conspired to give me one in the only way that could work for me: unconventionally. Like Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis, my partner and I were no spring chickens when I got pregnant. Some people asked if it was IVF but it was a spontaneous conception, a surprise to both the father and myself who had only one month before met each other, but really no surprise to me, as just four months before I found out I was pregnant I had written on my To Do List “Have a baby.”
When I conceived I was already in love with my child as I felt he had come to me at the 11th hour out of a true heartfelt desire, definitely on my part. In the six weeks of motherhood since his birth, that love which I bore my son in the womb has only grown greater.
Two schools of thought on rearing children were given to me by friends; one was, “Make the child fit into your life. Don’t change your life for the child” and the other was, “Surrender to the child. Forget about the things you have to do. You’ll get your life back after.” Reconciling these two schools of thought has been a challenge for me as I have always been fiercely independent and focused on what I had to do to make my life happy. Now focusing on a little one who looks to me to secure his welfare and to make sure he is happy is a lesson in and of itself. It’s the feeling of being responsible for someone else’s welfare, and the giving up of my own agenda selflessly for another, that I avoided all my life before.
I jokingly said to colleagues the other day: All my life I avoided finding a man who sleeps next to me and snores, now I made one. But my little one’s “bad behavior” is easily forgiven because of the love I bear him, and this too has a greater lesson for me for all the people I interact with in my life. Overall, motherhood is teaching me lessons I would not have learned otherwise. It’s maturing me on a level that I could not have reached without having gone down this path.
I named my child Love for a deeply philosophical reason. Besides being conceived on Valentine’s weekend, his paternal grandmother’s maiden name was also Love. His first name is also profoundly meaningful. Theodore means “God’s Gift.” He’s certainly been mine.
This essay originally appeared in the Mothers & Grandmothers issue. For more inspiring stories about dealing with mothers and grandmothers, check out The Only Child Box and Pause by Mary Ruefle.