I didn’t choose motherhood. It chose me. I was the reluctant mother. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son William. He is the apple of my eye. But truthfully I was reluctant to become his mother, even after he was born. I always wanted the career, the husband and the freedom to live life.
Having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal endocrine disorder very common in women, made it easy for me to not worry about having children. It is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women.
I was 28 years old, living in New York City, attempting to make my journalism dreams come true. This Texas girl was determined to make it in the big city. Professionally, I had a few journalism opportunities I was pursuing. Creatively I had become a spoken word artist performing my poems at open mics weekly. I finally had created a life that I truly loved. I was even seeing a guy. It wasn’t anything serious, but I really liked him and we spent a good amount of time together.
I initially went to the doctor for a well-woman exam to get birth control pills. But once there my intuition told me to ask for a pregnancy test. I found out I was expecting my first child. It was a Saturday in May. I walked the streets of New York in a daze. Everywhere I turned I saw pregnant women. I couldn’t believe that I was pregnant.
When I told the father, he really pushed for abortion because he didn’t want more kids. This request from him made me think of Tami Roman and her abortion on the second season of The Real World in Los Angeles. At the time it aired, I was in elementary school watching TV far too advanced for me. I watched it again on YouTube in 2011 and knew I could not go through with the process. I am thankful Tami was bold enough to share her truth with the world when it really was groundbreaking television. More than 40% of all women will end a pregnancy by abortion at some time in their reproductive lives.
To prepare for my child’s arrival, I let go of my attachments in New York: my journalism opportunities, performing poetry and the father of my child." Leaving the father made me fragile emotionally so I sought therapy. Mentally I was not prepared to be anyone’s mom. I needed to get myself together. Therapy was helping me do just that till my son arrived three months early. He was born right on the threshold of life and death.
Life had spiraled so quickly, in many directions, I often sat in a daze at my son’s bedside wondering how I got there. I didn’t have a mothering instinct in me, yet I knew I was responsible for him being here. My son’s early entrance to this world meant I was at his bedside every day. I learned how to care for him, how to stimulate him to breath and how to be his mom. I rushed to the hospital every time he took a turn for the worst. I did what was required of me.
Being a reluctant mother doesn’t excuse me of my responsibilities to my son. But being a reluctant mom does mean I resent having to put my life and plans on hold for my child. During one of many hospital stays for my son, I met with a social worker as part of the protocol for our local Children’s hospital. This medical stay coincided with the passing of Whitney Houston. I lamented how much life had changed for me. I told her I missed my old life in NYC but more importantly I missed my career. I wanted to be in a newsroom. I wanted to share in the thrill and excitement of breaking news. I wanted to recite poetry so piercing that even your partner felt my words. I wanted to be free of medical establishments. By this time, my baby boy had done 84 days consecutively in the NICU and was on his third hospitalization since birth. I was worn out and tired. I was operating on autopilot.
My son was eventually released from the hospital. The third time must have worked like a charm because till this day he has never been admitted again. The last hospital stay brought Child Protective Services into our lives. The hospital worker to whom I vented my frustrations called CPS. Her coworkers called back afterwards to discourage CPS from pursuing the case. Their call back didn’t stop me from a required meeting with CPS officials at their offices. Her reasons for contacting them were unfounded. My case was dismissed. Reluctant motherhood almost caused me more issues and headache than I was ready for.
I was reluctant to be his mother because it meant giving up so much of myself, so quickly. I never saw motherhood as this positive thing before having my son and to a certain extent I still don’t. I certainly don’t think it’s the greatest thing I’ve done or will do. As time has progressed, I’ve sought to live for him and me. So that means hiring an overnight sitter sometimes. That means taking a trip without him. That means allowing myself time and space away from him if it means making me a better mommy for him. Being away from him isn’t easy. It’s as difficult as his 85-day hospital stay to begin life. The time apart has made me a better parent and person. I am slowly but surely becoming the mom I want to be to my son. But I couldn’t have gotten there without reluctant motherhood.
I wasn’t allowed the space to speak openly and truthfully about my feelings concerning motherhood. Reluctant motherhood is all about allowing the space for women to share their open and honest truth about their difficult journeys with motherhood. I want to foster that conversation and allow women to speak freely. It has taken four years for me to get to this point. But motherhood is a journey.
Olivia D. Sanders is a multimedia journalist, poet and performer based in New York City. She is currently sharing her personal life stories on her website and audio blog. In her spare time Olivia enjoys listening to the music of Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar. She loves rooting for “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys and loving on her better half. Hit her up on Twitter!
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