Birthdays, Re-Birth, and Other Tales of Redemption

The Journey Begins: January 27, 1997.

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of my oldest son’s birth. I have officially been a mother for 15 years now.  Truth is, if you had met me as a young teen,in my pre-parenthood days, there is a good chance you would not have liked me. I was rebellious, but not in a creative, productive way. My rebellion manifested itself in the form of showy mouthiness, disregard for authority, and of course, a tendancy to attend more parties than I did class. I remember being quite smug, thinking that my “me against the world” act would somehow mask the underlying issues that I didn’t want to face. Insecurities, selfishness,  & manipulation were constant themes in those days, and I really think I was on a self-destructive joy ride that had no definitive end until…it all came to a screeching halt. During those early days when I grappled with the daunting thought of bringing another life into my world, a world that was wrought with chaos & uncertainty, I recall a prayer spoken aloud in the wee hours of the morning, “God, send me an angel to tell me what to do!” The answer came instantly: “I already have.” My priorities changed literally overnight, and my old ways were quickly forgotten. This served us well, and though there were missteps and mishaps, I think I truly gave parenting my all. I wish I could say that with each subsequent addition to my family, I became a better person & parent. But that was not always the case. 
For some cultures, including our own, time is described as a highway stretched between past and future, and people travel along it like numbers across a number line. In other cultures, our lives are viewed as being stationary in time. Rather than marching in perfect evolutionary formation to a flawless end existence, the future advances toward us, instead of us toward it. And so it is with my life. I evolve, and regress, and then become inspired to evolve again. There is a Japanese proverb that wisely states, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” I assume that I will continue getting tripped up, and rising, until I leave this earth. 
After my first-born, time went on and my world expanded into a predictable circle of family gatherings, rewarding friendships, college, career, and other events. But a few years ago, I felt myself getting restless. I began wondering if my early journey into parenthood caused me to miss opportunities that I might have otherwise  enjoyed. I contemplated the possibilities that might have been. I wondered if it was too late to re-invent myself, as my 30th birthday was looming on the horizon. Developmental theorist Erik Erikson coined the term “identity crisis“, and describes a stage called foreclosure, in which a person has made a life commitment  without attempting identity exploration.  According to Erikson, a person must then undergo an identity crisis (also called moratorium) in order to achieve a genuine sense of self. My identity crisis came at age 30 in the form of -(drumroll please)- a positive pregnancy test. Again.
Prior to that, I had become quite comfortable with the thought of ending our family sentence with the birth of my 3rd son. Then life added one final exclamation mark, highlighted in pink. Enter: my daughter. I had literally JUST met with my OB to discuss more permanent methods of BC, when I found out I was expecting a fourth. To say I was ambivalent is an understatement. My youngest was getting ready to enter school in the upcoming year, and my husband I were becoming accustomed to a renewed  night life and the ability to sleep late (late being 8:00am- max) in the morning. Life felt somewhat spontaneous again. Then she arrived. A beautiful, humbling reminder of why it is crucial that we not become so tightly wrapped up in ourselves that we suffocate. Which is what I was doing by becoming consumed with the grass on the other side of the young parenthood fence. Regret, I learned, is a colossal waste of energy. You cannot build anything useful from it, but if you allow it to, it can tear down a strong foundation. I chose to let it go, and focus on the here and now. Here is the life we are living & now is the time to be grateful for it.
Life  has slowed down again. And it could not have come at a better time. These past two years I have enjoyed so many tender moments getting re-acquainted with the little things. Friday nights at home making forts, Sunday mornings sitting by the bay window with my early birds, watching the sun-rise and giggling over the comics… I want to thank my first-born, and my last-born, and all those born in-between,  for prompting me to reinvent myself, day after day. You little people inspire me, everyday, to evolve into a person who is worthy of being your Mommy. And of all the identities I have known in my 32 years- friend, student, teacher, wife, mentor- It is that of mother that has proved most rewarding, day after day after day…
 

An inscription from my mother, in the journal she gifted me 15 years ago

 

Resolution

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~Hal Borland

I was a New Year’s Eve baby, born on the night that the world said farewell to the disco age & ushered in the “decade of decadence.” Having a birthday that falls on New Years Eve is quite fun, mainly due to the fact that the entire day is ripe with festivities, excitement, and an overall feeling of renewal & growth. There’s something special about marking a personal milestone as the rest of the world collectively celebrates a new beginning, symbolic as it may be. I’m not one to make yearly resolutions, as I find my days are a series of small goals & milestones, and the ideas for my bigger accomplishments are often hatched not on the cusp of an aging year, but in the wee hours of a sleepless night as I nurse a drowsy baby or usher a sick child back to his bed. Nonetheless I find the word resolution lingering with me in these early weeks of 2012, as if my subconsciousness is trying to nudge me into an action, whatever that may be. Dictionary.com lists several definitions of the word, including: 1) the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose. 2) a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
And looking at this I’m realizing that resolution has been a way of life for me, since the earliest days of my journey in this adventure called motherhood. 16 & pregnant…and oh so naive, as I assumed everyone would have as much faith in my situation as I did. The same month that I first looked upon the dreaded positive sign on the Clear Blue stick, I signed up for summer school at a local high school in an attempt to keep up with my credits. Unfortunately, a horrendous bout of morning sickness (which ultimately left me hospitalized for several days, on IVs and a liquid diet) got in the way of my plans. I completed approximately 2 weeks of the 6 week course, at which point I withdrew from the class and my mother went to the teacher to explain the circumstances. Rather than offering to work with us, or perhaps even lending a word of support, he turned around the next day and informed the class that the reason for my absence was that I was pregnant & would most likely fail to complete high school. (I found this out later from a classmate who was enrolled in the same course. I never confronted the teacher, though I can’t say I haven’t fantasized about going back and slapping him in the face with a degree or two). In the next month, I was snubbed by several guidance counselors who feigned concern when I expressed my desire to go to college, and then ignored my subsequent calls and requests for  information on  alternative education paths. (I ended up completing high school-on time-on independent studies.) I quickly learned that my family would be my main source of support, and that I’d better learn to hold my head high so as to maintain eye-contact with all the people looking down on me…the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose
These encounters continued, including the nurse who tried to talk me out of my decision to go forth with my pregnancy, and the doctor who practically laughed in my face when I presented him with my thoughtfully typed birth plan which included my wish for little intervention & no drugs. “It’s not like you can plan these things” he scoffed. I sat, head bowed and let the tears roll off my very round abdomen…then marched out of his office determined to have the birth I envisioned. And guess what? On January 27, 1997, my son was born…with no medical intervention, and without the use of drugs…a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
I tell you this not to invoke sympathy, or to gain reverence. I tell you this only to point out that our entire lives are a series of resolutions. We have all battled nay-sayers, and faced hurdles that at first appeared insurmountable. We have all cried ourselves to sleep, and then opened our swollen eyes to the light of a new day.  Life is not always fair…it is what it is, but it’s what we do with it that counts. So make your resolutions, and celebrate each goal as you accomplish it. But don’t be so hard on yourself if you fall short, take a little longer than planned, or require helping hands along the way. Sometimes the year ends with a whimper, not a roar…and that’s okay. Re-group, take a deep breath, and gear up for a fierce comeback…