Right now, the world’s cutest (in my very biased opinion) 7.5 week old is sleeping beside me on the couch, his arms spread wide open, smiles occasionally appearing on his face, or ever so often, frowns and furrowed brows.
It is hard to say exactly what I thought parenthood would be like, but here, a month and a half after Edmond’s birth, I still can’t wrap my mind around these new titles I’ve received: parent, guardian, mama.
I always knew I wanted to be a young mother, though I can’t exactly remember why. Something to do, perhaps, with the fact that as a child I would make families out of everything. That if salt and pepper were placed before me on the table I would quickly turn them into mothers and fathers of my parents’ miniature shakers, that I loved to nurse my baby dolls, or pretend that my baby brother was, in fact, my baby. From my earliest dreaming, I held motherhood as one of the loftiest ambitions, a most coveted role.
Contemporary society doesn’t exactly corroborate this notion. Educated, ambitious young people are generally encouraged to hold off beginning a family until they have every other aspect of their life sorted out, until they have achieved professional success, saved enough money in the bank, traveled the world, etc. It’s not unlike the advice that’s given to many on marrying young. And sometimes, I catch myself doubting that I have achieved enough to be a parent.
I was voicing these fears to my parents several months ago while I was still pregnant. I was confessing that I worried that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything after the baby came – that I feared all my energy would be forever gone and that I would never write anymore, play music anymore, that I would lose the “me”ness of being me.
My mother looked at me, beaming, and said something along the lines of, “Your baby will be your greatest accomplishment.” And my father, also smiling, also encouraging, said something along the lines of, “If you believe in what it means to be a parent, and you believe in the professional aspects of your life as well, it doesn’t have to be either/or. You don’t believe life has to be one or the other, do you?” It meant worlds to me: here was my mother, the saver of waterfalls, and mountain tops, and riverbeds, saying I would feel parenthood to be my life’s greatest achievement, that she herself felt it was the meaning of life. And my father, winner of national writing awards, columnist extraordinaire, saying it was silly to believe my role as a parent couldn’t successfully co-exist with the other aspects of my life.
I thought a lot about this while pregnant, and I felt then the sanctity, the privilege, but it wasn’t until we arrived home with our boy that some things came into focus.
We arrived home the Sunday afternoon after he was born. My parents had cleaned our entire house in advance of our arrival (best gift ever!), and while we were expecting company later that evening, we were able first to share an hour or two alone in our home. It was freezing outside, toasty warm inside, and Edmond still hadn’t really woken from his post birth slumber, so he was incredibly easy to take care of. A flood of love came over me, a wave of clarity– this was the meaning of life. Not having babies, necessarily. But love. I felt more than ever before that as long as I had enough to sustain myself, my husband, and my son, then I had more than enough. And the fact that I had just given birth to a human – a little boy to love and be loved – I immediately realized was the greatest thing I would ever do.
I have written since Edmond’s birth, and we have continued to record music, and I have started back to work. The first day I was home with Edmond alone I even wrote a poem that is set to be published soon. So, just as my parents counseled, I’m still me, and I am still capable of doing great things outside my role as mother. But to create a human feels to me the most mystical and monumental accomplishment of my life. And to create a good human, a moral human, one who lives responsibly and contributes to his community, that is an even greater accomplishment, and one Jonathan and I will be continuously aiming for for the rest of our lives.
I know not everyone shares this belief, and that parenthood isn’t for everyone. There are certainly sacrifices one makes when deciding to have kids — I mean, this little guy’s happiness will be one of my main priorities forever. Not to mention, parenthood does change you, in humorously pathetic ways. I rejoice when Edmond poops, for goodness sake.
I guess what I’m saying is this, parenthood is for me, and I’m glad Jonathan and I weighed the pros and cons of having a baby this young, looked at our assets, ambitions, priorities, recognized that having a baby would make many things more difficult and then said, “to heck with it,” and decided to go right on ahead and follow our hearts.
So we’re a little crazy, planning a trip to Guatemala with our 7 month old, barely eking by financially, burning the candle at both ends. We’re living young, free, and following our hearts. And we’re relishing this thing called parenthood.