Last week my youngest son hit the double digits. I have a ten year old. In his adorable attempt to milk it for full value, he kept saying, “come on mom, it’s my birthday weekend.” I pointed out that the day he was born was kinda a big deal for me too.
Ten years ago we were at day 3 of moving into the house I share with the boys now. I was unpacking boxes and felt like I needed to rest. An hour later I thought getting checked out would be a good idea. It was a short walk up the stairs to the car but I kept stopping with the contractions. The drive to the hospital was less than 15 minutes, but every bump on the road felt intensely painful and within an hour or so after I was admitted, he was born. It was a 3 push pass and it was good. He shot out like a little 7 pound, one and a half ounce football. He was my easiest labor.
I mean yes, I was still in the process of moving, but a human came out of me. It’s not like I could go to the mall later that day, or even go home that night. It was a big deal. He and I worked together to push him out of my body. He had to figure out how to breathe air but there was a second birth while he was being cleaned and worked on. My uterus had to shrink back to the size of a pear and it complained every time I nursed him in the first weeks. Laughing and walking were painful and messy. Everything leaks after a child is born. It was and is still such a big deal that in my busy-ness of mothering him last week, this post waited until I had the space to write. I expect this to continue long after he’s an adult if my life as an adult is any indication. I still rely on the continued love and support of my family, starting with my parents.
A friend of mine celebrated her first born’s 17th birthday yesterday. I stopped by her desk at work to congratulate her. As a mom, my care started the moment I realized there was a life inside of me, growing independent of me. I wanted to acknowledge the fact that she was able to get him past his infancy. She got through his sicknesses and moments where he looked at her defiantly and said, “I hate you.” She got him through the seasons when she had to defend the indefensible behaviors of a father that didn’t always remember how to be a Dad. She kept food on the table and clothes on the backs of her children, with the judgements that come with being a single mom.
Being a parent is hard enough. Every other person has ideas of how you should raise your children, but when you’re a single parent, you make compromises that you never want to make because you have to weigh and balance what you have. Sometimes these judgements are a bigger gift than a consequence though. I try to remain coachable.
My most recent example . . . I chose a job that is 9-6, so I can send my boys off every morning that I have them. I chose a job not far from home, so I’m not spending my time with them in traffic on my way home and angry because of it. Christmas is here, and my kids have bought into their commodification completely. It was their birthright in the life we had two years ago and I would like to hold some traditions. I have been working overtime this week. Yay for doing better than I was. Last year I was a welfare mom, buying my kids a dollar store Christmas. This year I’m using credit and next year, it’ll be cash. At the same time, my kids don’t have me home to ignore me while they play their games and decide they don’t want the dinner I made, or barely made in my exhaustion because they should have but don’t always choose to eat at Grandma’s house. I had a couple of people mention my failure, and it sparked a conversation. By the unanimous decision of my offspring, I will skip the overtime when I have them, and they will expect less for Christmas. I have amazing boys because even when they ignore me, they prefer to have me around. And they have amazing Grandmothers that care enough to call me out even though they faced the frustration and anger that their input unleashed.
My point is, for as long as we have our kids, we will celebrate them, but do you realize what it means for the moms that carry those humans and get them through each lap around the sun?
We feel what it is to have our hearts removed from our bodies and forced to survive independent of us. We nurture them and care for them in a way that makes us want to hold them closer while the natural order of life dictates that they will always move further from us until they no longer need us, but will hopefully honor and love us by choice. We make the hard decisions because they are the right decisions. We know that one day they’ll understand the choices we make, but we hope that day comes soon because the emotional pain is often too much to stand when we know we must stand silently in our choices and hope time’s lesson is gentle and complete. We stand in silence at injustices we know need to happen, and we fight fiercely when that is what we are called to do, brushing off our accomplishments as motherly duty.
Moms are badass. When that birthday of yours comes around, don’t forget to thank your mom. Even if you were given up for adoption, you were given an opportunity. Even if you have baggage and childhood pain, you’re here. YOUR EXISTENCE IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. You get to be here. You get to do better. You get to create the life you want. You have the opportunity to see every painful moment as a way you needed to learn and grow. And you get to remember you weren’t the only one affected by your birth.