Before I say anything else, let me preface with this: I would not have chosen to become a mother.
I never felt the call to motherhood, never felt the maternal urge. I wanted to live my life without being responsible for a tiny, squealing, helpless human. I did not want to change diapers ten times a day, spoon feed a banana-flinging toddler, or sacrifice my freedom and my body to the ravages of pregnancy. I thought that I was not equipped to be a parent; not financially, emotionally, or physically. I was convinced I'd end up on the operating table somehow.
Nothing changed when I found out that I was, in fact, pregnant. I was unmarried (engaged to my long-term beau, but still), starting the spring semester of my sophomore year in college, and only 19. I was scared, I didn't want my life to be put on hold, and I didn't want my fiancé to resent me (or the baby, for that matter) for the rest of our marriage for irrevocably altering our lives in a huge way. Granted, he said he wanted kids, but not so early on and at the time he didn't really know—and was not ready for—what that would realistically entail.
I gradually adjusted to my predicament, choosing to look on the bright side of popping like a balloon—which was getting fat without judgment and "eating for two." All the while, I was judged for other things, like how I never wanted kids (Silly girl doesn't know what she really wants) and my choice to remain in school (How selfish / She doesn't know how hard it'll be). I started reading From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris—which was built like a textbook—and taking notes, pinning like a madwoman, and "nesting."
But I was still terrified of two things: 1) labor and 2) taking care of a living, breathing baby. After all, I'd only held one like two times in my life before. My best friend offered to let me practice on the neighbor kid she babysat, but I didn't want to subject the poor child to my misguided attempts to sit on him.
Fortunately, blessedly, miraculously, my pregnancy was pot-hole free and my labor was a breeze. I suffered no morning sickness, irrational midnight cravings, or miscarriage scares. I barely felt my contractions for the first six hours, it was over in another two, and I didn't end up getting cut open which, to me, constitutes success.
Afterwards, I was handed a red, squishy, blood-encrusted creature that I would henceforth call my daughter. There was no instruction manual and my prophesied maternal instincts were MIA, so my husband and I reverted to a trial and error process. Not hungry? Try burping her. Not tired? Sucks for you.
My planning process is now forever affected by concerns for a child. When I think about career choices and relocating for any opportunities, I have to consider how changing schools will affect her. When I think about traveling, I have to make (oftentimes expensive) arrangements for her. And on a smaller, everyday scale, every time I choose something over her—be it homework or date night or what-have-you—I sacrifice a little slice of our bond.
Now that all of that is out of my system, let me say that I am glad I had her. She was an accident, not a mistake. If I had not gotten knocked up, I would never have chosen to have children. Who would consciously choose sleepless nights, stitches on your vagina, and sore, cracked nipples? So I am glad I was forced into motherhood by a fortunate accident. Because motherhood has brought on a whole new realm of experiences for me.
I would never have known the joys of watching her gradually achieve new milestones, never known the pride—and the oddly pleasurable fear—of watching her discover herself and the world around her. I never thought I would be so invested in another person's bowel movements. I never thought I would be so excited about an infant trying mangos for the first time (though there's added incentive when her tiny bow lips move in quiet analysis).
Now that I'm a mom, I feel like I've developed as a woman; it's almost like I've joined a cult even. I share common ground with billions of women worldwide, with generations of my ancestors. I've added to the depth of my knowledge as a person and as a writer.
I have a daughter and I am her mother. I will always be such, whether she becomes one herself or not, whether I die or she does. It defines me, but it is also not all that defines me. Because I am still that girl who never wanted to have kids—I just have one now. I still want to travel and finish school and write a novel and save the world, and I will one day. And my daughter will be there and think, "Damn, my mom kicks so much ass."