the motherhood sessions
What began for me over ten years ago, was a journey of indescribably uncertainty. My notes read like point form outlying pros and cons. My thoughts began in sentences and ended in definitive periods. Always with the nagging curiosity of maybe. And then a voice, clear, distinct and not at all deniable told me yes. There began the second chapter, with a yes. Or, more accurately, “shit. and ok, i guess we are doing this.”
My journey to this mountain called motherhood has not been easy, nor has it been entirely difficult. In many ways I describe myself lucky even if this luck has cost me a lot. IVF is no small feat. Its wrought with stress piled on top of ridiculous amounts of hormones, many of which are meant to treat certain varieties of cancer, piled on top of hopes dashed, of disappointment and pain and grief and then if you’re lucky, like me, the cherry on top is twin lady babies. And there begins the longer chapter.
My journey into this mountain began with fear. I remember it intensely. Lying on the table coming into the full realization that my abdomen was about to be sliced open and someone was going to reach inside of me and pull out not one, but two over 6lb babies and two placentas. I shook with it, that fear. I tasted it. And then it was over. So quickly. And all of a sudden they were there, looking like themselves and wondering what the fuck just happened. Just like me. I cried and tried my best to vomit sideways into the little trough they put next to your mouth because you can’t get up to puke like normal. So much nausea from the drugs they needed to give me to shrink my uterus. They gave me all the drugs and it was awful. My entrance into motherhood was never lovely. It was never bliss. I went from there to needing to drink a lake. I hadn’t had a drop of water since the day before and I was only allowed to suck slowly on ice chips when I wanted to down the entire universe. They were there with me, lying quietly, swaddled on either side of me. I looked at them with amazement, unable to understand how they just appeared and existed. They slept on my chest for the first 4 days when they weren’t in under the light for jaundice. And they fought for room on my chest the same way they still do. I woke up the first night shaking violently, drenched and thought I was surely dying. The nurse came in and quietly explained to me that my hormones had kicked in and I had sweat myself soaked.
It didn’t take long for them to be too heavy to sleep on my chest together. Before I began to feel the pressure of their little bodies through my body and into my back. Home was a welcome space to try to adjust to this fresh seeing. I couldn’t stand upright for a couple of weeks, the odd emptiness of my belly and my broken abdomen not having the strength to support my back, I hobbled about like an old woman, feeling like a scene from a national geographic magazine. I practiced feeding both babies at once, I cried, I sweated, I cried, and I never succeeded until they were 16 months old. Instead I did what I could and I fed them separately trying and failing every time to finish the first before the second started to wail. I woke up one night on the bathroom floor, Jeremy’s scared expression looking down from above. I woke up after having fainted from pain in my abdomen that coursed up my back and through my chest, it swirled and ached. I thought I was going to vomit so I had gone downstairs to the bathroom. I passed out instead. The doctors had no explanations. I woke up one night and thought I was going to die, the pain was so bad. An ambulance was called. I thought I was going to have to say good bye to my new loves. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t stand, I thought for sure I was dying. For 45 minutes. It stopped just as the paramedics entered the house. For three months this pain randomly occurred, sometimes lasting for 5 minutes, sometimes lasting for 30. It was terrifying and exhausting. My doctor thought it must be a muscle spasm. Months after it stopped, my massage therapist massaged a muscle in my hip flexor and I felt where the pain was coming from. So yes, a muscle spasm that made me feel like I was dying. Super fun.
Someone asked me once did I feel that rush of love when I first held them. I didn’t. I felt a rush of responsibility and bewilderment and panic. I felt love, a lot of love, but it wasn’t the first emotion I felt. I didn’t know them yet. I only knew that all of a sudden I needed to keep these beautiful, perfect creatures alive and all of my fears came flooding in with that acknowledgement. I remember being terrified of being alone with them, I remember being terrified of everything.
I was never someone who understood what anxiety felt like. Now anxiety is a close companion. We share thoughts and feelings and casual jokes. Sometimes anxiety sleeps in my bed, sometimes anxiety sings me to sleep and coaxes me awake in the morning. Sometimes I ask anxiety to leave and show it the door but it always seems to figure out how to get back in eventually. Its sneaky like that.
Life before motherhood was full. It was free, it was lots and lots of sex and wine and Paris and Sleep. It was dreamy. It was many years of just Jeremy and I. Now its more. Its more of everything. Well, maybe not the sex and wine or Paris or sleep, but its more than everything. It is Motherhood.
Motherhood. What does it mean to you? It means a lot of different things to me, some things unpleasant, a lot of things strange and weird and wonderful, but most of all it means Olive and Maaike. And I wouldn’t trade these lady babies and this life for one without them.
These motherhood sessions have been on my mind for a long time. I’ve wanted to capture what Motherhood means to me and to others; the invasion of space by these alien creatures that somehow came FROM INSIDE OF US (wtf?!?), the incredibly deep sense of love we feel for them despite wanting to curse and swear at them multiple times a day, and the weird and completely unexplainable attachment we have to these beings that can often make life feel slightly like hell at least twice a day.
Here are some photos of the motherhood sessions. Please note, before scrolling through, there is some nudity, so if you are shy of seeing breasts, maybe don’t proceed.
If you have made it to the end of this post, I will leave you with the acknowledgment that every woman in world, whether a mother or not, is the fiercest, most bad ass being to ever exist. A mother just has to take this bad assery to another level. She doesn’t have a choice. Its survival. It’s not controllable and it is what makes us. I love you all.