This piece was first read aloud at the Listen To Your Mother Show in Providence. You can view the reading as well as the rest of the LTYM Providence show cast on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5oPQWgVdsDk0ex8o4YUaLekT98b94zZL
“What took you so long?” were the first words to my daughter. I had been in labor for so long and in the hospital for nearly a week before my daughter finally decided to come out on her exact due date. My mom had flown in from Seattle to help me out and witness the birth of her first grandchild, but I dreaded it. I was afraid that I would fight with her, that she would judge me and tell me that I was doing everything wrong. I was afraid that the first few days of my daughter’s life would be full of tears, angry and harsh words, and lots of ugliness.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother to the moon and back, but our relationship was never perfect and there was a reason why I lived across the country from my parents. It was a relationship wrought with a bit of “tiger mom”-ness, an identity crisis as a daughter of immigrant parents, and frustrations of a woman who probably did not envision her own life and dreams to be on hold forever. There were so many things that I said I would do differently than my own mother – so many times I said that I would not become my mother. I would do everything opposite of what she did. I’m not sure why I said or thought those things since I don’t think that my mom did a bad job of being a mom. I had a relatively good childhood and I have mostly happy memories from childhood. Even still, I approached my own entrance into motherhood with much trepidation and fear that I would be just like her. I would have these panicked moments where I thought that I was somehow emotionally damaging my child. I could imagine her sitting with her therapist and telling them how my not letting her watch Yo Gabba Gabba while eating her breakfast was the root cause of why she never felt loved by her mother. There were moments where I thought I would break her as I realized the frailty of an infant and the frailty of the mother who held her in her arms. What if her head was too flat? What if she wasn’t kind? What if she doesn’t get in to college? What if I don’t like her? What if she hates me?
It is in those moments that I see my mom for who she was – an immigrant who put her husband through graduate school, working full time, taking care of her own immigrant parents, and trying to raise two children all at the same time while being a wife, daughter, friend, mother, and woman. She was just trying to figure it out with the same types of fears that any new mother would have. It was a lot of trial and error and going with your gut. She just did the best that she could and I think I turned out pretty well.
Those first days of my daughter’s life turned out to be really special as I got to spend time with my mom and grandmother – three generations cooing over this special little girl. My mom didn’t tell me what to do nor did she judge – she just let me figure it out on my own and jump into the deep end of the pool of motherhood. I finally see my mother. And I wonder to myself, “What took you so long?”