My mother and I had a fraught relationship through my teenage years. I rebelled against her at every turn, constantly wanting to push farther and farther away from her. I didn’t want anything to do with her, that is, until I found myself pregnant at 21. By then the boiling rage of my teen years had reduced to an intermittent simmer. We would still butt heads, but my years away at college had softened our issues – and when we celebrated my wedding together, I enjoyed my transition into the role of adult-daughter. I felt closer to my mom than I had since my girlhood by the time I took my positive pregnancy test, and she was the first person I called to tell the news.
Throughout my prengnancy my mom was the person I called with all my questions and concerns. I was the first among all my friends to get pregnant by a long shot, so my mother was the closest person i could turn to with all my baby-related questions. Our relationship grew so close over those nine months that when she asked if she could be in the delivery room, i said yes without hesitation.
My husband, on the other hand, was a little more cautious. He knew how often I would blow up at my mom, and how she exasperated me in times of stress. She should be here when I had the baby, no doubt, but in the room with me? It probably wasn’t the best idea. The more I thought about it, the more I worried it was true. There was still no one in the world who could push my buttons quite like my mom. No one else who had quite the explosive history with me.
I told my mom as much in the weeks leading up to birth. I told her not to be surprised if I kicked her out of the delivery room. I reminded her of how easy it was for her to set me off. My dad joked at her, “Yeah, don’t make the Gemma mad.” We laughed about it but I was worried I had made a poor decision for this burgeoning new stage of our mother daughter relationship. Kicking her out of the room would break her heart – and it would be a horrible way to bring my first child into the world.
When I was admitted to the hospital for delivery, I called my mom in the middle of the night, and she drove the four hours between us to where I was. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when she walked into the room, but as soon as she arrived I immediately felt the way towards her I had as a child – I was so happy, so relieved, to see my mom.
I don’t remember her being in the room much of the time. She faded into the background, knowing her presence was enough, knowing when I wanted conversation and when I didn’t. When I found myself at the mercy of a horrible, unkind nurse, my mom went to request a new nurse for me as soon as I asked. When I had a terrible reaction to my epidural, hers was the first face I saw when I came to, telling me I was going to be all right. And after my husband helped deliver our baby, she held him first as I was stitched up, solidifying what would become an unbreakable bond between my mom and my son.
Though I had been hesitant to have her in the room at first, having my mom there when I delivered my baby was the best decision I could have possibly made. It was an experience that brought us closer, that forged a deep love between her and my son, and that ultimately helped me survive my most difficult labor. I wish she could have been there for all of my births, but I’m so glad she was there for my first.