Eighteen years ago today, I was 29, married and very pregnant with my first child. At 3pm I had the injection to induce labour. Exactly 5 hours later I was mum to a healthy little boy. I didn’t have a clue. I was petrified. I was the first of my friends to have a baby. I’d never changed a nappy. Ever. What on earth had I done??
I remember not sleeping that night and wandering down to the nursery to see my baby. It was so surreal. He hadn’t fed and I felt strangely alone. I didn’t like the fact that they took him away for the night. When they brought him back the next morning I didn’t have a clue what to do with him. A nurse would be in shortly to show me how to feed they said. I watched him sleep, then without warning, he exploded. I didn’t even know how to change a nappy. The lady across from me took control and came over and changed my first nappy. Thank goodness she did – I had no idea!
Those first few weeks were so very hard. Reflux, cracked nipples, post natal depression. Nobody told me how hard it was going to be. Nobody told me that from the moment this little life took it’s first breath, my life would never be just mine again. Nobody told me how many times I would cry from sheer tiredness. Nobody told me that at times I would hate being a new mum and I would wish for my old life back. Nobody told me just how beautiful breast feeding was (after the two weeks of cracked nipple agony that is). Nobody told me how my heart would ache when we were apart. Nobody told me just how much being a mum changes the very essence of who you are.
That little baby is now 18 years old. He’s a man, yet he’s still my baby. I just love him to bits. We’ve been through so much together. He’s grown up from a baby, to a boy to a man and alongside him I’ve grown into the woman I am today.
It’s not until now that I look back and realise what a ride parenting is. It is the hardest career ever. If we choose a career in medicine we get years of training before we get to practice. We don’t go into the job of parenting with any qualificiations or training. In fact, when we have our first child we have absolutely no qualifications. None whatsoever!
Did I get it right? I yelled at him, I smacked him, I made him feel guilty, I ignored him. I always loved him and he always knew that. There were a few years where I know he felt I let him down. I destroyed his life as he knew it. I left his father, the man he idolised. I broke up his family, his sanctuary, the security blanket of his life. For years he bounced between hating me and loving me. It was really tough on all of us, but mostly him.
One moment that will be etched forever in my soul was particularly difficult. We were at a soccer match and he was meant to be coming home with me. He was 9. As his father was leaving he ran all the way down the driveway screaming “I wanna go home with you daddy”. Daddy drove slow enough so he could reach out and touch him and prolong the moment. It was gut wrenching. I made him come home with me. It wasn’t very exciting at my place. We were poor, we didn’t go out much and we didn’t have much. Nine year old boys are very easily persuaded by fun and stuff and the sheer joy of hanging out with dad.
We had 50/50 care and it was important that my children spent that 50% of time with me. This sounds hard and selfish. It wasn’t. It would have been so much easier for me to let him live with his daddy. Sure I would have had my heart broken, but I know how to deal with that. Watching my little boy’s heart break on a weekly basis was the hardest thing ever. I knew I didn’t have a choice. Although at times I wavered. However, I knew I had to be true to who I was, what I was doing and that time would make all the difference. If we had nothing else, we had truth and time on our side.
Fast forward 8 years. We are driving in the car one day and he says “Mum, I now understand the reasons why you left dad and I’m glad you did. I wouldn’t like my life if we were still together as a family. I love my life now.” That was the moment I realised I have done a good job with my boy and all the pain and heartache was worth it, for both of us. For all of us. Even his daddy.
He is kind, generous and loving. He tells me every day he loves me and ends every phone call with a “love you”. We are close. Don’t be mistaken, he’s still a boy – he’s loud, he’s smelly, he farts … a lot, he gets cranky, he’s hormonal, he’s messy. He swears like a wharfie, he’s lazy and he smokes. He was never a straight A student (not even a straight C), he never made the debating team, he never won student awards. However, he has grown into the loveliest of men. He stands by his friends. He sticks up for his brother. He hugs me when I cry. He cries when he sees animal cruelty. He stands up for what he believes in. He is a nice person. He has a kind heart and he knows how to love. And that … is really all a mother can ever want from her son.
I love you darling. Happy 18th Birthday. xx