I was an unusual mother-to-be. This is probably an understatement. I was plain weirdo. Hadn't been exposed to small babies, well, ever, let alone to the wonders of pregnancy, I was simply in a perpetual state of denial.
Let me be more specific... My colleagues at work found out that I was expecting a baby only in my third trimester (one “insightful” colleague was shocked at the news, saying that she thought I was fat and depressed). To the standard questions such as “is it your first” and “aren't you excited," I answered dryly, but honestly “Yes, to your first question, and no, to your second, more like terrified, ”. I was not bitten by “oh, it is such a cute baby outfit” shopping bug. I only bought the book “what to expect when you are expecting” and gave it to my husband John to read. I even remember writing him a note “they say babies don't come with an owner's manual, but I found one. Enjoy it!” I looked at the baby sonogram pictures with an unmasked bewilderment - is this baby actually living in my body?? All of my insanity wrapped itself nicely with my complete and utter ignorance of the basics of baby care. I mean basics, like changing a diaper. But one of my biggest worries having a baby was the idea of not liking this new person in my life.
Don't get me wrong. I realized that there is no exchange and return policy accompanying newborns. It’s just up to that point in my life (with exception of very close family members) I got to CHOOSE whom I “hung out” with. And now the nature...the universe was going to choose for me and hand me this person to live with and to love, “satisfaction NOT guaranteed” mind you! I freaked out.
So, when I anxiously blurted out to my best friend Anna “what if I don’t like him?”, she wasn't surprised, she was saddened. “What do you mean “like him”? You are going to LOVE him. We are talking about your child!” exclaimed my dearest friend, a mother of two beautiful boys by then. “Well, I know I'll love him. But what if our personalities are incompatible? Like, he could be shy while I am loud, he could be an owl while I am an early bird, he could like country music and hate museums, things too horrible to even mention...the list is too long!! How will we ever get along? Do you understand?”. “Yes, I do” said Anna after a pause “you are hormonal. It’s just that in your case the hormones have the opposite effect.”
Then, ten days overdue, we went to the hospital to be induced. All I can say about my labor and delivery - everything occurred exactly as it should have. Not as planned or hoped for, but exactly as it should have. A lot of it was a blur; my favorite memory is of Adam sleeping comfortably on John's fatherly shoulders.
It’s now been almost 5 years since Adam was born. I know it’s a cliché, but during this time I've learned more from my child than I had in all of my life. When Adam was born, I told John, “He is perfect. Lets do our darnest not to screw him up.” Little did I know what a “challenge” (as we say in the corporate world) this will be. “Challenge” being the code word for – it’s frigging impossible and you are crazy for even suggesting it.
In fact, almost every day, I worry….whether I am good enough. In her revealing, honest and funny book called “Just let me lie down”, Kristin van Ogtrop, says that she fears that one day, on her deathbed, her children will lean over and whisper “Mother, I forgive you” [for being a bad mother]. And what if they don’t forgive at all?
Questions swirl in my mind…. Will I be able to navigate through the maze of all the “right things to do for your child”? Will I feed him enough fruits and vegetables? Will I be able to pick the right school? Help him be in the right place, at the right time? Not be judgmental of his choices in life as he gets older? Allow him to be himself? Be honest enough with him so that he is not disappointed in me when he “sees my true colors” and alternately, not scared of them? Will I ever be able to earn his trust so that he can confide in me without a fear of punishment? Will I nurture his spirit enough so that he can “pay it forward” to the world? Will I be able to buy the right furniture for his room, the kind that doesn’t break on the first day of use…but I digress. Basically, HOW CAN I NOT SCREW HIM UP AND STILL BE ME?
And guess what? Yep, you got it, since the day I met him, I really like him. The irony, of course, is that he isn't like me in many ways and I’d be really sad if we were as “compatible” as I wanted us to be before he was born. What a bore that would be? BUT, oh joy, this is the grandest gift of all. Now I have a new worry – I hope he likes me!
And so, with all my heart, I say to him, “I love you kiddo. As you’ve notice thus far, I am far from perfect. I make mistakes (sorry about buying the wrong Mack truck), but I’ll always try to fix things and will do my very best to earn the honor of being your mother…every day”.