before I was a mother and I would daydream about having a child, it always ended with an undeniable “no way!” not because I was afraid of being pregnant, or child birth, or babies or diapers, or how to work a car seat or not sleeping. it was always because I could not willingly bring a child into the world knowing that they would have to go through high school. that was the most evil thing I could imagine doing to another human being and I would NOT be a party to it.
but then I did get pregnant at 35 and I forgot all of that. I loved being pregnant. I never felt sexier, more magical, more powerful. my dreams were amazing. I always knew I only wanted one child, so every stage was fascinating and tender and poignant. the first and last time for each and every step of the journey. so the specters of high school past and future faded into the mist…
as I write this, 16 years ago tonight, my water broke, and my husband and I , my mother, my father and my dear powerful, indispensable friend/massage therapist, Barbara made our way to the hospital for the 24 hour birthing extravaganza. I won’t go into all of the details, but it was long, and intense and nothing like I wanted.( i.e. no drugs, all natural, straight forward.) at some point after hours of contractions not making any head way, the clock ticking (once your water breaks it becomes a timed event in a hospital with after 24 hours being time to force something out of you) I am breathing and walking and squatting and swearing and I am starting to swell shut. Barbara gets up in my face and looks me in the eyes and says, “you have to let her go.”
I just broke. “NO!” I wailed. “I cannot let go of her. she cannot come out. she is safe here. I cannot keep her safe if she is on the outside. I have to keep her safe. I can’t!” the enormity of what I had done, bringing another human being into the world that I was responsible for almost drown me.
but I had to let her go. so I did. I had no choice
and many hours later at 6:56 p.m. I closed my eyes and flung myself off of a cliff in my mind and pushed and screamed so that she might be born and our lives changed forever. they held her up and her eyes were wide open, utterly clear and focused. a room full of people, noise and chaos and she looked me in the eyes and then her father and she smiled. she smiled at us. eyes wide open. it was breathtaking.
someone said that being a parent makes for long days and short years. and it is oh so true.
so here we are and she is 16 and…a junior in high school. oh god! high school! I did the unthinkable to her. I swore that I would never do it, but I did. and it is so freakin hard to watch. I see the difficulty, the alienation, the heartbreak, the discontent, the senselessness of the institution that masquerades as “a place of higher learning.” I seem to never have anything of value to say except. “ I know honey, it sucks. really bad, but high school does not last forever.”
and in the midst of the difficulty and the pain, I see her growing, developing ways to cope, to transcend. to change what she can and learn how to navigate what she cannot. what to fight for and what to let slide by and not let it take your energy. as much as I want to throw myself in front of the bullet that is high school, I cannot take that hit for her or I would be cheating her out of her journey. so her father and I can only stand by her and hold strong unwavering space. be there for her when she needs us and hold our tongues when she does not want that. she is also blessed with a huge loving tribe of adults, men and women who love her, respect her, listen to her and are there for her in so many ways. people she can call and talk to in the middle of the night and get a different perspective. another ear.
that is the biggest gift we as parents and adults can do for our children, our nieces, our nephews, friends, grandchildren is to listen to them. to really hear them and acknowledge how hard this time is. to respect them. to never, ever, belittle the difficulties in their life. to never accuse them of being dramatic, being a teenager, and insinuating somehow that their pain is silly and not worthy of paying attention to. it is the first time they are experiencing the feelings, the situations, the confusion of relationships, wanting one or not having one. the hormonal shifts, the physical growth, their brains are changing. everything shifting daily. there is no context. no frame of reference. this is utterly uncharted territory. be understanding. be there. love them. create clear boundaries and give them room to make their own decisions, but do not judge them.
I may feel that I fall short in a million ways in my life and I forever see places I wish I could have been a more perfect parent, but I listen to her. i do not judge her as i remember all too well. I really listen to her and so does her father. we respect her. she is our favorite person on the planet. happy birthday lily. just keep being you. trust yourself as you keep stepping deeper into who you are.
you are remarkable. thank you for choosing us.
“now that I am forever with child”
how the days went
while you were blooming within me
I remember each upon each-
the swelling changed planes of my body-
and how you first fluttered, then jumped
and I thought it was my heart.
how the days wound down
and the turning of winter
I recall, with you growing heavy
against the wind. I thought
now her hands
are formed, and her hair
has started to curl
now her teeth are done
now she sneezes.
then the seed opened
I bore you one morning just before spring-
my head rang like a fiery piston
my legs were towers between which
a new world was passing.
I can only distinguish
one thread within running hours
You…flowing through selves