One day, at the age of 21, almost 18 years ago I woke up knowing something was different about me. I felt it in my body; I felt it in my psyche.
I’d had an oddly vivid dream.
My dream was running, searching, frantic; helpless. I felt an ache in my heart that I didn’t recognise then; but now I know it well.
In my dream my Mother appeared and held both my hands in hers. I recognised that she felt the same ache within her. Her presence calmed me. She looked deep into my soul with her love and wisdom and said “You must do anything to protect your children”
That ache is what I now understand as a Mothers love.
I woke up and immediately knew you were there.
My very first wakened thought, “I must be pregnant”.
I knew you were there without any of the usual signs of pregnancy. It was far too early to have any signs. Still, I knew with the same certainty that I had at 16 years old, I would marry your Father one day. I knew with the same certainty that the sun will rise in the East and set in the West. I knew with such certainty, that I could not be swayed. Now, years later, I understand that to be Mothers intuition. (True story – it happened again with each of your siblings – I knew before I medically should have known – the dreams were different, but I awoke knowing I was pregnant)
You were a secret for a little while. Only a little while because we were just so excited.
We waited merely long enough to produce a positive test and then we told everyone you were there.
We told everyone you were there before I had a legitimate medical blood test. We told everyone you were there before the ‘official waiting period’ was up. We told everyone you were there the same day that we confirmed it with a home pregnancy test.
Some people were sceptical “A bit early to know – you should wait a bit before you tell people”
Nah, I knew. I had my dream, by psyche, my body telling me something was different and my wee stick.
You were there, growing in my belly.
It didn’t take long for the morning sickness to kick in, and then there was no doubt.
It seemed to take forever to get through your pregnancy.
We had already been engaged for 3 years, wedding plans were finalised, and I was 4½ months pregnant on our wedding day.
You made me have my wedding dress taken out, rather than ‘the usual’ taken in (as the dressmaker helpfully declared)
You made me vomit on my wedding day (but I forgive you)
I was sick for most of our honey moon (but I forgive you)
I gained 30kg’s and looked like a baby elephant (but I forgive you)
I cried alot while I was pregnant with you. At commercials on TV. At strangers. At nothing in particular. I ate alot of ice-cream too. Mostly I worried if you would be healthy. I worried if you would be born with all the right stuff, in all the right places, and all the right functions. I wondered curiously about whom you would look like and who you would become. I wondered apprehensively what your future might hold. I feared for the world you would be born into. I wondered how I would protect and guide and teach you.
The day you arrived wasn’t a surprise for any of us.
You were induced two weeks late.
You were suctioned out after an induced crazy 18 hours of active labour. SIX hours of second stage (I’m not kidding) and in all seriousness, you have been just as stubborn ever since.
Toward the end, my doctor asked for my permission – mid contraction- if some students could come to watch you be born. I distinctly remember saying ‘I don’t care just help me get him out!”
That’s how we ended up with a team of more than a dozen people in the room. My doctor, my two midwives, at least 9 student doctors watching and learning as you were suctioned out.
Even though I thought I was dying, I remember laughing at the sound of the suction cup as it stuck to your head. It was a blinding pain and yet, it was a sweet little ‘sucup’ sound, and the most alive, liberating and blissful feeling I have ever felt.
But in my own pain, I felt for you; I wondered ‘Did that hurt him?’
Your Dad and Grandma were there.
Dad, because he knows me, knows my cues, understands who I am.
Grandma, because she knows her child in a way only a Mother can, she knows Mothers, she knows birth, she knew what I needed without the need for words. (They became the most amazing birthing duo of all time)
You came out with a little muffin suction cup bruise on the top of your adorable (fat) head.
Birthing you was my very first lesson in what it means to be human.
I was just 22 years old, you were my first lesson in adulthood.
You were my first lesson in what it means to make choices, not just for myself but for the little life that relied on me now too.
You were my first realisation that I actually was responsible for something bigger than myself.
Grandma said my first words after your birth were “Is he really mine?”
I actually could not believe they were going to let me leave the hospital with you. How could such a beautiful, perfect being be the result of anything I did?
I half expected someone to tap me on the shoulder as Dad and I left the hospital with you…’Err sorry this was just a loan, you’re not ready for this yet, hah. Soz”
You were the reason I learned many of my early parenting skills.
You taught me that 3 day baby blues is a very real thing.
You taught me that women don’t automatically know how to breastfeed, and neither do their babies.
You taught me co-sleeping was ok.
You taught me demand feeding was ok.
You taught me that 2am feeds are actually the most peaceful beautiful blissful thing in the world.
You taught me that formula was acceptable too.
You taught me that cloth nappies (at that time) were a huge waste of time.
You taught me that I would sometimes fail.
You taught me that not only would I make a mistake, but that mistakes are not just ok, they’re actually imperative to parenting and life.
You taught me, and I learned that we fumble, we fail, we make mistakes; we learn, we love and we do it again.
That’s what parenting is.
The day you came into the world was the day that changed my life forever.
You made me a Mother.
Before then, I was many things. A wife, a Sister, a Daughter, a Granddaughter, a Cousin, a Friend.
YOU, made me a Mother.
I have loved every moment with you. I have loved every single stage of childhood, every early morning feed, every cute stage of your young toddlerhood, every childhood scrap (the two broken arms?), every testosterone fueled teenage angst diatribe, every stage of your life journey; and even every single stubborn argument. (OK, ‘love’ might not be the right word for the arguments….try ‘appreciate?’)
It has been 17 years of love and excitement and also pain.
Love because you are mine, and no matter what, you always will be. I made you, I love you unconditionally.
Excitement in your first steps; in your first words; in your fist day of school; in your first real girlfriend, in your first job, in your everyday life.
Excitement for your unmistakable grasp on your sense of self; for your ability to be exactly and unapologetically your authentic self; and excitement also because I see a bright future for you. A future that you don’t quite grasp yet.
Painful because as time passes and I see you grow into the most amazing young man, the man you are destined to become, I realise that I want to freeze time and memorise your life moments. I want to go back to your toddler days and remember your mispronunciations, your favourite toys, your fat little baby hands, and your classic authentic innocent self.
Painful because I want to protect you from the world, shelter you from harm and heartbreak, but I can’t.
Painful because I know that, even though independence is my intention, one day soon, you actually will be exactly that, and you won’t need me anymore.
Being your Mother has been, and always will be, the greatest joy of my life.
Know that I will always be here, in any and every capacity, because that is what Mothers do. They can even visit you in your dreams when they feel your need for them.
No matter how our world changes, no matter what life has in store for either of us, you will always be my first.
You’ll be an adult too soon. You will flee the nest and I will proudly stand aside as you spread your wings and fly out into the world; hoping against all hope that I have prepared you well.
Until then, I hope the days slow down just a little bit, because I am, after all, still your Mum.
You made me a Mother, and even though I have 3 other amazingly different and beautiful, equally cherished children, I have not forgotten that day 17 years ago. The day that I could first call myself Mum.
Happy Birthday Firstborn, I love you with all my heart and soul.