My Mother’s Day Message to You

Here's a short story about the birth of my son, suggestions for how you can help a mom, and my message to you even though I'm not your mom.

It’s the third year that I get to be a Mother’s Day celebrant. But really, I just have something to say to you.

For starters, I’d like to share the short story of my son’s birth. Because birth stories still aren’t normalized — moms tend to get a mixed bag of, “Tell me all the gory details” and “Ew, no one needs to hear it.”

And I’m ending it on a message to you: How you can help a mom in your life, and what your mom thinks about you or should think about you.

The Birth of My Son

I was one of those annoying women who loved being pregnant.

You know those photos of pregnant women wearing flower crowns while standing in an open field?

I actually felt like that. The entire time.

I never missed a prenatal vitamin, I walked 10,000 steps a day, and I consumed a ridiculous amount of vegetables and milk all throughout those 9 months.

I had my last day of work on a Friday. Got a mani/pedi on Saturday. Got a massage on Sunday. And went into labor on Monday.

Efficient. There was no way in hell I wasn’t going to crush this delivery.

After laboring at home for 15 hours, my husband and I burst through the doors of the hospital. The receptionist asked for my name, address and insurance information, and an animalistic howl leapt from my throat.

They gave us an alcove just off the hallway, in triage, where the bed was too high and I couldn’t climb in without help.

The hospital was full.

So we waited in traige for 4 hours — 7cm dilated and with the baby face up — without pain management.

No epidural: the anesthesiologist was busy.

No fentanyl: it was against my birth plan and they didn’t want to change course.

No nitrous oxide: I was in too much pain and they didn’t think it would help.

But they gave me an extra juice box.

When the time finally came to move to our labor & delivery room, I waddled down the hallway for what felt like a mile.

I finally got my epidural.

And yes, it worked like magic. (They don’t tell you that in the pregnancy classes.)

At this point, I was in labor for 21 hours, and a midwife offered to break my water so I could start pushing.

The smile on her face, you’d think she was offering a wine and cheese plate.

I was angry at the notion of being rushed out, and thanks to the epidural, I was clear-headed enough to prioritize rest.

So I declined. I told her to let me sleep and to come back in the morning. (She was crestfallen. Worst sommelier ever.)

9am and it was go-time. Magically, the baby turned overnight and was facedown — in the correct birthing position.

A new day. Nothing could possibly go wrong, and those 100 daily squats I did would pay off.

I laid on my right side and pushed. On my left side and pushed. On my back, ankles tangled in sheets tied to a bar, bearing the weight of my hips in the air.

3.5 hours later, and the baby stopped moving down. They warned me about a c-section.

But I’m stubborn and I wanted my badass birthing experience.

After trying every conceivable birthing position, there was one more to try: Standing and squatting.



4.5 hours later and I tapped out. “Cut me open.”

A dozen medical professionals came in like a SWAT team. Calling out orders. Unplugging equipment. Tossing scrubs at my husband and telling him to gown up.

I was relieved.

But as we wheeled down the hallway, it was silent. The nurses were crying.

Everything was fine, wasn’t it? (It was. I don’t know why they were crying.)

In the operating room, the doctor asked several men to move me onto the table.

But this was my last moment of control. And I wanted to move myself.

I imagined my strong core and arms pushing myself into a sitting position, like a mermaid on a rock. My shiny hair falling gracefully around my shoulders. Me, a goddess, gliding onto the operating table.

When I recall this, I know the real image:

Sweaty hair in a clumpy ponytail. A beached whale roaring upward and then slapping down onto the table. Ten chubby blue-tipped toes pointing in the general direction of the ceiling.

The c-section was normal. Our baby scored a 10 out of 10 in his Apgar score. I held him and smelled his baby smell. He was perfect and I was lucky he chose me.

The next few days were fraught with unfortunate (but not fatal) events.

That night, a nurse gaped at the blood pooling around me as I sat up in bed. I had to go back to the operating room to remove a piece of placenta still stuck in my uterus.

A few days later, our baby lost 10% of his body weight. They offered donor breast milk, which I readily accepted. They assured me I was still a good mom — though it hadn’t occurred to me that I wasn’t.

I looked up c-section recovery tactics. The mom blogs and resources assured me I was still a “real” mom — though it hadn’t occurred to me that I wasn’t.

I didn’t end up producing enough milk, so we supplemented with formula. A friend told me I should be grateful to have those few ounces — though it hadn’t occurred to me that I wasn’t.

Now here we are, almost 3 years later, and I’m still grateful. I’m still a “real” mom, whatever that means. And I’m working hard at being a good mom.

So what would I like for Mother’s Day?

I’d like a healthcare system that listens to the needs of people who are pregnant.

That respects patients’ dignity and choices, like when they need to deviate from their birth plan.

That doesn’t patronize new moms with condescending language.

I’d like an inclusive parenting culture that doesn’t shame parents, especially moms, for their decisions.

That doesn’t pit parents against each other for these different choices.

And now, your call-to-action:

What can you gift a mom in your life, be it a relative or friend?

Don’t tell her she’s “doing a great job.”

Help her.

Babysit for an afternoon. Get her kid a new toy/activity. Send her dinner. Ask her to vent to you (and don’t judge).

Help her get a moment of peace.

If you still have your mom and a healthy relationship with her, call her. She misses you.

You may not realize it, but as much as she nags you, she actually thinks you’re perfect the way you are.

I know this because when I held my newborn for the first time, the details didn’t matter.

Whatever characteristics they possessed, they were a result of miraculous timing of cells and chromosomes.

That tiny human’s very existence made them perfect. The fact they exist at all is what makes them perfect.

If you don’t have a mom who you can call, then I’ll say it to you:

You are perfect the way you are. Because you’re you.

But you could probably eat more vegetables.

Special thanks to Vivian Li, Florian Maganza, and Ramli John for giving me the courage to publish this essay.

Photo by Jonathan Hoxmark on Unsplash