Someone once told me that becoming a mother had ripped her open, both emotionally and physically.
At the time, I had an idea of what she meant, but now I have a much clearer sense.
Never have I felt so wide-open, so vulnerable. It’s exhilarating and exhausting.
I cry much more easily. I cry at diaper commercials. Sometimes I cry when my son cries. There is also such joy. Pure, radiant bursts of joy. My son’s smiles. Watching my husband lovingly change a diaper for the first time. Crying at diaper commercials.
The lows are lower and the highs are so much higher.
For me, becoming a parent has slammed me into the present like nothing else. I am so overwhelmed, and my son’s needs are so immediate, that I am forced to focus on right now and little else. Right now, he needs to eat. Right now, I am going to sleep. Right now, I am changing a diaper. While I wipe his butt, we’re the only two people in the entire world. He stares up at me and watches my face as I concentrate and hurry to finish the job. I catch him looking at me and we share a smile. Then we’re on to the next right now.
At the same time, becoming a parent stirred up my past. I am remembering how I was raised. Brian and I have discussions over how we were parented and how we want to parent. I hear my mom’s voice, and even my grandma’s voice, come out of my mouth. The past has been unearthed and laid over the present for me to walk through again.
Also at the same time, the beginning of life has catapulted me towards the future. Since Dylan is our first child, and the first grandchild for both sides of the family, his existence has shifted everyone into a new life stage – a couple to parents, parents to grandparents. It makes us all think of end-of-life issues. With luck, Dylan will live to see us die. He’ll see a world that I will never see. It’s a concept that is very hard for me to wrap my brain around, and it’s both comforting and terrifying.
It seems odd to me, but the times my son just rips my heart out aren’t when he’s screaming bloody murder. It’s when he seems bored or has this dejected look on his face. Up here in my brain, I know that this is me projecting my stuff onto him and that he’s probably just content, or at the very worst, he’s just trying to process the world around him. But here in my chest, my heart breaks for him, and I am not quite sure why.
Many, many parents say that they can’t imagine their lives without their kids. I know this will happen for me at some point, but it hasn’t yet. There are times, sometimes multiple times a day, when I wish for my old life back. I wish to feel productive in a way that I am accustomed to. I wish to have more free time. I wish to have more sleep. I wish for more predictability in my day.
When I find myself making these wishes, I reframe my frustration and ask myself what I can learn from this. Again and again, the answer is patience and acceptance. When I was working as a therapist, a supervisor of mine once said that we are given the clients we need. So far, I think the same goes for kids. My son is going to teach me, even force me, how to be more patient and how to accept that I am not in control (and I never was to begin with).
So, thanks, my baby Dylan, for ripping me open.
You’re going to teach me how to be a better person.
And I’m going to let you.