Today was your fourth birthday . . .officially. Since this weekend’s party you have insisted you are four and even went so far as to announce that today you were turning five. The presents have all been opened and the verdict is in—Skylanders are cool and everything else is not. The cake pans are in the dishwasher and all of the paper products at the curb for tomorrow’s trash. You are asleep after not even one check-in.
Your birthday is a big day for me, too.
Can I tell you a secret (or two)?
I was never as scared as I was as I awaited your arrival. It wasn’t even the pain of childbirth that worried me, although the resident who I implored to “get out of me” or the nurse who had decided to temporarily dial back my drugs might disagree.
As my belly grew, so did my concerns about whether I would be cut out for the job of being a mother. Would I know what to do? Would I be any good? Would you like me? Just as importantly, would I like (and love) you?
It took time but we have a good thing going, you and I. Many days, we have a mutual admiration society where we tell each other how much we love each other, flashing our fingers until our hands tire to show just how much.
Please don’t be offended by this next secret. I’ve just told you how much I love you, right? Well, I wasn’t totally sure I even wanted to be a mother. There. It’s out there. No taking it back. I could have gotten away with never saying this; after all, I had three IUIs and an IVF as proof that I wanted a child. It wasn’t that I actively didn’t want a child. It was just that I never really thought about what I wanted. Women were supposed to get married and have children. When the good old-fashioned way didn’t work, it was a blow to my ego (I’m a recovering perfectionist) and I focused on the getting pregnant far more than what would happen if I actually did get pregnant . . .which I didn’t think was actually going to happen.
I was jealous of you.
Again, please reread how much I love you. In the weeks leading to your arrival, when it became abundantly clear that this was indeed happening, I was gripped by fear of how you would change everything. It would no longer just be Daddy and me. What would happen to us? Would I matter to him? Would I ever again matter in the world of work? As a friend or a woman outside being your mother? Throughout my childhood, I dreaded the end of summer and the start of a new school year full of change and unknowns. That feeling returned in the nights before your birth and even in the weeks after your arrival. I felt as if nobody saw me, really saw me. I felt pretty alone and a backdrop to you.
So, what now of that fear, indecisiveness, and jealousy?
Four years has given me so much (aside from the everyday awesomeness of your presence). I am less afraid in general. Having you meant taking a leap with who I was and who I could be to someone else. Having you in my life has made me stand up for us and by extension for myself. Whether it is looking silly or teaching you about feelings through sharing my own, I have never been as vulnerable. The role of mother is no joke; I’m never off the clock and you would prefer I never leave the house for work or time with friends. I sometimes have to work really hard to keep these other roles going. Not everyone sees me as more than a mother or an extension of you and that can sting. I want you to grow up seeing me as a fully fleshed-out, balanced person. (I’d like to see myself that way, too).
It seems that the love letters I write to those I love most don’t really look very traditional but I think what I offer you is much better. I want you to know my imperfections and where I was as you entered my life. Look at how far we have come separately and together. I’m proud of us and can’t wait to see where the coming year takes us.
Christina Liparini is a therapist, educator and mother. For 15 years she has treated children and adults coping with anxiety, depression, sexual assault, other traumas, grief, loss, eating issues, career concerns and more. She also has used her counseling background to support the needs of mothers and mothers-to-be through her practice, Women’s Reach, LLC. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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