I woke up around 2 in the morning on January 7, 2003 with anticipation and excitement at the prospect of finally meeting my first child. I was already twelve days past my “due date” and truly bursting with child. My body, carrying at least an extra fifty pounds, was behemoth. The skin of my torso stretched far past its reasonable bounds, angry red lines dancing around my navel and across the entirety of my belly’s massive girth.
I gave birth to my to my colossal, 9 lb. 6 oz. 24 inch long baby boy just 10 hours later at 12:17 in the afternoon at our home in San Francisco. I can still hear the sound of his father’s joy, a mix between laughter and crying– a sound that perfectly encapsulated the overwhelming wave of emotion at the birth of ones first child. It was an entirely unique cry the likes of which I had never heard before and feel comfortable saying I’ll never hear again.
Becoming Oskar’s mother at the tender age of 26 was undoubtedly the single most defining moment of my life up to that point. From the moment he graced the planet with his presence he was a brilliant light. Becoming his mother gave me a context that made me feel at ease in the world as I never had. He was an anchoring presence that made me feel a powerful sense of purpose. And the love that I felt for him and from him overwhelmed any sense of the word I had previously understood.
The last sixteen years of my life since that defining moment have been full to say the least. I gave birth to another amazing human being, (that makes two total). Uprooted my life from San Francisco to Portland and opened and grew a thriving business. I moved out of one marriage and into another (with plenty of self-reflection in between). And through all of those years the most tangible passage of time has been growing alongside me the entire time. (At this point he towers almost a foot above me.)
In my experience, motherhood is hands down the most powerful job on the planet with the greatest possible dividends. There is nothing that compares to watching a human being actualize what they have always envisioned themselves to be. And Oskar’s vision of himself has always been crystal clear. As a parent I often feel an immense desire to jump in front of any and all possible blows. The toughest lesson for me as my boy becomes a man is learning to take several steps back to allow him to navigate those blows on his own. And of course offer my humble perspective if he chooses to seek it (and even sometimes when he doesn’t).
From day one as parents we are learning and refining the practice of backwards baby-stepping. With each developmental milestone they gain just a bit more freedom and independence and we fade imperceptibly into the background. Parents are continuously asked to loosen our grip, to provide support without creating an oppressive structure. We must give them something to push into without making them feel that there is something they need to break free of.
I am in awe of the young man who towers above me and was the first to call me mom. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a sixteen year old boy who is subject to being a human being, just like the rest of us. He is moody and unreasonable, stubborn and strong-willed, with a smile that lights up any room. He is my boy. He will forever be a gauge, and a barometer for how I interface with the world. His arrival on this planet forever shaped my presence here. And along with my softening skin and silvering hair, he will continue to be my most tangible testament to the passage of time.