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

 

Teen Mommy Bandwagon

Seems like everywhere you look these days there is news of another Teen Mom, thanks in part to MTV’s popular shows Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant. Of course, anyone following mainstream media in the last decade knows that the current pre-occupation with pregnant and parenting teens is nothing new…every few years or so, some news story pops up that brings up the discussion once again (think: Jamie-Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin, etc…) Fact is, teen moms are easy targets in the mommy wars. What could be worse than a young (presumably single) teenager struggling with the newfound responsibility of parenthood? Step aside, working moms & formula feeders…a new bottom-feeder has emerged— complete with raging hormones, maturity issues, and an unquenchable thirst for partying, plastic surgery, and relationship drama. Or so the tabloids would have you believe. This blog is my attempt to tell another story. A story of unexpected challenges, and the beautiful outcomes that came as a result of some very hard decisions. They say that every cloud has a silver lining. This is the story of my silver lining: his name, is Elijah.