Leticia Sala



Birth Story #14 
From and living in Barcelona

When did you become a mother?
I became a mother at 32, on a night of August in the same city where I was born, Barcelona.

Was it a premeditated decision?
Yes, it was a wanted pregnancy. A few months before I was pregnant with my daughter Cleo, my partner and I tried it for the first time, and it turned out I got pregnant. However, I lost it a few weeks later. I had never imagined how losing something that I had looked for so spontaneously and without thinking that much, could provoke that being pregnant again would be the most important thing to me at that time.

Why was it the most important thing?
I don’t know if it was a consequence of the grief I was feeling, or rather something atavistic that triggers when the “search-for-pregnancy” chip is on.

In your new book Los cisnes de Macy’s you dedicate a chapter to this very first pregnancy. Do we talk enough about miscarriages in our society?
It’s almost not spoken. I realized it when I experienced it personally. There is still a taboo, a fear to name invisible things.

How do you understand motherhood?
It’s only been a year and a half since I am a mother, so I am still navigating that question. As long as I have been on this screen, I do have the feeling that motherhood is something changeable and variable depending on the age of your child. Motherhood is everything in the outside world: the care, the responsibility, the values, etc. Being a mother is the centre of everything, an inexplicable sensation.

Could you tell us about the birth?
Cleo’s birth evolved from something painful and perfect to something difficult. I don’t talk much about it, probably because I haven’t processed everything yet. Because of reasons beyond the birth, Cleo needed to be operated on the same day she was born and, because of that, she had to spend the first weeks of her life in the hospital’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I guess this is why I don’t really know how a “normal” beginning looks like. I have written about this in the book.

That chapter is deeply moving. Now that some time has gone by, looking back, what would you tell yourself?
That she will come home healthy and you will live deliriously happy moments with her.

Do you remember what you felt the first time you held your daughter?
When they gave her to me and I looked into her eyes, I saw mine. Her gaze was identical to mine. I am not able to explain what I felt. It was like if I was seeing myself in real life.

How was the postpartum?
We spent the immediate postpartum in the NICU. It was there where I learnt to breastfeed, where I changed her first diaper. It was an absolutely unexpected beginning, completely different from anything we could have imagined. When we went home to change our clothes or to take a shower, we would stare at the crib and everything else that was already prepared for her arrival. But she wasn’t there.

How much time went by until you were able to go home together? What did you feel then?
Weeks. I spent my recovery from birth and c-section in the neonatal unit, by her side. Those weeks I did not allow myself to experience tiredness or pain. I had idealized the moment of coming home together so much, that, when it arrived, all the exhaustion and anxiety repressed emerged suddenly. However, at the same time, I was extremely happy to finally see her in her crib, in our bed, on our sofa.

They say that the intuition of a woman develops during pregnancy and during postpartum. Did you experience that too?
Yes, of course. In my case, I spent the pregnancy up in the clouds. I experienced this after giving birth. Since then, the way I connect thought to action has changed completely. I have become someone with much more confidence. In fact, I have become the version of myself that I had been dreaming of for years.

How would you describe that version?
More decided, with more direction, and, at the same time, more empathic and sensible.

Have you noticed what has been the biggest change in yourself after giving birth?
I believe that the most significant change that affects every part of my life is that, from feeling like a daughter, I feel like a mother. The way you go through life, take decisions, belong in society, all of this changes radically. And I have to say, I am thankful. If I had not taken this leap into the void that is becoming a mother, I would never have been able to get where I am now spiritually.

How is that place?
A more conscious place.

So far, in which ways has your experience as a mother affected your creativity?
Becoming a mother has affected me beyond what I feel consciously. My creative process has changed inevitably. Before I could be as long as I wanted in the world of ideas. As a writer, that was a present that I never appreciated until I lost it. Cleo always pulls me down to earth now. During the postpartum period this was something hard to understand. Still, deep down I am grateful for this change, because it has provoked that my creative process stops being something momentary, punctual lucidity, and has become something durable. In fact, that has been perfect for the book that I am publishing. It’s a compilation of stories. The process of getting back to a story day after day, while I was not with my daughter, has helped me to get deep inside the characters and their conflicts.

Did you expect something else?
Yes. I imagined myself writing with her in my arms. (Laughs). That happened only in the very beginning. To me, writing is incompatible with looking after a child. It is a lonely trade that involves silence and dead hours.

What is the best thing about being a mother? What has been hard?
Until now the worst has been to realize that my sleeping has become something fragile. Before giving birth, I suffered from insomnia very few times. When Cleo was born, my sleeping was interrupted by her needs, like with any baby. But, furthermore, I began to suffer from insomnia. Now, if there is anything that makes me worry, my sleeping is affected by it.

The best is the deep and certain strength to overcome anything. The meaning of strength has been transformed completely. I feel more solid, more capable. I would add that, from the moment that you give birth, new channels of empathy and high sensibility open. They haven’t closed yet.

Has the relationship towards your mother changed since you became a mother?
The relationship with my mother has changed for the better. On one side, knowing what motherhood is has provoked even more admiration towards everything she did for us. She had four children. Especially in the beginning, during the sleepless nights, I used to think a lot about her and the fact that she had done the exact same thing for me. It was like a belated discovery of something very important that happened a long time ago and that no one had told me. I did not connect to how vulnerable we are when we are born until I had my daughter. My vulnerability had been protected by my mother. It’s impressive when you experience it first-hand.

I feel that I subtly communicate less with her as a “needed daughter”, but rather equal to equal. At the same time, this is a direct reflection of the things I would like to reproduce as a mother and details I would like to rethink.

What exactly would you like to rethink?
I believe that the example of a mother that I am passing on is one that prioritizes her children, but who is also passionate about her career and fights to achieve what she wants. I like to transmit the idea of a mother who does things in the outside world, but always comes back home to be with her daughter.

Would you like to have more children?
Now that I know what it means, it’s impossible for me to take that decision with the same spontaneity and ignorance as with Cleo. Nevertheless, I don’t feel that my channel as a mother is closed yet.

— Photos: Pau López