Thursday, May 20, 2021

To My Children: Things I Didn't Know to Tell You When You Were Born

It's been twenty years since I became a mother; since I went to the spring outside my house full of loss and lost for hope, thinking I must be barren after months of trying to conceive, and I poured my heart into my reflection on the surface of the water. I begged for you. Then, under my face looking back at me, a pregnant stickleback swam by. It was a descendant of the fish I'd put there as a child, brought from a lake where I'd been camping with my parents. I didn't know those little fish had survived all those years until that one dear mama fish swam under my reflection and gave me hope. A few days later, I found out I was pregnant with you, Taliesin. You were born the following spring, by emergency c-section, surrounded by your family and desperately hungry for life.

It was a hectic couple of years, as I learned to nurse you, to watch you, to care for you without smothering--you always wanted to play alone, and I had to learn that allowing you your needs was not abandonment. And I learned to be loved by you. I learned to trust--for the first time in my life--that you would always, always love me; that my love for you was acceptable. In your babyhood you taught me that I was lovable, capable, and for twenty years, now, that the ways I will be needed in the world will be ever-changing, but also ever-present.

Then came Rhiannon. You begged me to be born. You felt like a heavy rope, hauling at me with every step I took, until, exasperated, I said, "we're getting pregnant now or we're not having another baby at all!" And your Pappa and I lit candles and laid out the rabbit-skin blanket I'd already made for my second baby, and we made love with the heartfelt intention of making a body for somebody we already loved. 

Four hours later I woke up overwhelmed by the powerful feeling that you had arrived. It was like the heavy rope became a thick cloud, lifting me, all dizzy and drifty, and full of my new baby. I called the midwife that very morning, and she took me on before I could even do a pregnancy test, because she understood that "sometimes mothers just know". You grew so fast and so strong that all of us--even the midwife--thought it was possible you were twins. But no. It was just you. Your great, powerful self was just that: powerful. And in your really profound determination, you taught me, too, to stand in my power. Later you would tell me that you had a twin before you were born, but you ate her.

Babies are surprising. Children are surprising, too, and awe-inspiring in the terror and wonder they allow us to confront; bewildering in the ways they force us to confront ourselves; our own pasts and presents and choices we didn't realize were choices, before. 

Taliesin; Rhiannon, you both changed me like nothing else ever has, and I'm a far better person for having mothered you. I wish I had known when you were born how great my learning from you would be, but I didn't, and I now know enough just to know that I still don't really know. I know that your Pappa and I are on the journey of learning to love, and that you brought us here. This is what I know now:

We love you more for your smiles and rage; we love you more when you look at us in awe or bliss, when your sleeping lashes brush against our shoulders, and when you scream your wrath in our faces and tell us we did everything wrong. We love you more because you have helped us to see the importance of expressing feelings, and we appreciate learning, together with you, how to deal with our own emotions, too. 

We love you more every day you hide in your room and keep your pain hidden, and more again when it comes out by accident or when you curl into our arms. We love you because now we know that variability and flexibility are part of humanity, and witnessing your humanity has made us more human. 

We love you more because you're bigger than we are, now, and we loved you more when you were so tiny we tucked you into our coats. Whoever you are, whatever you look like, and whatever clothing you dress yourself in, you are always perfection to us. 

We love you more for seeing you live with open eyes, hearts, and hands. We love you more for teaching us about gender, sexuality, race, privilege, and rebellion. OK fine I personally love you more for accepting my constant rebellion, and for helping me to legitimize that part of my nature. We love you for being at home in and accepting of every new situation in which you find yourselves. You've helped us confront our privilege and become better people.

We love you more when you take risks and we stand looking terrified at the speck of our child's body against the cliff-face, or the shifty-eyes of our child taking on new social/emotional adventures, in secret. We love you more when you end up concussed or infected in the hospital; when we're completely terrified of losing you, and when we watch you struggle to pull through, on your own terms. We have learned courage and resilience from you.

We love you more when you accomplish things that were difficult for you, and we love you more again when you give up. Because now we know that boundaries and silence and time to heal and regroup are important, and we're glad you teach us about those. You've made it OK for us to regroup and become better parents.

We love you more when you have to spend the entire pandemic cooped up with us twenty-four hours a day for over a year, and we try to make the best of it, and find that it's the best time of our lives, so far, and at the same time one of the hardest. We love you for the times you choose to spend with us, and for the loveliness of your independence and all the reasons you don't have time for us. We love that you're busy with other things. We love you more because you're here, and more still because we know one day you'll move away. And all of those things are right.

We will still, always, love you more for making us question ourselves. 

We love you for just existing, and for allowing us to love you, even when you don't want to hear about our love. We love you for helping us to realize how much our parents love us, too.

Taliesin; Rhiannon: We love you. 

At our wedding, your Auntie Chloe said, "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds." It sounded nice, but it didn't mean a whole lot to us at the time. You taught us the meaning of that poem. We didn't know how to love each other, until you taught us to love you. Shakespeare's words mean so much more, now that we have faced alteration, and know that all of it just makes us love you more.

We love you. And that will never, ever change. We were truly wandering barks before we found you. Now, wherever you go, you are our stars.

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