Today you are four. At five o’clock this morning four years ago, I awoke to a small spot of water on the bed and realized that August 25 would probably be the day. Like a ten pound, three ounce Chuck Norris, you punched a hole in the caul and made me aware that our journey had begun. By 10:30 that night, I was pulling myself up and down with the squatting bar on the hospital bed while being fanned by a file folder soaked in lavender oil. Oh, doulas. How I love you.
At 11:55, you were placed on my stomach. I was beyond exhausted and could barely reach for you, nor did anyone help me hold you to my chest like I wanted to so badly.
At 11:56, you were taken off my stomach and wrapped up, wiped off, gooed up, weighed, measured and warmed on the other side of the room while I was stitched up like a piece of meat for my second degree tears and given prophylactic Pitocin without my consent (because apparently you just can’t leave a hospital until you’ve taken your medicine, whether you need it or not). I didn’t realize at the time that it was more important that you spend your first 40 minutes in the world bonding with Nurse Reynalda. Now I know that if a hospital says something is necessary, it’s necessary and I should just shut up and be grateful. I’m sure you mean the world to Reynalda, by the way.
I spent the next two days having you taken from my arms and being interrupted over and over by hospital staff, our sacred space violated to the point of making me potentially skittish. I wish I had kept a tally of how many people entered the shared post-partum room.
And now you are four and I must tell you that I am sorry. I have long since moved beyond bearing an inexpressible feeling of guilt, carrying with me instead a sense of responsibility for my role in everything and a pang of sadness for what I didn’t yet know. What I know now is what you have taught me.
When you were one, you taught me the lesson that mothers need to be mothered.
When you were two, you beat me with the humble stick by, well, beating down my friends’ kids on the playground. Your developmentally-appropriate pushing phase pushed me to acknowledge that if I take any credit for creating your superawesomeness, I must also take responsibility for that which I feel falls short of superawesomeness. It took a few months for me to turn my brain, heart and soul inside out and shift to a completely new paradigm of parenting and relationships. I never really had much to do with creating said superawesomeness and besides, what is with all of the striving for superawesomeness?
When you were three, you showed me that as your mother, I am undoubtedly and undeniably really, really important to you, yet I do not hold the sole key to shaping your personality. Much of the time, I feel like I don’t even have a key and I spend a lot of time outside the front door, looking in with fascination.
I see now on the clock that you just entered Reynalda’s arms four years ago. Reynalda was nice and all, but I commit to you that I will fight for mother-friendly policies in hospitals so that if you choose to have a baby someday and if you need to have that baby in a hospital, you will not have to fight to give birth normally and you and your sister won’t have to deal with unnecessary bull.
I love you with all of my heart. I live in constant amazement of your strength, your quickness, your defiance and skepticism, your sense of humor and your unpredictability. Those traits brought you into the world in the manner in which you arrived, as if your birth day was some kind of weird metaphysical allegory that will always raise one of my eyebrows.
I can’t wait to see what your fifth year holds for all of us.