When I delivered you and Daddy accompanied you to get checked out in the nursery, there were two things on my mind:
- Calling your auntie to tell her I pooped on the table.
- Eating my post-birth chicken nuggets.
I know this isn’t the story I’m supposed to tell. I’m supposed to drone on and on about looking into your sweet precious eyes and loving you before you were ever conceived and how I spent the days before your birth decoupaging the walls of your room and freaking out when anyone accidentally touched me with a piece of bleu cheese and wondering if the lysteria somehow seeped straight into my veins and vowing I’d never own a cat because cats kill babies (I mean really it’s their MO. they’re nothing but a bunch of baby killers, amirite?) and quietly tsking my tongue whenever I saw a rowdy toddler in a grocery store knowing in my heart of hearts that YOU would never turn out to be so disrespectful.
But that just ain’t me, man.
You know me. And I know you. But the day they handed you to me, I had my doubts. Here was something so beautiful, so incredibly fragile, needing me to be calm, to be delicate and water a seed I believed I was ready to grow. It wasn’t that I was saddened by you. I was perplexed by you. And I wasn’t sure if I could appreciate you fully. If I could be an “unfuck-up” at the most important job given to (wo)man. And for the life of me I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn chicken.
This is the thing: it takes me awhile to process things. It takes me awhile to warm up my heart. And in the beginning there were moments of self doubt so strong, I wasn’t sure this was the right avenue for me. I have to say, I don’t doubt myself often. Okay, screw that, I do all the time. But I don’t really say it out loud. The whole time I had this gorgeous thing in my arms, smiled my proud smile as if you were a new Coach bag everyone was admiring. In my head I was thinking “Oh yes, 50% and an extra 20% off on top of that!” But in reality I knew I couldn’t own you. Not all of you. Not yet.
I sometimes felt like I was watching someone else’s child. Like your mother would saunter through the door at any second and I’d recount what we had done that day. “Well, miss Ava ate and then she puked. And then she ate some more. Then she pooped. A lot. Okay that will be two hundred even.” And after I’d outstretch my palm I’d skip all the way to the coffee shop or the library or the bar and filter back into society, knowing exactly where I belonged.
It took me three months, Ava, to realize you were mine. At three months you smiled. I mean REALLY smiled. And at that moment I knew a couple of truths:
- I did the right thing by choosing this life. It is not easy. It will NEVER be easy because it’s much like letting a puppy loose in traffic and saying “okay, be careful! I’ll pick you up at three and then we’ll have snack time and do homework!”
- You are mine but you are NOT me. I don’t play to this theory that because I had you, you represent me in every way, shape and form. Instead, I think of you as an individual. You are not responsible for me or for my happiness. You are one hundred percent responsible for your life, your happiness. I mentioned this to someone once and she said “Wow, that’s an interesting way of looking at it.” Whatever you say, lady…
- I am not perfect. Surprising, I know. I try to make the best choices but I have done a number of “bad mommy” things. I’ve accidentally hit your head on the car door, I’ve accidentally pinched you in the car seat, I drink way too much caffeine… but I love you. and everything I intend to do for you, I do with love.
- Some of my old issues will present themselves in your lifetime like they have this week. I haven’t been your “true mommy.” I haven’t been as happy-go-lucky as I try to be for you but I know it’s because I’m sick and because I’m waiting for a little change. But I vow to do whatever I need to do whether it be meds, therapy, talk to someone, or write in order to clear my head and more importantly, my heart.
- You are so very beautiful. And the fact that I helped make something like this is a frightening honor.
We have grown together and found our rhythm since that moment you looked at me, widened your lips, showed off your gums. And there are so many things about you that take me by surprise. You are so strong. I mean a real ball buster, figuratively and literally. You are VERY happy but in an instant you can get pissed and read me the riot act. You want me constantly now. And although I chalk it up to wanting your afternoon snack, I know it’s something different because of the way you look at me. You rely on me even though you probably hate admitting that fact. You are independent, walking, talking, playing with the pups and your toys and practically sighing with frustration if I want to join in, too. You are so lovable. I will admit, you’re not a hugger but there are many special times you’ve come up to me just to hug and rest your head on my shoulder. I appreciate that and I appreciate you.
I think of the person you’re going to become, but don’t worry, I don’t think too hard. I want you to own your future and for me to simply be the soft hand guiding you along the way. I kid that you will be anything and everything under the sun, but know whatever you choose I’ll be there cheering and loving you along the way.
Thank you, Ava, for giving me three years. Three years we’ve spent together. More than a thousand days that have forced me to grow up, to strengthen my spine and to learn for the first time what it means to live for something other than myself.
You deserve all the happiness in the world and I will do my best to make sure you have it.
I love you,
I wrote this post for an old blog awhile ago but every word in it remains true. I’ve even revised it a bit because it’s like a constant thought, one that keeps fluctuating, changing but never ceasing to exist. I’m re-posting it in honor of Movember, a blogging movement to raise awareness for prostate cancer issues and male mental illness orchestrated by the magnificent™ Le Clown. This post has been republished to destigmatize the concept of depression from a parent’s point of view. I had a difficult time adjusting to motherhood, not because I didn’t love my daughter but because I thought I didn’t deserve her. Depression doesn’t always mean you stop loving and feeling. Sometimes it means you simply feel too much and need the support of everyone around you to trust yourself again.
Thank you to Le Clown and fellow blogging friends for keeping this movement going.