On the eve of my eldest’s sixteenth birthday I can’t help but reflect on the mark she’s left on our family. I could easily tell you about Jane and her accomplishments but she’s a sixteen year old girl and that’s neither fair nor particularly relevant. Her story, her accomplishments, her struggles, and her and passions belong only to her.
Sixteen years ago today I played 18 holes of golf at Woodley Lakes. I was 196 pounds and was forty two and a half weeks pregnant. I golfed a lot because I enjoyed the walking and my added weight gave me an extra thirty yards on the ball. My shots were straight and I never lifted my head up too quickly, I didn’t do anything quickly expect maybe fall asleep. I’ve always been an accomplished cat napper. I was worried about how my dog would adjust (fine) and terrified at what would become of my body. I knew I’d ruined it by gaining 75 pounds but couldn’t begin to control my hunger and succumbed to binges of salty, fatty foods. My husband was a virtual stranger, we’d only met one another in the autumn of 1995 and here we were three years later producing a new human being together.
I hated being pregnant. I hated being out of control of my body, my emotions, my future and my home. Sixteen years ago I experienced terror that I’d never experienced before or since.
When Jane entered the world she changed everything. I can never go back to being not-a-mother again and if I’m going to be very honest with myself it’s not something I’d ever want to do.
Sixteen years ago I learned that a woman’s body never breaks. I learned that you can love someone more than you can ever love yourself. I learned that men can love their children with the same depth as women and that I already knew everything I needed to know. I just needed to trust myself. I knew that I’d married the right stranger and that I’d never be able to look at him with any sort of distance again. I knew that we had become a family and would remain so forever.
That afternoon in 1998 when Jane was born and I brought her to my breast before the nurses could clean her off I knew that she and I would know what to do together. I knew that I’d know how to care for an infant even though I’d never held or changed one before. I didn’t know how to dress her but I knew how to hold her. I didn’t know how we’d afford her but I knew that we were rich if we could just have a happy marriage. I didn’t know what she’d aspire to be but I knew that Mr. G and I would walk a path alongside her – mostly as support staff and that we’d all figure it out together.
The day I became a mother was the first day in my lifetime that I intuitively knew what to do. It was the day that I was unafraid and self assured. It was the day I became an adult and a caretaker and devoted wife.
In every subsequent day, month and year I’ve gained freedom in exploring what I don’t know. Raising a baby is simple, you feed it, you rock it, you love it and indulge it. When the baby cries you fix things until the baby stops crying and when the baby gets words the negotiations begin. Sometimes you negotiate with the child (not recommended) and other times with the universe (why not?).
My first baby is taller than I am and likely quite a bit smarter too. She’s strong physically and emotionally and often I look at her and marvel. She’s a better version of Mr. G and me.
16 years ago tomorrow it was 72 and sunny in Los Angeles. Everything is different today and yet it’s 72 and sunny.
The forecast is magnificent.