I woke up this morning once again to the devastating news of a child’s death. I am not sure, as a mother, how exactly I am suppose to process this. How do I deal with the reality of parents physically being held back so that rescuers can hear the cries of frightened children? How do I imagine myself sitting in a room with hundreds of other parents waiting for my child’s name to be called? How do I imagine the pain, the fear, the overwhelming helplessness?
Will I ever be able to deal with the guilt of knowing I brought a child into this devastating world for my own gain? Not because I wanted to give this world the next Lincoln or even the next Churchill. I brought my children in this world for my own happiness, for my own selfish reasons. I brought innocence in this world knowing that it could be destroyed.
When you are pregnant with your first child, people will come out in droves to tell you that everything you know will change. A new mother, glowing with the life that is forming inside of her, doesn’t have any comprehension of this change. Befuddled with hormones and happiness, the reality of having a child is simply a myth, a perfect rose-colored dream that never hurts. A woman on the cusp of the hardest journey she will ever take cannot and will not believe that life is not as simple as a happy ever ending. Life as a mother is instead a hard, tiring journey that takes every cell in our brain, ever drop of patience in our soul, and the heart of the greatest of warriors.
Having a child is the single greatest thing that I have ever done, but I recognize at the end of every day that it is also the hardest thing I have ever done. Not hard because it takes that patience, or that brain. It is hard because the risks are so great. The risk of forces well beyond our control hurting our children keeps me up at night. And today we prove that it isn’t only the humans that are a threat; it is God himself. The risks of standing on some corner, crying useless tears while we hold on to the hope that our child is okay is a horror that no mother can prepare herself for. It is simply unbelievable, unthinkable, and ultimately our own souls protect us from that devastation by not foreshadowing it with possibilities.
I don’t know what goes through a mother’s mind as she waits for her child. Unlike the few memories I have of my childhood, the few memories I have of being an adult without children, I have billions of memories that crowd my brain of my children. Where I can remember the biggets events in my personal life, in my children’s lives I can remember every smile, every tear, every moment of pure wonder, and every moment of pure fear.
I can remember the first time I brought my child close to my heart so that he could be sheltered in the sound of my breathing. And I remember every time after. I can remember every kick of his feet, every nap he ever took, and every hair that he lost. I remember the first time he reached for my hand in comfort, and every time that he has snuggled close to me in a simple desire to rest in a warm and safe place. I can remember all his favorite foods, his favorite colors, his favorite toys, and the things that go bump within his nights. I can see him in every stage of his life and I can see him easily in every day that he has breathed.
I hear his whispers when he is hundreds of miles away, and I can hear his tears when the night is dark. I know him better than he knows himself, and I can often predict everything he wants and everything he needs. I have watched him discover music, art and sarcasm. I have watched him discover the power of absolute perfection, and I have watched him learn his own limitations. I have watched, I have held my breath, and I have silently celebrated everything.
A child changes everything, even the very memories that we hold. My brain has an enourmous capacity to hold onto the memories of my child, even when it forgets my keys in the car. Since my son arrived six years ago, I have changed my finances, my health, and my career. I have worn clothes older than he is, and bought him cute outfits for no other reason than they make me smile. I have indulged in cake for dinner, and I have taken my medication almost religiously. I have come to recognize vague diseases that I didn’t know were there, and I can tell the many differences between a rash and rosacea. I can tell you when my child is sick, about to be sick, or faking it to get out of something.
By his voice I can tell you if he is sad or happy; without ever looking at him. By his eyes I can tell you if he is sick or just feeling bad. I can tell you when he doesn’t want to do something and I can tell you when he is disappointed that all his hopes were not the same as the reality. I can tell you when he is tired, and I can tell you when he is in trouble. I use my woman’s intuition in ways I never knew was possible, and I watch every day for the pitfalls, those he must travel and those that are there to avoid.
I have felt the sadness of not being able to give him everything he wants, and I have felt the guilt of being only human. I have fought battles that I didn’t know were there, and I have fought demons that have haunted me. I have pushed myself to be better, to be kinder, to set an example that never seemed important. I have walked away from friendships; I have walked away from desires. I have changed my dreams, my nightmares, my whole being. And all because once upon a time I was given God’s smile.
Six years ago today I held my son for the first time. I breathed in a scent that I could recognize for miles away, and I listened softly as he breathed. Six years ago today my life changed in every way possible, and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. My son, my six year old son has given me what no man, no animal and no God ever could. He gave me the uncompromising love of motherhood. He has shown me that everything I believed was upside down, and he showed me that I could be more than I ever thought possible. My son gave me life.
So many of us joke about giving our children life, but the truth is they give us life. They teach us, show us, and change us. They make us better, and they make us whole. Every day in the last six years that my son has given me the unconditional love of a child, I have learned how to live. And at the end of the day, all that I give him pales considerably against all that he gives me.
Happy Birthday, my baby boy.