Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Dozen Already?

Usually when I ask that question it relates to donuts - as in, 'I ate a dozen already?' But today, it relates to the number of years since I experienced the most powerful moment in my life. That moment was on April 28th, 1998, when I delivered our first child. (Oddly, the second most powerful moment I ever experienced was on the same day, a few moments later when my father-in-law walked in the room before everything was.. er.. done.) The day was so remarkable for the obvious reasons, but also because my daughter's birth let so much truth into my life, truth that has given me much peace.

The first truth I experienced on that day was that, in fact, there is a God. He may not be what we imagine Him to be, or what we write Him to be. He may not be at all what we want Him to be. But He exists and my daughter quelled any doubt I might have had. In my view there can be no holier moment than sharing the birth of your newborn child with your parents and partner, expressing in vivid color and raw emotion the continuity of life, the flawless intent of nature, and the perfection with which a power much greater than ours executes the most complex of tasks. In every way Lucy was born into love and acceptance and joy and she has radiated that beauty all of her life. That comes from God. I know it.

Further to the continuity of life thing, on the day of my daughter's birth I was, myself, born into the knowledge that my life is a bond between those who came before and those who come after. As I held my baby girl and looked into her brand new face, I saw my grandmother as plain as if I were looking at her directly. I saw my father, whom I'd only seen once and cannot remember, but I know I saw him (see him) in her face. I saw my husband and me and I could feel my aunt's heart beating in my baby's chest, warm and excited and loving. I heard my mother-in-law's voice, felt my brother-in-law's spirit. I found my child's newness as if it were a story I'd heard a million times and loved for it's familiarity and comfort. She was meant to be because she'd been planned by the coincidence of our shared history and she would carry forward the life of our ancestors just as we all have.

As such, it became true for me that my purpose in life was to bring forward this little life. Nothing greater waited for me because this was great beyond comprehension. As I held her in my arms on our way to the recovery room I was consumed with fulfillment, more than I thought I could contain. I was humbled, realizing that at such a young age my life's purpose had been realized - and with a splendor and magnitude the likes of which I could not have aspired to much less achieved had I really been trying. Still, it was no accident that my unworthy self created this precious creature, it was instead what gave me worth and meaning, even before I knew it.

With this meaning I could see clearly for the first time. Which is why on the day my baby was born I loved my body for the truth it spoke to me in a language I had not heard since I was a baby myself. For most of my adult life I had loathed at least some part of my body, if not all of it, for its misshapen qualities or lack of some feature, or abundance of others. But on the day Lucy was born my body was beautiful. It was perfect and flawless and lovely. And what joy that gave me, what song in my soul. (Of course, that song has had a few choruses mumbled between then and now, but I know the words and I can belt it out if I need to.)

Lucy gave me truth and truth is peace and because of her and my Sam and my Sara I am a complete person.

That said, and in the interest of fairness, I feel it's important to share with you a few other truths that have become evident to me since Lucy was born. I think you'll agree every see has its saw.
  • there is no greater fear in life than having a child. if you mess this one up there's no going back. for this reason all children should remain plastic-coated and carefully bubble-wrapped until the age of majority
  • children object to being plastic-coated and bubble-wrapped, some quite vehemently
  • apparently if you feed children they grow, a lot, so pace yourself
  • the toddler shoe manufacturing business is designed to make shoes that are either too small or too big, but none that fit, forcing you to constantly buy toddler shoes to see if you can catch your kid's foot at the precise moment when the shoe will fit
  • it never does
  • pining for the day when your child learns to speak your name is no match for ruing the day your child ever learned to speak your name
  • at about year six you learn to pine for the day when your child forgets to call your name for at least thirty seconds a day
  • at some point you will once again pine for the day when your child calls out your name
  • that point won't be when she's stomping off in a huff declaring that you 'don't understand ANYTHING'
  • your child knows everything
  • this becomes especially true the closer she gets to teenage years; if you doubt, ask her
  • this rule does not apply when you ask 'God bless it - who left this here in the middle of the damn floor?'; at this point your child knows nothing
  • your child will repeat herself a lot
  • your child will repeat you a lot too
  • the latter hurts more
  • your child will grow and learn and mature at a rate that is alarming, at best
  • her friends will grow too, learn other things, and mature at an even faster pace
  • the latter hurts more
  • your child will tend away from you in order to become herself as she gets older
  • fight it, but not too hard
  • eventually, she'll win that fight
  • that's what you want
  • even if you don't

I hope this assessment of the last dozen year's knowledge is helpful to you. It's certainly been knowledge that's been hard-learned for me, but well worth the expense of the education. The time has flown and, really, it doesn't feel like it's been twelve years since I held that warm, soft, breathing baby in my arms and felt that heat against my body and knew the truth of love in as intimate and personal a way as possible. I was overwhelmed then, as I am now, with the enormity of the task in front of me as much as I was with the sense that everything was right and all my life made sense. It seems really like it was just moments ago and yet seasons have danced by, days of smiles, rains and play, years of sorrow and joy and work. It's been so long and seems so quick. The definition of bittersweet, isn't it? And so if I'm left with one prevailing thought, it comes from a little ditty my son was singing to Lucy for her birthday. Set to a cheerful, bouncy tune, it goes

This is the birthday song.

It isn't very long.

I quite agree.


  1. My mother expressed these thoughts to me (although not quite so beautifully phased) all the time and I'm so thankful that I have a mother who shared her emotions of motherhood with me.
    Lucy is so lucky to have you as her mother. And you are SO LUCKY to have her as your daughter. She is truly a gift.
    Wish her Happy Birthday from me.

  2. This was worth the time and the raad