November 13, 2008
To my oldest son on his fourteenth birthday,
The other day we were in the car driving to buy you some new clothes. Something you have recently started caring about. Before this I could have tossed you a bag of mismatched ill-fitting clothing and you wouldn’t have cared. Now you have opinions about these sort of things. Which is refreshing to be honest.
Your little sister and brother had come along with us and they both fell sound asleep in their car seats. You looked back at them and laughed. They were cute, their heads both leaning to the side as if their necks were made of jello.
“I can’t believe Miles is going to turn four soon, Mom. I mean, I remember when he was born!” you said.
“And I remember just as clearly when you were born.” I answered.
Fourteen years ago I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t have much of an idea of what it meant to be a mother, other than having a tiny baby. A tiny baby I thought would be like the babies on tv, chubby and smiling, like an adorable accessory.
I had no idea how much I would change. How much you would change me.
Two weeks before my due date I went into labor with you. I remember pacing the floor of our apartment after my water broke. The contractions coming one on top of the other.
I remember laboring with you in the hospital. I didn’t know that someone could feel so much pain and survive. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. At one point I remember telling the nurse that I changed my mind. I didn’t want to have a baby after all and I would just be leaving thank-you-very-much.
Of course that wasn’t possible.
The labor itself was short maybe four hours until I reached 10 cm and began to push. And push and push. You were stuck. And so I pushed and pushed. Finally after three hours of you stuck between my tail bone and pelvic bones, your heart rate decelerating, the doctor got out the vacuum and pulled you out. It is not a gentle thing being sucked out of someones body. The doctor pulled with all his might, I half suspect he had a foot up on the end of the bed for leverage. It was awful. Broken bones and stitches. God Lord the stitches. I have blocked most of that out.
Then I hemorrhaged. Blood was everywhere in the room. I don’t remember most of this because I was losing consciousness. I do remember a controlled sort of panic in the room and getting shots in my legs to stop the bleeding. It would be some hours later before I would be aware enough to view the scene and think it looked like a horror movie butcher shop.
It would be a few hours after that a nurse would catch me crying in bed holding you. It took a few minutes for me to gulp out that I was sad you would be an only child. There was no way I was going to go through THAT again.
Again I laugh. All the plans I thought I had, the absolutes I held onto. You have paved the path for your siblings behind you. You are my practice child… the one who gets me at my most uptight, my most fearful, my most uncertain. You are the one who gets all the rules, until I realize around kid number three that the rules are not that big of a deal. And by kid number five, well, it is a free for all.
Not really, it just seems that way because I have a clearer picture of what is important. I have honed whatever new mothering skill it is which that particular age requires. And most often I have found that the new mothering skill is just remember not to get hung up on the small stuff.
You have a very different mother than your youngest siblings do. And really, that is not always a bad thing. I remember what it is like to be fourteen. Very clearly remember in fact. So clearly that I wonder how the heck I became old enough to have a child of my own be that age.
I look at you and can sometimes still see the baby in your face, the toddler when you smile in that mischievous way. But the chubby cheeks are gone. The dimpled knuckles and wrist creases have been replaced by arms that have muscles and veins; arms that more resemble those of a man than the little boy I still think of you as being. I wonder where the time has gone. Because you aren’t a little boy anymore.
How is it possible that you are that same baby who was torn from my body that cold rainy November day? I wish I could remember those days and years with better clarity. So much of it has been lost from my memory.
I wonder how much of right now will eventually be lost. Will I only vaguely remember the year your football team went to the National Championship, like a tiny footnote? Will I only remember the white (WHITE!!) Underarmour sweatshirt that you want to wear every single day when I see it in photos? Even though it is white (WHITE!!) and teen boys and white are not a pair made in heaven and I end up washing it almost daily. One day will I be an old lady in the grocery store and get a whiff of Axe body spray and wonder how I ever could have forgotten that scent? Will I forget what it is like to cook in bulk, or will I still cook in bulk and wonder why I have so many leftovers?
And more importantly, will I ever forget what it is like to see your face every morning? Or will I remember with a touch of sadness.
Happy Birthday my son. I love you.
(I was waiting to post this so that I could add photos, but my scanner is not working. Or more accurately I can not work my scanner. I am sure that the scanner itself is working properly, except for being owned by an idiot.)