Yesterday, I sent my mother a message wishing her a Happy Mothering Sunday. Okay so maybe yesterday was Monday and certainly not mothering Sunday, but it's a standing joke between us that I refuse to be dictated to by a calendar!
See, she gets me, my mum. In a way that is uncanny and beautiful and unnerving. With each of my pregnancies, when I called with the exciting news that she was about to be a grandma again, she wasn't surprised. She just knew, somehow.
When I was having my third child and lay in that birthing room, she prayed with me and told me jokes and stories to keep me going - She's an amazing storyteller. When things took a downhill turn due to some craziness with the epidural I had asked for, she was the first to spot the problem. I had yawned three or four times in rapid succession and was starting to slur my words.
"Tonye," she tugged at my arm. "Tonye, are you okay?"
"I'm okay thanks, Mum," was my response. Or I thought I'd responded, but it seemed all she heard was gibberish.
"There's something wrong," she called to the anaesthetist and midwife, "she's not responding to me and," she looked at the monitor thingy I was hooked up to, "her pulse and BP are going haywire."
"Oh there's nothing wrong, mum, she's just tired..." That was the anaesthetist. Patronising git!
"She's not tired," she felt my feet, "something's wrong. Her pulse is too high and her feet are freezing. You have to do something. Now."
So at this point, I could hear what was going on, but could not communicate. I couldn't feel one half of my body (think one arm, one leg), but the other was burning up. My chest felt like a 50lb animal had climbed on my chest and made its bed on my chest. I struggled to breathe. Couldn't hold up my head. Sure that I was seeing stars (for real, like in Tom & Jerry).
As I lay there, she calmly but firmly calmed the midwife (who was running around like a headless chicken going "I don't know what to do. This has never happened before, etc") before telling her what to do to get me right. They needed to flush the block out of my system, cos it clearly wasn't working. As Aunty Midwife rushed off to get the bags of saline, Mum shook me by the shoulders, gently slapped my cheeks and talked to me, trying to get some response. Alas, try as I might, I couldn't stay anchored. I felt myself drifting toward the ceiling, hearing as I did - as from a distance - "Oh no you don't! Stay with me, Tonye. Heavenly Father, please help."
I could give you chapter and verse, but I don't remember what happened after that, expect that at some point I regained consciousness and was so grateful to be in pain. Mum’s was the first face I saw when my eyelids swept open. She whispered a hundred kisses over my face and hand as she thanked God over and over. So entranced was I by her, that I only took a second to register my mild disappointment that my baby had not been magically born. As soon as I could speak, I uttered something suitably inane and she laughed, accusing me of never growing up. What would be the point in growing up, I wonder 😊.
The instructions to “push” and “breathe” came eventually. I’d never been so grateful to feel pain in my life! It reminded me that I was alive. Oh yes! The rest of the birth went without a hitch and I was grateful to be wheeled out of the room with my baby girl in my arms.
I have reflected on that day many times in the eleven years since. In a lot of ways I could not have articulated, I needed my mum that day... Her warmth, her comfort, her unwavering faith in God, her willingness to do battle for me... To this day, I can close my eyes and see her in that room, fiercely determined to keep hold of her child as life and death crossed paths, and I brought my own child into the world. Aunty Midwife told me afterwards, when I was settled in the maternity ward, that she had never seen anything so fierce and primal, and I could believe that. I remain convinced that if she hadn’t been my birthing partner, I may not have made it out in one piece.
Everyone needs a mama like mine, I think... Fearless. Fierce. My warrior. My teacher. My hero. My friend. Strong, independent, smart, witty, loving, brutally honest, uncompromising and ALWAYS on my side. We didn’t always have this relationship. As a youngster, it was easier to push her and her counsel away than it was to let her in. I was convinced I knew better (I was unique like most teenagers, I guess)... but she dug her heels in. Same as she did for all her children, she came for me over and over, until I received sense and stepped into the space she had created for me. The place where we could have this relationship which allows us to be candid with one another.
"Isn't that everyone's mum?" I hear you ask... Well no, not really. She's mine. And I am immeasurably blessed to have her!