Christine DaCosta, who is expecting her third child, is seen here with her children Grayson, three and a half, and Capri, 23 months, along with her husband Gareth Tavares. *Photo by Sacha Blackburne
Christine DaCosta, who is expecting her third child, is seen here with her children Grayson, three and a half, and Capri, 23 months, along with her husband Gareth Tavares. *Photo by Sacha Blackburne

I am a mother of two, my son Grayson is three and half and my daughter Capri is 23 months and baby number three is due to arrive any day now. My journey into motherhood is being defined every day and each birth has been a different journey, with different lessons and much potential for growth.

For every mother, the journey into motherhood starts that moment you realize you have life within you. Whether it’s intuitive, or the plus sign on a pregnancy test, that moment is simply indescribable (okay, well for some of us it can be source of anxiety… I had mixed feelings because I cried both tears of joy and dread as I felt at the time I wasn’t ready for this role, but that is another story for another time). 

I recently read another mom’s article, which was entitled “Learning to Love Motherhood” and her thoughts and feelings struck a chord with me as there were many things in her article that I could relate too.

Finally, someone was putting down in words conversations I have been trying to have with women and trying to find anyone who would openly talk about my own feelings in this regard. For me it was less about learning to love motherhood, per se, I already knew I did; but was more about understanding that motherhood is a lifelong journey combined with learning to let go of the life past.

This is perhaps the best way I can describe what it was like to become a mother for the first time with my son Grayson. At the time, I couldn’t quite put it down in words or express exactly how I felt but on the one had, I had this overwhelming sense of love, this was what unconditional love felt like, words really can’t describe what it means to hold that beautiful baby you’ve been carrying inside of you for the first time.

I fell in love with him instantly and would do anything to protect him (so much so, I am pretty sure my family and in-laws thought I was exhibiting ferocious lioness like instincts to protect him and hold him at all costs).

My love for my husband grew deeper, we had this little person that we made together, our own unique product of love. I loved nature, had deep respect for all women and wanted to love and hug all the children of the world that weren’t fortunate enough to be in the loving arms of their mother. It was incredible how deeply I was affected by compassion and love for all.  All of this just gifted to be for becoming a mother.

This was, of course, until the endorphin-bus crashed and, I mean, it crashed hard.  It was exactly three weeks into this new role that I broke down in sobs. Was this postpartum depression? The exhaustion of round the clock breastfeeding (which didn’t come easy as my son had a cleft lip and a tongue tie, but I was determined to make it work, I mean, I quit my career I had worked so hard for so that I could breastfeed and be with my child 100 per cent; this was a choice I made freely).

And the sleep deprivation, no crazy amount of all-nighters in university, staying up for over 48 hours at the running of the bulls in Pampelona and the many, many, many nights of strolling in as the sun was rising, could prepare me for this kind of exhaustion.

I looked at this little person I loved and thought: “Oh my! You are still here, I am exhausted and you will be here the next day and the next and the next day and we will get to do the same thing all over again; wake up and wonder if you ever really slept that night, drink lemon water, (because caffeine may get through the breast milk and, god forbid, keep this little person up well past the nap time you are so desperate for and looking forward to), change diapers, many of them before 7.00am, look at your sleeping husband and be insanely jealous that he was still getting somewhat of a good night’s sleep, say good bye to him as he goes to work and goes on with life as it was before. Oh that dreadful feeling of loneliness will set in once he leaves. Whoa, wait, what happened to my bliss? I am a new mother, everyone talks about how amazing this is but I just look at my wide-eyed, one-month-old and think, how on earth can I make it through another day that was the exact same as yesterday? I used to work in a successful career, was the life of any party, had an amazing social life, was always on a spontaneous trip or adventure with friends and my husband. I mean we had some truly incredible, honeymoon-worthy trips all over the world, how could we do another one of those?”

I loved my new little person with all my heart and soul, this I knew with no doubt in my mind but I slowly realized that I was grieving my life before I was married and had children. I realized I was grasping with all my might to hold on to that post, had one set of heart strings immersed in the present and I would absolutely not trade it for the world but tugging at me was the fact that I had my feet firmly planted in the past, planted in this fabulous, independent, spontaneous life I used to live.

As a doula, I was aware of the hormones running through my body that can contribute to the tears and out of balance mood swings but these tears were something more, they were more than just exhaustion, confusion, fear of the unknown. 

