By JACLYN CLEMENTE KOPPE
I have just given birth to my daughter, Chiara, a few months prior when I bumped into a couple of friends at the supermarket. These two were married and eager to start their family, and so the obvious opening question was: “So, how’s motherhood?” At that point, I must have had just four hours of sleep, my milk supply dwindling as I have already introduced solids to my daughter’s diet and the natural response of my body was to produce less milk. I was tired, sore, and anxious, and so I bluntly replied: “It’s not for everyone.”
I will never forget the horrified look on their faces, after which they happily announced—with just a hint of trepidation—that they were expecting their first child. I was elated for them, honestly, because I knew how hard they have been trying to get pregnant, and finally, they were. I know that feeling.
My first pregnancy was ectopic— the fertilized egg attached itself to my left fallopian tube instead of traveling down to the uterus where it is supposed to grow to full-term. That heartbreak was followed by news from a New York specialist we saw who told me that the only way I could get pregnant was through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) which costs a fortune and makes no promises. I still recall the few blocks walk to Central Park from the doctor’s clinic, my husband, Matthias, and I devastated by the reality that being parents might not be in our future. Matt, however, was not the type to take no for an answer, and he swore to me: “We will get pregnant.”
Finally, with guidance from our OB-GYNE in Manila and weekly treatments with a seasoned acupuncturist, we were able to conceive, which caught us by surprise. It happened when we just decided to stop trying, and by “trying” that means no follicle monitoring, no scheduled contact, and no acupuncture. That was also when I just started my full-time job in publishing as a managing editor for a food magazine. That meant long hours of styling, shoots, events, and of course, editing and writing. Despite the tedious work, it was fun and I was finally in my element, and perhaps this is how my body managed to produce something it was deemed unfit. Or, simply put, it was a miracle.
I was no ‘earth mother.’ I was not glowing with an inner light…I was feeling warm all the time, I couldn’t sleep, and for most of my pregnancy I could not stand the smell of cooking oil, soy sauce, and garlic. So, yes, no adobo for most of nine months.
My pregnancy, while difficult to jumpstart, was actually not as delicate as I expected. Still, I was no “earth mother.” I was not glowing with an inner light, happily going about my usual routine as if I was not carrying a 10-pound (yes, you read it right) ball in my belly pressing against my groin. I was feeling warm all the time, I couldn’t sleep, and for most of my pregnancy, I could not stand the smell of cooking oil, soy sauce, and garlic. So, yes, no adobo for most of nine months.
Like my unplanned C-section, pregnancy, and motherhood were not what I expected. I knew it would not be a walk in the park, but the weight of a mother’s responsibility felt like it just fell on me like a ton of bricks. I now realize, however, that all the joys and satisfaction derived from being a mother is not possible without the pain and frustrations. It truly is a rollercoaster ride of the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and there is just no point to it all without one or the other.
My daughter is now five years old, watching her grow and change is one of the thrills that come with the package. While I know she is an individual and I am here to prepare her for a life of her own, she will also always be mine, and I am hers. I secretly gloat when I feel her hanging on to me possessively when her older cousins are affectionate towards me. “She’s MY mom!” she would growl like a tiger cub. I would pretend to reprimand her (calm down, Chiara!) but I love it. I love it so much.
My favorite time is our quiet moments in bed when I get to watch her sleep. That is when I have her all to myself and I can just look at her and marvel and what my body has created. And then, in the morning, she almost always wakes up with a smile, often accompanied by, “I love you, mommy.” And when I’m lucky, “you are the best mommy in the world.” I treasure these moments knowing that they are fleeting. That someday there will come a time when she would roll her eyes at my jokes and be embarrassed by my choice of sensible footwear. But, for now, I am her everything and that she needs me like she needs air.
I stand by what I told my friends that day in the supermarket. It is not something I said because I was having a bad day. In fact, that day has become my new normal and I am certain it is not something everyone could get used to. “Every day is a battle,” one mother once told me, and this is gospel truth. Each day comes with its own challenges, as well as their little triumphs. I admire the women who are able to accept early on that being a mother is not for them and choose to live happily, fulfilled lives on their own or with their partners. Having a child is no longer what defines a woman (a whole other topic that deserves its own article). For those who do, however, the joys of motherhood are limitless because you know you have earned it. Every glorious inch, and every precious drop.
Jaclyn Clemente Koppe is a freelance writer and editor. Follow her adventures with food, family, and friends on @chinkee_koppe in Instagram.