At this time, 20 years ago, my life was set to change in the most astonishing and amazing of ways – forever. The long-awaited arrival of our first born was imminent. And in the moment he arrived, was laid upon my skin, the very greatest of love affairs began. Until that very moment I had never conceptualised the absolute depth of ‘unfathomable love’ – a love that had no sides, no bottom – it just went on and on. As it still does. How is it that in a minute your life can be so transformed that you would lay it down, without hesitation, to ensure that the little being in your arms had the full intense expanse of their own to experience?
It was a journey that I longed for and yet all of the reading, training and observing did little to inform me of what to do with my own little one. That he, himself was his very own manual – one that taught me how to be a mother, how to respond to this particular variety of little person, how to know what he wanted even before he did. It’s a manual that I continue to read and attempt to interpret – sometimes with success and other times it appears that it is written in an undecipherable language and I stumble along blindly until the path becomes clear again.
This child, now adult, has been my greatest learning, my deepest yearning, my leveller, challenge, opportunity and joy. In 20 years I have been reduced to tears on countless occasions – some of sheer, indescribable joy and some of sheer indescribable terror. I have waited for the unveiling of the next milestone, the next challenge, the next opportunity to reach out and reach in and experience just one more time the same awe and connection that I felt at his birth. The drug of love that keeps you connected to the child even when the way seems unsure, blocked, treacherous.
I have questioned myself, been more frightened, been less sure, felt greater agony and even greater joy on this journey than on any other. And it continues. As this man-child of mine continues to teach me about being a mother, about the complex steps to the dance that’s called mothering, about who he is and how he’s going to get to where he is meant to, I continue to lean in and give love in whatever way I can – even if it’s sometimes brushed aside or seen as something resembling interference and inhibition of growth. That is what I was called to do by some strange, powerful biological imperative from the moment of first knowing of life.
Adult. That is what my child is now called – by the world. It is what I see before my eyes but my mother’s heart still sees that first smile. It sees the new rain jacket being worn with such joy. It sees the little one asleep on the very edge of the bed to make room for all the loved toys and action figures. It sees every moment of growing – the ones of absolute joy and the gruesome, ghastly ones too. Those ones where the dance became erratic, chaotic, forced and distanced. The ones that lead to sleepless nights, countless tears, unimaginable psychological self-flagellation – the ones that screamed at me in my head – “You’re really messing this up.”
All of those moments are called motherhood. A job with a description that, if read before application, would challenge the commitment of the most ardent mother-to-be. One with no down time, no set hours, no steady idea of what to do and then what to do next. But one with the greatest reward. That warm cuddle, little hand, whispered secret. The one with a child grown ready for the challenges and opportunities of adulthood, ready to take life head on – even when the mother’s heart whispers, “No, I’m not ready yet. Let’s wait a while longer.”
And this mother’s heart is full of joy and pride… and trepidation. Learning to let go is, perhaps, the most difficult of the mothering challenges that have come thick and fast over the years. Learning to trust that the journey to this point, with the highs and the lows, was all meant to be and is all part of the long adult-road ahead that continues to unfold. 20 years of love and learning that could surely never have been experienced in any other way. A perfect journey. A perfect unfolding. A perfect agony. A perfect joy. Happy birthday my son.