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

 

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