When my son rolled over, I felt relieved. The small, locked-away yet powerfully pessimistic part of yourself worries that your child won’t develop as he should, so when you realize he is, you breathe a sigh of relief. His ability to go from his stomach to his back, from his back to his stomach and back again, was the palpable proof that he was thriving. I smiled and silently patted my exhausted self on the back and choked back a very real, very harrowing and very surprising feeling of loneliness.
When my son crawled, I cried uncontrollably. His pudgy legs and defiant arms awkwardly carried him into my outstretched arms and patient embrace. When your child hits a monumental milestone, you can’t help but overflow with pride, to the point that it comes spilling out of your blood-shot eyes. I then quickly looked around my shrinking apartment and realized I had to hide computer cords and baby-proof menacing cabinets and vacuum on a far more frequent basis. I smiled and silently assured my exhausted self and choked back a very real, very harrowing and very familiar feeling of loneliness.
When my son walked, I laughed lovingly. When your child starts looking and acting and resembling a tiny, capable human, instead of a helpless infant, you start to make plans. I grew overwhelmingly excited, just thinking about the upcoming trips and future adventures, made easier by his new-found mobility. I smiled and silently planned in my exhausted brain and choked back a very real, very harrowing and – at this point – very troublesome feeling of loneliness.
In the first year of my son’s life, we’ve had a lot of firsts. The first time he smiled or the first time I heard him laugh. The first time he said “mama” and the first time he hugged me. And with each first, amazing and gratifying and exciting as they were, I was reminded that I was simultaneously inching closer to every “last”. Each necessary roll or initial crawl or hilarious walk was pushing me toward the day I’d see the last time he called our house “home” or called for mom when he was hurt or wanted to kiss her.
Each milestone he met left me face-to-face with the somewhat selfish, insecure and worried parts of myself.
Being a mother is taxing; not just in sleep-deprivation or constant self-sacrifice or hormonal and physical changes. Being a mother forces you to examine yourself on a regular basis. Am I doing what is best for my family? Is this for me, or for them? Am I setting a good example? Am I being a hypocrite? Am I acting as I would hope my child would act? Am I strong enough? Am I kind enough?
Am I enough?
And with each question comes the realization that motherhood, like anything else in life, is a grand opportunity to better yourself.
If capitalized on, of course.
Each achievement my son was reaching, prospering in ways he isn’t even remotely aware of, gave me the opportunity to personally progress as well. While it is difficult to admit, wanting my son to stay small and ineffectual and completely dependent on me, is selfish. Wanting him to stay in my house or in my arms or in my consistent care, is for my benefit, not his. I would love to know he’s safe and secure and as removed from conceivable danger as humanly possibly, if only to sleep at night (whenever that happens), but it would mean he stays on my living room carpet; unable to roll over or crawl or walk. It means that he doesn’t get the opportunity to make his own home or call on his own strength when he’s hurt or kiss the beautiful classmate he’ll inevitably meet in school.
It means he doesn’t get to live and, after all, the ability for my son to live his life is why I gave it to him.
Of course, this isn’t to say I won’t choke back that very real, very harrowing feeling of loneliness when he hits his next milestone. In fact, his first birthday is a few weeks away and I’ve already ordered additional tissues on Amazon. However, in those moments, I will remind myself why I had my son in the first place. His life isn’t for me. It’s for him. His life is his to learn and grow and feel pain and flourish and experience all the wonderful and terrifying and beautiful things the fabric of life is weaved of.
His life should propel him forward, in a way that will leave me laughing through the tears and crying through the celebrations.
His life will be filled with the happy and sad, all at the same time. And one day, he will understand that, in a way he couldn’t have possibly comprehended. It will happen when he sees his son or daughter roll over or crawl or walk for the first time.
And I’ll be there, reminding him that the feeling he has in that very moment, is every feeling I wished for him when he was doing the same.
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