Around this time nine years ago, I was in active labor. I knew I was having a son. I knew his name would be Tobias. I knew his crib was at home, set up and ready.
I had no idea what my life would come to. No idea of who I was going to be. I had dropped out of college and I didn’t know what kind of person I was going to raise. I just knew that I was really unqualified for the position I was starting on this day. Nine years ago, I was scared like hell.
I knew that I was married. I knew that I had done all of the paperwork just in time so that before my child had a birth certificate, he had his father’s name. I knew that I wore that sparkling hand-me-down ring like a shield from disapproving glares of the public. I’d feel their eyes boring into my belly after doing a double take, then casually place my wedded hand on my unborn child. As if to say,
Hush little stranger,
I’ll be fine
I must have a wealthy husband
if this ring is mine
I wore that ring like a badge of honor, but used it as a calming tool for those around me who knew better what would come. Those who had reason to be concerned.
I am a cancer survivor. I’ve known pain. At five years old, I knew the dragged-out discomfort of resting still after yet another spinal tap. I know that numbness doesn’t mean better. But this day, nine years ago, the contractions had less and less time between them. They were more painful than I could have fathomed. I looked over at the boy that I married and said,
“I can’t imagine how anyone could do this again if they remember the pain. I’ll never forget this pain.”
But now, nearly a decade later, I have forgotten that pain. It’s faded, clouded by memories of pivotal ‘firsts,’ an overwhelming sense of love, fear and pride. Was it more painful than having your heart walk outside of your body, out of your home into a world that is cruel and unfair? Do contractions seven minutes apart compare to putting everything you have into raising a person that is kind, smart, creative, and that person comes home day after day, emotionally beat down by children that just don’t like him?
I can’t remember.
I can’t rid him of pain. I can’t make his father that was there that day be more ‘there’ today, call more often, find ways to be involved. I’ve built up scar tissue from those times that boy at my side in the hospital hasn’t showed up. Scar tissue from all of the times the boy that made a grand entrance that morning skins his knees.
You learn it hurts too much to feel it all.
I’m now closer to when, nine years ago, the cameras stopped clicking, Family, friends, that boy I married, all out at a restaurant for breakfast. Was he supposed to stay with me? Should I be mad?
I sat, at the end of a maternity bed where my life had just changed. Face-to-face, only breath between us, holding my son. A son I created. He was swaddled so tight, wearing that ill-fitted cap of pink, white and blue. I examined my quickly-growing feelings for this being, the same that I had been loving and anticipating before I knew.
No. I can’t be mad. This is how it’s going to be. Just him and me.
I pulled him closer to me, skin-to-skin. inhaled his scent, with my nose on his temple, and said to him, for the first time,
“I love you so much.”