Thursday, January 15, 2009

Steer, Baby, Steer

Today, January 15, 2009, marks the seventh anniversary of my becoming a mom. My entire life can be summed up into Before and Since that momentous day. As in, before I was a mom, I thought I could do anything. Since I became a mom, I have realized how much I can't do, and yet I know I am strong enough to do anything.

When I first found I was pregnant, I cried for two days over the impending loss of myself. I grieved that I would no longer be able to live a self-centered life, that my body was about to become something even I would never recognize.

Nine months later, I had no idea what to expect when I went to the hospital to give birth. It was at once the most miserable, difficult, and overwhelming experience of my life. But I learned so much about myself through it all.

By the end of the delivery, when the baby was whisked away for some important appointment, and daddy had dragged himself home to sleep for a few hours; in my loneliest time of recovery from a double dose of anesthesia, a proud thought marched itself to the front of my brain and announced (silently) to the world that for the rest of eternity, nobody would ever be able to take away from me the fact that I had given birth. And weak as I was, a piece of iron was forged within my soul.

I had a sudden flash that I had spent 9 months preparing for exactly the wrong thing. All my knowledge had taught me nothing of what to expect of childbirth; and now that day was over and I had a lifetime of parenting ahead of me that I had not even begun to explore.

As the days wore on and this baby and I struggled to get the hang of each other, I peeked into the shadowy existence of sleep deprivation and post-partum depression. All of my control mechanisms were stripped away. I cried every night at 7pm, because I knew the rest of the world would be going to sleep while I, lonely I, would once again be keeping a pointless vigil with an utterly unappreciative infant. I cried more when well-meaning friends reassured me that it was a time that would pass.

But after about ten weeks, that time began to pass, and I began to return from the edge of my sanity. And the iron in my soul grew stronger as I realized I had been to the edge, looked over, and returned to tell the tale. The knowledge that I had overcome the dark night gave me determination to face every challenge of the rest of my life with greater courage.

Slowly, over months and (I am hesitant to admit) years, I grew to love this strong child. After a few months, she began to smile, to look at me, to reach for me, and I realized I was the center of her world. As her open and engaging personality began to emerge, she would draw strangers and passers-by into her circle, and I would find myself engaging in conversations that would have been impossible to me without her there. And I began to wonder at the miracle of childhood, and to hold out hope that I might be able to recover some of my own through her.

The love I hold for my Boo Bear is dear to me, by virtue of having had to fight so hard for it. It did not come naturally for me, as it seems to for so many others; but what it has become is much deeper than a flash of affection. I love her for teaching me about myself, and for making me stronger. She is at the same time very much like me, yet full of her own spirit, and I am learning to appreciate this dichotomy.

In some ways, we are still trying to get the hang of each other. Each new stage of her development throws me off balance again, and I have to cast around to find stabilizing factors that help me once again begin to work with her instead of fighting with her. But I am proud of her independent spirit, and believe that she has been given character qualities that will someday serve her well as a leader.

I feel I have been given a single word as my mission in being her mom. Steer. More specifically, teach her to use those leadership qualities in her everyday life. Help her get the strong parts of her personality under control; and show her productive ways to take initiative within the bounds of the authorities in her life.

We still have a long road to travel together. We have traveled seven of those years, which is a large part of our time, but we have enough left that I am not yet grieving the end of them. She has a lot to learn about herself, but also a lot to teach me about myself. And no matter what happens, she will always be my firstborn, the one who made me a mom with an iron inner strength.

Happy Birthday, Boo Bear. Thank you for teaching me that I have strength; and thank you for the times you impulsively tell me you are glad I'm your mom because I am the best mom there is. I know we fight a lot, but it is because I care what you become. I have a sense of responsibility to teach you about yourself, and to help you become the one God meant for you to be.

May you find acceptance in this home to become who you are. May you be given grace for each day, as you so fervently repeat at every meal. And may you live with an unshakable confidence that God loves you more than anyone, and Mom and Dad love you next best of all.


  1. Steer. What a great word.

    I have one to steer too and this is a good reminder.

    Happy Birthday Boo!

  2. How wonderful.

    Isn't motherhood amazing? So challenging, so not expected, so life changing. I think the most surprising thing about motherhood for me has been that it totally made me realize how me-centered I am. And yes, I know what you mean when you say that motherhood makes you feel strong - like you can do anything. That's the best.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Kate :)


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