This morning I actually attempted to get ready. Not just "taking care of a baby at home" ready, but "full-on out in the world with people who don't throw up on my arm" ready. You know, with real products applied to my face and a hairstyle that doesn't make me look like an Amish school teacher (I don't know what an Amish school teacher looks like exactly, though I imagine that some sort of low bun with no makeup and lots of gray clothing is about right). This is not something I attempt to do much these days, except for when my husband is home to run Baby Frustration Interference. Well, for today's experiment I was alone...and let's just say I'm still mostly bare-faced, and the brush and my hair didn't actually make contact.
As I, in my conciliatory ratty ponytail, gave up and blew my stuffy nose amid impatient wails from less than ten feet away (ten feet! I'M RIGHT HERE!!!), I couldn't help but consider this identity I'm currently occupying.
There is no doubt in my mind that I am incredibly, massively indebted to the Universe and its benevolence for being allowed to be Foster's mother. I am so grateful...how could I not be after years of infertility and the current thriving sturdiness of a baby who was born very small and endured heart surgery during his first week of life? No, I know I am meant for this exact moment just as it is...just as I am. But between the nursing sessions, reflux, interrupted sleep, zero alone time with my husband, endless parade of grungy tees, quickly-scarfed meals leaning against the kitchen island, and Foster's nonstop craving for my every morsel of attention and human bouncy services, I'm wondering when the part of me that isn't all mommy mommy mommy will feel as present in my body as this new piece of myself. You know. When will I feel again like more than only this overriding entity of Mama? I know it will happen, but most importantly...who do I WANT Foster to see me as once it does, and how do I want to participate in encouraging his own identity? We know from our own experiences just how much who one becomes can be influenced by the nurturing, and yes, even mistakes of our mothers.
I know how I'd LIKE him to see me. In an ideal world, he'll one day describe me as brave, wildly funny, joyful, intelligent, fair, fiercely loyal, bold, kind, soft, adventurous, ballsy, spontaneous, strong, and deeply loving. Of course I'd LIKE him to say that; I'd like to be an example of ALL of those things to him. But more than anything, I'd like him to look back to see that no matter what happens in the life we are going to share, I will have been wholly unafraid to be myself even when that meant I had to clumsily balance my needs and his, claim some time as my very own, or admit that I could not sacrifice my identity to be the perfect mother. I'd much rather be the flawed mother he can be proud of than the one who slowly faded to gray forgetting who she really was.
And that is really what I want for him, too. To be unafraid to be himsef, to never feel his enthusiasm dampened, to have complete comfort in a steadfast love no matter how far off-path he treads, how messy his choices. I want him to know what is right and good and ideal, but not feel so impeded by that responsibility that he is fearful of making mistakes. I want him to explore this life in a hungry, magnificent way that honors who he is deep at the core. I want him to try. To always try.
Now...how do I help him become this man?
To be truthful, I don't know. I mean, I can study and seek and love and allow and ask and listen and observe and respect. I can try to do all of those things. But as I've said, I do not expect to be perfect. I am sure I will have many (too many) moments of irrationality, impatience, and regret. But one thing I know for sure is that I adore this huge spirit in a tiny body more than anything on this planet, and I want to be part of why he one day is a kind, fulfilled, admirable old man. So dammit, I will try. I will always try.
Melissa Glenn, The Village Journalist