“The picture that said more than I ever could” a.k.a “The Birth of This Book, Part 3”
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Just an hour and a half after I gave birth, my husband took this picture.
We didn’t plan it. I just asked him to take some pictures. He took three. This is the second one.
When we looked at this picture on his computer, somewhere between four and seven days postpartum, I couldn’t help but stare and stare and stare at this picture.
My God… I kept thinking. This moment is… is…
I didn’t know what to call it. I still don’t have a word for it. But let me try to explain what I see when I look at this picture.
I see my former self. She’s not a mom yet. She doesn’t really know what that means. She’s a career-driven, goal-oriented, academic, hard-working woman for whom grace was a nice idea, but not something on which she could hang her hopes. But now, this unexpected moment of grace has descended on her–and she’s choosing to accept it.
I see my daughter. She doesn’t understand anything around her–with the exception of me. She understands no other sounds, save the sound of my heartbeat. No other voices, save the sound of my voice and her father’s voice. No other smells, save the scent of my skin.
I see that we are tagged, claimed, and wrapped up by the hospital. The gown and diaper generalize us into “patient” and “baby.” What would be private in our own home is public in this room. I even wear some of my blood on the outside, peeking through the backed-up IV.
I don’t feel owned or degraded in this moment. I remember feeling like nothing else existed in the world except me and her. When I see this picture now, I distinctly feel that this moment happened even though we were surrounded by policies and protocol. In fact, maybe it happened despite all of the policies and protocol.
In this picture, I see that we are still untouched by the world and all of its noise. We don’t have anyone telling us how to be yet—no advice, no comparisons. Nothing to tell us if we’re “doing it right.” We are not worried about where we’re going or how to get there. We are just two halves of a whole.
We just are. And that’s enough. Just being is enough.
I see the simple beauty of living in the present moment.
Labor forced me to live in the present moment, but here I see myself finally applying it of my own free will. Instead of plunging into the trap of worrying about how I’ll ever take care of a newborn, I’m choosing to be grateful in this moment. All I’m thinking about is this tiny person who needs me. And because I am grateful, I don’t feel overwhelmed by this.
This is the purest form of motherhood that I can imagine.
And I’m never going to get back to this moment.
This moment is beautiful because it was so temporary. But I don’t mourn the loss of it. I only feel tremendous gratitude that we were able to exist together in this space, however short it was.
I thought about this picture a lot as I worked through the concept of this book. When I finally decided to write this book as a memoir, I kept circling back to this picture. I see this picture as the turning point in this journey. Becoming a mother isn’t a switch that you turn on—it’s a direction. It’s a turn toward your child. Everything else settles around you in this new position.
I wanted readers to see this moment right away. It evokes so many questions, “When was it taken?” “Where was it taken?” “How were you feeling?”
Yes, these are superficial questions.
But as you travel with me in this book, you begin to realize the magnitude of this moment and your appreciation for it grows.