There was the realization of a sense of loss, of freedom, of independence, there was a part of me was that was no longer. I had entered a new stage of womanhood and by god I was not ready for this. 

This realization hit me hard. I wanted more time to be just the fabulous me I was before. I knew my life was going to change as pregnancy was already a time of transition and while everyone tells you how different life will be, quite frankly it’s usually said in some kind of inferior way and no one really talks about why. No one can quite prepare you for this feeling of loss.

Yes, it’s obvious that you will not sleep as much and will have a little accessory EVERYWHERE you go, but no one really talks about the temporary loss of your sense of self and the life you once had. 

I was grieving the end of that fabulous journey. One of my favourite quotes is “once a child is born, so is a mother”.  But it seemed as if the people around me absolutely did not get it. I was a new mother and many things were instinctive and came naturally in terms of how I wanted to embrace this role but in the same breath, I could not get past this weight that was holding me back in my previous life. I tried to talk about these feelings but was left feeling worse about myself and the people closest to me almost made me feel like I was selfish whenever I tried to talk about it.

Hadn’t our mothers and sisters gone through this before? Was I the only one grieving my life past? Or did the women before us just forget? I wanted and searched for anyone I could talk to but found myself burying these feelings as the more I opened up the worse I felt. Yes, we all do just become mothers in an instant (well for some of us after nine months of a 50 pound weight gain and one hell of an animalistic birth experience). But, I felt I was just expected to fully love and embrace this new life and completely close the door on my previous self. I did fully love and embrace my child. That love and connection I can’t even put in words, but this new role of mother was something I was still learning to get used to. I wasn’t sure about this new territory, my old life was freakin’ fabulous. 

It’s like menstruating for the first time, your body changes over time and then all of a sudden one day you’ve merged from childhood into early adulthood.  Looking back on it now, I wish I was able to embrace this more as it truly is a special aspect of being becoming a woman but at that first sight of blood, I felt like so much of my innocence was lost and there was no one there to guide me through this transition.

I knew I could not go back to those carefree days of swimming naked on the beach. I feel first-time mothers of today don’t get the same compassion and understanding for yet another right of passage as a woman.  Becoming a mother for the first time was downright hard. (I know this may not be the case for everyone but this is how it was for me)

Despite straddling these two hemispheres with one foot in the past and one firmly planted in the now, I truly did enjoy my year of firsts with my son. He taught me so much about life and myself in such a short period of time. This resilient, happy little soul was always curious, so full of energy and love. He taught me that motherhood was indeed going to be a journey where we would grow and learn together; life was going to happen and unfold and that it was necessary to let go of a predetermined plan or agenda and that being present really is the only way to navigate smoothly through this tumultuous path. He taught me to smile more and see the simplest of things in everyday life. We spent hours looking at worms, snails, spiders and growing flowers. I had already had a practice of yoga and while I knew that life would be sweeter when you just slow down, breathe and be grateful, it was he, my first-born son, that taught me to truly slow down and just be.

Letting Go

I reaslized that I had to get that one foot out of the past in order to fully embrace the true beauty of what I already had now.  My son was 13 months, when I found out I was expecting my daughter Capri. Of course, the duality of nature hit me once again… I was thrilled to be with child and that our family was growing but in the same breath, the guilt hit me again, I felt like now I was cheating on my son, this little person that I loved spending all my time with. How on earth was I going to love this new one in the same way? The feeling of love I had for him was already overwhelming within me. I wondered to myself, would the exhaustion double?

My husband and I were so busy with this toddler that I wondered if we could cope, I barely had time with my partner and was desperate for more one-on-one time with the person I felt I was already neglecting in favour of our new little person who was of highest priority in the house. Occasionally, it was as if we were strangers passing through time, did I really know this person that I’ve known and shared my life with for the last six years? 

As the pregnancy grew so did my heart and it was with the birth of my daughter that I realized that your heart can grow in size and there was more than enough room to love them both equally, unconditionally and in the unique way that each of them needed. 

When I held her in my arms for the first time, it was as if she was always with us, as a matter of fact, she was always there. Her birth was the start of yet another journey with its own path. Firstly, I wondered what on earth I was thinking when I thought I was so tired with just my son, this was another level of exhaustion but my body somehow knew how to take the abuse.

There was no more lemon water, I needed caffeine to get through this so the morning did not begin sanely until that one small cup was savoured.  

I had to learn the balance of meeting the different demands of two little ones and of course the ever-mounting feeling of not being to fully give them both what they needed filled me with so much guilt. 

