This post is part Throwback Thursday, part Daily Post Blog Prompt that stirred some musings and realizations.
I come from a nice sized family, but I am the youngest of four siblings. Four doting siblings and parents who wanted to do their best to give me all the love in the universe. It is an absolute blessing, but sometimes, I am afraid that this whole time I’ve been living with training wheels on, and one day they’re going to be removed and I’ll be left to fall flat on my face, completely and utterly unprepared for the road ahead of me.
I found myself in just that kind of situation nearly five years ago. I was twenty-five and I had given birth to a healthy baby girl. I braved my fears of the hospital and got through my two-night stay there, making sure that she was safe and ready for life on the outside. I had visitors during the day. There were helpful nurses at night. While I couldn’t bring myself to send her to the nursery very often, just knowing that the option was there was somehow comforting.
When we got home, she slept through the night. I did not. I would lie awake, watching her sleep, watching her breathe, watching her tiny barely-there eyelashes fluttering, waiting for the other shoe to drop. She wasn’t a difficult baby, but I wasn’t sure whether I was a difficult mother or not. In fact, I felt like I didn’t know anything about motherhood at all. Her father was with me always, but then one day, it happened.
“You’re leaving?” my breathing caught in my throat, anxiety tightening its possessive grip around my neck. It was impossible not to hear the panic in my voice.
“Yeah. I don’t get family leave. We’re a small business, you know that.” He shrugged nervously. He clenched and unclenched a fist. Unconsciously, I think he was gearing up for a fight. We hadn’t really talked about this. I wouldn’t have expected me to take this well either.
I exhaled and counted to eight. If it took slow, even breaths, the chances of me hyperventilating were significantly decreased. Finally, I nodded.
“You’re right. I know. Go ahead. We’ll be fine.” I looked at my tiny munchkin. She was still sleeping.
As the door clicked shut and I heard the lock turn, I felt a weight settle firmly into place on my chest. Until this moment, we had guests and visitors, everyone eager to see the new baby. My parents, his parents, siblings and aunts and uncles. Friends from both sides came to hold and cuddle the new bundle. But now, for the first time, it was just us.
I had the sinking feeling that the training wheels had indeed come off and I was now riding this bicycle by myself, whether I was prepared or not. Only now, it wasn’t just me that would be affected if I fell on my face. It would be this little girl as well. The slow breaths weren’t working as much anymore, and I felt like I couldn’t get nearly enough air into my lungs.
I sat next to where she lay in a newly gifted moses basket (part of a bassinet I got as a baby shower gift), and I tried a new form of meditation. I took hold of her tiny little hand, feeling her soft, tender, new skin, still wrinkly, with room to fill out. I closed my eyes and clung to a new mantra: “She chose you. This precious, little soul chose you. You can do this. Not because of the pressure. You can do this because of love. You can do this because you love her. Because you can give her all the love that was given to you and more. You can do this. Choose her too.”
I repeated those statements to myself until I could breathe again. Until I could face the fact that it was just the two of us. I repeated those things to myself until I no longer felt afraid, but rather empowered. Hopefully, I prayed, it would always be like this. It would always be the two of us. I hoped that we would always be able to count on one another like this. I realized then that this little soul was more powerful than I had ever realized. Although I was the one taking care of her, it was a baby who offered me comfort and strength.
There aren’t many things that have taught me strength, resilience and determination like motherhood. But it’s also taught me understanding, patience and kindness. Not only for the little person that I have the privilege of taking care of, but also for myself. I learn each day that I am not perfect, but sometimes that imperfection is exactly what she needs to learn how to navigate the world on her own.
Funny how a situation that nearly crumbled me taught me that in the end all the love my family gave me didn’t handicap me. All of their help and guidance didn’t render me unable to stand on my own. It left me with a hidden strength that ran deeper than I ever imagined.