So many questions came to mind in regard to the future. Will it be a boy or girl? Who will the child resemble? Will I suffer greatly from morning sickness? What kind of cravings will I develop during the pregnancy? Will I fall victim to the late night pickle munchies? To my surprise, I did not experience any morning sickness or did I get the opportunity to send my husband to the corner store late at night to satisfy any cravings. The one thing that was my cross to bear was sleepless nights. On the nights I could not find rest I would turn to my roots and enjoy warm organic milk and Jamaican water crackers. This was my go-to-snack. I must confess that this has always been my go-to-snack, so I really can’t credit it to my pregnancy.
Our little girl was so well behaved in the womb. I remember her big swimming movements that would cause me to marvel at the life growing inside me. Another favored experience of ours was when she would forcibly push on the womb with her foot. Sometimes we could see the bulge of her foot as she stretched her developing muscles. I would touch her foot bottom to communicate my love for her and sometimes she would respond by moving it all over my stomach waiting for my touch. Her expanding consciousness would bring tears to my eyes. She quickly became my companion and my best friend I depended on to keep me company. With her in my womb, I never felt alone. I became so used to her constant presence, that I was not in a hurry to give birth, as it would be the beginning of the process that would inevitably bring us further and further apart. I immensely enjoyed my perfect pregnancy, and did not want this amazing experience to ever end. Those were the most spiritual nine months of my life. I grew as a woman and gained a new appreciation of the strength of our gender. It went by amazingly fast. Before I knew it, Victoria Alexis was born! Although I initially wanted a baby boy, I immediately fell in love with her as I heard her first cries proclaiming her existence! “I am here,” she declared!
Just like that, overnight my whole frame of reference changed. The reality of my existence now revolved around a child. A child that I longed for, would refer to in conversation, and buy gifts for long before she was ever born. I felt so blessed that the Lord granted me the privilege of becoming a mother. I vowed to make the most of the responsibility. Now, I fully understood what my own mother felt over the years. The only wrinkle in this wonderful tale was the Army wanted me back and at that time, provided only 6 weeks of maternity paid time off. Now came the challenge of finding someone that I could trust with my most prize responsibility. “Oh my Lord.” I thought to myself, “Where is my mother when I need her most?” If I were back in Jamaica, this would be a simple matter. Between my grandmother and all my aunts who helped raised me, any of them would undoubtedly be honored with the task of providing care while I worked. But this isn’t Jamaica and the military can be an exacting master. Why oh why can’t I have the luxury of family living close by? I’ve heard and seen many horror stories of insane nannies mistreating babies. My husband and I immediately had a discussion about Au Pairs versus day cares. He calmed me down and promised me that our baby was going to be fine. He grew up in America with an Army mom and they both survived the challenges of being away from family support.
It was hard enough simply leaving the house without her to go shopping for groceries. I could not begin to fathom leaving her alone with a stranger for over eight hours at a time. I considered becoming a stay at home mom and separating from the military, but I did not want to quit my career. I still had so much to give. I invested over a decade to my profession and I was on the path to being placed in duty positions few women in the world get to experience. I confided in my husband all my fears and he reassured me that he would support me with any decision I made. I also spoke to my girlfriends Francine (Marine) and Tracy (Airman) who were both military moms and had similar concerns when they became mothers. They knew exactly what I was going through emotionally and had the same concerns. I conquered my fears by listening to my friends and my peers who had first hand experience with the challenges that I was about to face. I must admit that at first it was unbearable. I had postpartum depression. I cried a lot and prayed for strength and consulted with my husband for support. He encouraged me to do what I felt was best for Victoria and me.
Ultimately, I chose to stay the course and continue on with my career. I felt that it would be best for me professionally if I stayed in the Army and financially beneficial for her as well. Moreover, I wanted to be an exemplary role model for her to admire. I wanted to show her how strong a woman could be, and show her through example, how a woman can overcome challenges set before her. Victoria is now eight and is one of the most resilient children I know. With the utmost humility, I am blessed to report that she has told me, with the wisdom beyond her years, that she adores me and admires that I am a Soldier. She loves to hear me sing and wants to be like me. She is kind with her compliments. She likes my “stylish” ways and tells me how kind and beautiful I am. I appreciate being her mother and want nothing more than continuing to develop her so she becomes even more authentic, courageous, graceful and everything God desires for her. I want to equip her with the knowledge and confidence to choose whatever profession she deems worthy of her time.
You may read the full article in Orange Appeal Magazine by clicking the link below. https://issuu.com/orangeappealmagazine/docs/oa_0517_issuu/108
Make it a fantastic month! Do all things with courage and grace.
Maxine Chang Reyes