Eleven years ago today, I left my apartment in New York with a small suitcase in hand for a leisurely trip to the hospital to give birth to my first child. It was leisurely as I was going to be induced – no waking up in the middle of the night with contractions (or are they) for me – my first delivery would be pitocin-induced, aided by epidural and those hours before the hard work of pushing began were some of the most pleasant of the entire pregnancy.
There’s something about an epidural-enhanced sleep after months of struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep in or being unable to sleep due to pregnancy-related itchy skin that is delicious beyond words. I caught an episode of one of my favorite TV shows while drifting in and out of the most satisfying sleep I’d experienced in the longest time. I was quite disappointed that it took only 24 hours as I would have happily have stayed in that almost-a-mother-and-not-yet-land for much longer.
Eva Cecilia Burgos (named after my English grandmother, Eva, and, supposedly, my Spanish mother-in-law Cecilia, although in reality I chose Cecilia from the film Beaches where Bette Midler plays the character Cece Bloom, but hey if it won me some points with my mother-in-law, it’s all good) arrived at 9.18pm on May 18, 1999.
I had a fever after the birth which is unusual and cause for some concern, apparently. I’d have thought that a fever was the very least you’d expect after putting in such a Herculean effort but, this being America and the land of litigation, Eva was whisked away to the special care unit where, at 9 lbs 8 oz in a room of 2-5 pounders, she looked like the special care unit bully.
It left me in the strange position of giving birth and yet leaving hospital 48 hours later without a baby. The day I left hospital was my mother’s birthday and I thought that this gave us the unexpected opportunity to go out for dinner that evening. Unfortunately, my mother had been introduced to her very first New York strength gin and tonics that day (wetting the baby’s head and all that) and passed out on the sofa for the rest of the night.
Anywho, I digress …
While I was pregnant with Eva, my husband Oscar gave me the most perfect gift – a ten week Stand Up Comedy writing class. He’d heard me talk a big game about wanting to do stand up comedy and decided to make me walk the walk. It’s over a decade ago but I still vividly remember how good that felt. Monday from 7pm to 10pm was my time. I wasn’t a daughter, wife, friend, lawyer or any other label. I was simply Sally.
I performed on stage at Stand Up New York for the very first time while heavily pregnant with Eva. I often wonder if she is the funny, articulate, confident girl that she is having performed on stage while inside me.
When I gave birth to Eva, I thought that I would suddenly feel invincible. Having given life to another person, I thought that I would never get into an elevator and feel awkward again. Instead, I quickly learned that it gave me a whole new area of my life to feel inadequate about.
“Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future … As though experiencing an earthquake, mothers of daughters may find their lives shifted, their deep feelings unearthed, the balance struck in all relationships once again off kilter.” … Elizabeth Debold and Idelisse Malave
I passed my mother’s first parenting test by breast-feeding Eva. It took almost three weeks to get her to latch on properly. I remember an Irish nurse at the hospital who was getting so frustrated with me. Finally she looked daggers at me and said “did you never babysit?” Now, I don’t know what the babysitting etiquette is in Ireland but, in England, breast-feeding the kids you were babysitting for would have been above and beyond the job description.
I chose to work from home when I had my children. I’m part of that generation of mothers who took “having it all” to mean “doing it all”. My life as a work-at-home mother was starting to look like a mock apartment in an Ikea showroom boasting how you too can fit an entire house into 100 square feet. Two years five months later, my daughter Francesca, arrived and I just kept “doing it all”, cramming more and more “shoulds” and “musts” and “to-dos” into the already overflowing nooks and crannies of my life.
So there I sat working in my home office overlooking Central Park. Which sounds great, right? Cue to reality: for “home office” read Ikea computer armoire. So there I sat in my home office armoire typing as fast as I can in an attempt to finish an already overdue project for my law client, while rocking my youngest daughter in a baby chair with my foot and keeping an eye on my older daughter as she watches yet another Barney video. So with my fingers typing, foot rocking, eyes twitching from computer screen to daughter on sofa and back again, getting a pain in my neck from holding the phone in the crook of my neck waiting not-so-patiently to argue with an overqualified and underpaid woman in India as to why I wanted to change my phone service, I suddenly saw a snapshot of my life and I hated what I saw. I realized that I would be devastated if my daughters grew up and were becoming more and more like their mother.
I knew that something had to change. If I wanted to raise my daughters to be creative, independent, free-spirited, fun-loving, extraordinary individuals, I should have the same aspirations for myself. In order to be the mother I wanted to be, I had to find Sally again. I remembered the funny little girl I once was and that brief moment as a Stand Up Comic. I started to write again and got back on stage.
Is there a part of you that has got buried in motherhood? Is there a part of you that you would love to “put on stage” again? It might be something that you did in your pre-motherhood days or it might be something you always wanted to do but never got around to doing.
Whatever “it” is for you, my challenge to you this week is to think of some creative ways to put that part of yourself “on stage”. To plug in that part of yourself. To see how it feels when you’re fully engaged in something you’re passionate about. To see how it affects you as a mother.
There’s a Gilda Radner quote I love:
“While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die -whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness.”
As I look at my children, I want to be sure that, while I’m encouraging them to live their “glorious uniqueness”, I’m also living my own.
Happy 11th Birthday, Eva! You continue to amaze me each and every day.