The XX Factor

An Unexpected Mother’s Day Gift

Motherhood was not on my radar when my husband, Dan, and I packed our worldly possessions and drove west from Portland, Maine, to Los Angeles, Calif. We were starting over in the land of milk and honey, and taking a big leap for our careers. The week we arrived, I got pregnant. This was the first of many curveballs motherhood would sling in my direction.  But I remembered something my own mother has often told me: Gifts do not always come in packages we expect.

For most of the next nine months, I was sick with a rare condition that kept me in bed. Dan went out, alone, into our new lives and got his freelance career going. And even though things were more challenging than we had anticipated, I knew I wanted this baby. When my son finally emerged in January of 2009, Dan had Van Morrison and the Chieftains on the iPod singing “I’m going back/Going back to my own ones” and we knew that this little baby was our own one.

Then, only two weeks later, every job Dan had lined up through May was canceled. The recession had hit California, and then us, hard. Dan went door-to-door looking for work-any kind of work at all-but found none.

Soon, our savings were shot, we were 3,000 miles from home and we were scared. One evening, my mother called and offered a lifeline: She said, “Come home, Cait. You can live with me.” Ever since my parents divorced when I was 18, being home for more than a vacation was fraught. But it wasn’t just about me anymore: I had a family and a tiny baby. And so, I took a big gulp and we drove back across America to my mom’s little house in the big woods of Maine.

It was a hard time for my husband and me-we were in economic free fall and our dreams had been crushed.  But whenever I looked at my son, I knew that the heart of the matter was intact: I would do whatever it took-even move home to mom’s when I was 35 years old-to make sure this baby was safe.

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to become a mother; I went west for my career. But what I found in becoming a mom was a larger purpose to my life. And, I also got to come home and share my new motherhood with my own mother. This was a gift, one I didn’t know I wanted but was thrilled to have.