One day my son could sense I was anxious, frustrated and flustered, he sensed I was not coping with trying to meet their ever-increasing demands. In my moment of unbalanced state, my son, unprovoked just came over and hugged me and my daughter smiled. I instantly learned unconditional forgiveness for them and myself. These moments are all part of the journey.

My daughter taught me that while motherhood is ridden with so much guilt, it doesn’t serve us well as mothers to hold on to this energy. She taught me patience, balance and how to truly be grateful for where I am at in life as that is truly just where we are meant to be. 

With her arrival and trying to meet both of their needs, I saw my own limits and aspects of myself that I was not proud of. It was like a relationship I was once in, and this person I loved reflected all my vulnerabilities and aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed and didn’t want to be a part of who I was. From this, I learned so much about myself and was able to have healthy relationships afterwards. Motherhood is no different, each child reflects the boundaries of your very being and you become aware of those limits and tendencies you didn’t think existed but you no longer want to harbour. 

In these moments you learn forgiveness, and understanding, and you grow just a little bit more. My daughter and parenting for two taught me so much more than I can describe in words but I know that there will be many lessons along the way and that I do have the capacity to dig deep for more strength to persevere through this crazy yet beautiful journey.

She taught me that family is not a preconceived notion of what society portrays to us, it’s the way in which our souls ebb and flow to the rhythm of our own beat.  She gave me a renewed sense of energy and way of seeing life. Her birth helped me to let go and truly move that foot that was planted in the past and holding me back for being the best I could be now. I couldn’t truly embrace my blessings in the now while the ghosts and roots of my past were still pulling at me. 

That time was amazing and is of course a part of who I am but I was holding myself back by not truly letting go. Her affection is incredible, she is so truly lovable and her spirit is full of so much positive energy, her mere presence is a reminder of how blessed I am to have these two little people in my life. She has taught me to accept things and people for what they are.

Relinquishing

As I sit here at 40 weeks pregnant with my third child, I feel at peace with my role and am ready for yet another wild adventure and I await the many lessons I’ll get to learn from this new little person. I know without a doubt that I will need to relinquish any sense of control over unforeseen and unexpected circumstances and will know when its just the right time to completely release that it’s okay to ask for help when it’s needed. Yes, it’s exhausting, relentless, persistent and downright challenging at times, but our family feels complete, we’ve grown closer and learned more about each other.

I look at my husband, my partner with new eyes and am grateful; grateful for his love, for his hardwork and for being an amazing husband. I am proud to be called mother and feel so blessed to have so much love around me. Yes, I am anxious about the unknown and I know that the challenges will once again test ever fiber of my being but we live, we grown and we learn and that’s all we really can do. My two little teachers have given me some prep work so, now, I shall just take the bull by the horns. I love my new role and while I still occasionally crave and need a day in the life of Christine at twenty-something, I realized how absolutely blessed I am and would not want my life to be any other way.  It all happened at an imperfectly perfect time and I love it.

Like nature and the energy of life, motherhood has many facets, and like our children, it is many unique things to many different people.

To me it’s learning how to navigate through this maze of life with love and presence. It can be full of the guilt, of not being good enough or feeling you have failed on yours and your children’s expectations, but it’s not letting that guilt get in the way of getting up the next day and trying again, trying to be better than the day before. 

It’s making mistakes and learning from them, seeing yourself in your child’s eyes and forgiving yourself for those moments when you feel less than stellar, it’s the ability to dig deep within yourself and give that much more of you, even when you think you have no more you can possibly give. It’s full of both joy and sadness, awesomeness and fear, complete exhaustion yet so energizing at the same time, it’s selfless hard work, it’s loving more deeply today than you did yesterday.

It’s one wild rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and unexpected turns. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, breastfeed or formula feed, cloth diaper or not, wear your baby or choose not to, co-sleep or not, chose to vaccinate or not; we are all different yet united in the title of mother, a special gift to ourselves and our children. It’s letting go of social norms and expectations and doing the best we can for our unique families today, tomorrow and in the future.  

It’s sometimes feeling like you want to give up and run away from it all but waking up the next day and doing it all over again because you are forever bound by unconditional love. It’s knowing that you are still the ‘you’ that you once were but understanding yourself on a far deeper level of personal intimacy; you are a part of this rite of passage called mother and it’s learning to accept, let go, relinquish and be present to the many gifts, lessons and blessings that this beautiful life has to offer.