I've been told my entire life that I look exactly like my mother. (Well, except that one time when I was about 12 and went for an exceptionally bold and very short haircut and was mistaken by one of my dad's oldest friends for my brother. Oh, the scarring, how it is permanent.) I realize that my mom has always been a very attractive woman, even now at 54 keeping in great shape and never without lipstick just a shade too bright. And yet I've always found myself slightly doubting of our physical similarities, regardless of how blatant they are.
However, when looking at baby pictures of the two of us I am happy to acknowledge that we're nearly identical. Full lips, big, smiling eyes, a self confidence that's obvious even from toddler-hood. I see those faces, nearly indistinguishable, and see girls full of promise and joy and I don't deny that we were similar not only in bone structure but in outlook. Obvious innocence. A clear belief that the world was ours to discover. And so I am forced to conclude that my reluctance to accept the undeniable family resemblance has nothing to do with my disbelief or unwillingness to see the similarities, but rather my fear that the similarities run much deeper than our full pink lips.
My mom is a bold woman, determined, outspoken. I've admired her strength through 2 divorces, both of which were abusive (in different ways). I respect her insistence on speaking her mind and I commend her determination to stick it out once she makes up her mind. But sometimes, in speaking of those divorces (one to my father - a terrible husband but a great dad) she appears as a martyr. I can't help but see that when she speaks her mind she does so in a way that often disregards how the listener will receive that message - believing that sharing her opinion is more important than preserving the feelings of those she looks down upon from her pulpit. And her determination is sometimes just thinly veiled stubbornness; a refusal to accept her own faults and mistakes.
And I know that I too carry each of those strengths and every one of those burdens in my own gut. I can feel them. They're so heavy.
I believe that more often than not women find themselves wanting daughters (and men, sons) either because of or in spite of their own maternal relationships. It's usually clear that the new mom is intent on duplicating her own relationship with her own daughter or on wiping the slate clean and fixing the mistakes she feels she suffered at her own mother's hands. My mom, desperate for a girl when I was in utero, obviously had some perceived wrongs to right - she's told me as much growing up, priding herself on how different she was with me. But I hear her complaints about her mother and I feel as though a mirror is being held just inches from my own nose. But she would never see it. Never admit it.
I too have always wanted a daughter. Always. Always. But in all my soul searching, regardless of how deeply I've dug, I haven't been able to determine whether I hope to correct the mistakes she clearly made or whether I yearn for a similarly passionate and deep relationship with my own child. Simply stated, at 30 years old I still do not know if I love my mother or loathe her. But I've always known that I too, want the opportunity to have my daughter ask herself that same question someday, painful though I'm sure it would be for me to hear. It's a conflict that runs deep in many a woman's soul, I'm certain.
And so the universe has taken pity on me. Removed from the picture any fears of reliving the sins that were thrust upon me. The universe has, it appears, given my baby a penis.
I expected in that moment, when the pointy part was clear and we heard the ultrasound tech say "it's a boy!" to feel disappointment. I prepared myself for the inevitablity that I would need to adjust to the fact that I was looking at soccer balls rather than debutante balls. But I surprised myself when at those words I felt nothing but pride, joy and excitement about the little man growing in my womb. The world wasn't closed on me in that moment, my options weren't limited. I became a mom with a son who I loved.
In that moment I realized that my relationship with my mother isn't perfect. It's not ideal and it won't ever be. But it is full and it is fiery. It is enough.