Saturday, July 08, 2017

Dear Leo: Happy Birthday!

Dear Leo,

Five years ago, I looked like the person in the photo -- I was that person.

Atlanta was gripped in a heat wave -- I learned at Fernbank the other day that we set a record of 106 degrees shortly before you were born! -- and I was gripped in a revolution. In the final days of my pregnancy, I had moments in which I almost felt as though I were going insane, unable to sleep and still unable to peer into the little face I so longed to see.

It wasn't all bad, though. Indeed "adventures in mind-expansion" is what I called the final month. As I wrote in the journal that would soon become my constant companion, "My mental acuity is sharpened if only in the sense that I seem more able or maybe just more willing to study all angles of a situation. At the same time, I appear keener to let minor annoyances or concerns go."

(Talk about a revolution!)

I remembered then that my Aunt Maureen had once said having children forced her to remain flexible (even as aging might have instead led her to be more rigid, though that’s hard to imagine -- she's the most flexible, accommodating person on earth!). That remark had made a great impression on me. But as I wandered through temporary insanity, I thought, "Surely it can’t be starting already, with LP still in the womb?" LP -- that's what we called you before we knew you would be Leo. LP=Little Person.

I confided to my journal that I’d been afraid slightly that I would soon be closing doors – unfortunately I think women still have to think about motherhood this way. What job will I be passed over for? What endless list of chores will I now have to navigate each day?

Yet a new world was beginning to dawn even for me the Feminist, with the capital F, who has designed her whole life so she won't have to cook every night. As I wrote in this fledgling journal, "The sensation I’ve had in the past month instead leads me to think other doors or even more doors will soon open up to me. Am I deluding myself? We’ll soon see.”

Moms, need I say it? Dads, too. Oh no, I wasn’t deluding myself. The doors to perception and all kinds of other things were soon to be flung wide open. It's as if I were limping along before, not truly living, not giving it my all, perennially flying the flag at half-mast.

Leo, you will be 5 tomorrow. Life is full of all manner of incredible evolutions and revolutions. But so far the only thing that people have wildly underforecast for me is motherhood.

They simply could not, understandably, prepare me for how absolutely phenomenal, life-changing, challenging, wouldn't-ever-go-back-for-one-moment it is -- how true it is that it's the toughest-job-you-will-ever and also: a you-get-to-start-over-again machine, a second childhood, a laugh factory, for me a linguistic project, and to steal a line from The Kite Runner, a chance "to be good again."

A redemption, of course. 

Yes I need childcare the week after next! Damn it! 

But that's okay. Because five years later, I still every now and again pinch myself. You know why. Happy birthday, Leo. You were born -- and I was reborn.


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