Dec 1, 2012

To The Rock Star, On His 23rd Birthday

23 years ago tonight, I had my first child, my own Rock Star.

About a year ago I spent the weekend with one of my best friends, and we were talking about the night he was born.  We were reminiscing about my mother, who is now in heaven, and I got to hear the story from her point of view for the first time.  She said I screamed a lot.  A LOT!  During this time, she kept looking at my mother, who poo-poo'd the idea that anything was wrong.  My mother just kept telling her that this was childbirth and there was nothing to do but get through it.  Later, my mom said at one point she just wanted to jump up and scream "Just let me do it!!" but of course, that was not an option.  I think having my friend there to comfort actually helped her hold it together.

We laughed until we cried, that night, and then had a little trouble stopping crying.  It was so good to see her and realize how many things we had gone through, not just with each other but with each other's mothers.  The hardest times to go through often are the most cherished memories.  To realize that we were now middle-aged was a little easier to take knowing that we still had each other.  There truly is no friend like an old friend.

So The Rock Star was born, he was perfect, and everyone was fine, and my mother came home with us for the first few days.

I was, like most first-time mothers, very nervous and lacking in self- confidence, not to mention still trying to process the trauma of giving birth and what that left me to deal with.  Whew.  Remembering those days still makes me cry (and laugh) to this day.  I spent a lot of time with sitz baths and sat on a donut pillow for way longer than was recommended, even by my mother.
Totally worth it all.

My mom stood guard over The Rock Star at night, as every time he made the slightest noise I was convinced that he needed to be picked up, nursed, etc. and consequently no one in the house was getting any sleep.  My husband took this pretty much like a champ, even though I know there were probably moments that he considered throwing me and/or my mom or maybe even The Rock Star out a window.  Such is life with a new baby for a first-time parent.

Mom stayed for 3 days and on the 3rd night, without any discussion, she simply walked to the door and said she was going home.  My eyes flew open wide and I said "Can't you stay one more night?"  She smiled sadly and said "Honey, I have to get home.  You are doing fine, he is fine, and you guys can handle it.  If something happens, you just call and I will come back."  Then she walked out our front door and left us there to figure out the parenting thing on our own. Later, much later, after she was safe from having to come back and live with me, she told me she cried all the way home.  There she cried more and prayed for us constantly, giving up voluntarily the sleep she had been deprived of by necessity for the three previous nights.

After the she shut the door, I turned wide eyed to my husband, whose own eyes were wide. We did not speak a single word.  We just stared at each other for a full minute as the realization sunk in that we were on our own.  We knew in our minds that we were responsible and grown up now, and that this was life when you were a parent.  On the other hand, if there was any way possible to get out of this, we were willing to take it.  It was not to be.  We both swallowed hard and faced the fact that we were the parents now.  We were in charge.  I think we were both thinking that no one in their right mind should have left us in charge, but there was nothing to be done but to just do what came next.  This is a very important step in growing up, if not a popular one.  But that is life.  You manage.  You do not manage with grace all of the time, but you get through it.

You know what?  We did pretty good.  It wasn't long before The Rock Star got on a regular schedule.  The schedule was not one that we would have picked, as  he never in his whole life wanted to sleep before 11 pm.  This would prove to be a bone of contention for several years, but if you've ever had a new baby you know that as a parent, you conform.  New babies usually rule their worlds, and ours was no exception.

We went through all the usual things.  I cried a lot and railed about how "I felt like a cow, literally, and HIS life hadn't changed at all."  After all, he got to leave the house every day and, and, and TALK to people! He got to take a shower every morning, and go out in the world every single day. This was often followed by words like "Damn him!"  Needless to say, this leaves the poor new father, who has worries of his own, saying "What? What did I do?  What in the holy hell is wrong with you anyway?  Are you saying you want me to quit my job?  Isn't there some kind of pill you should be taking for this?"  You can see that it is a tough period of adjustment for everyone involved. If you think you understand this and have not yet become a parent, all I can say is "Just you wait."  Muahahahahahha.  All will be revealed in time, and if you think you're prepared, just wait!

Who did I rail to?  My mother of course.  She would sigh (heavier each time she had to listen to this) and try to point out that I was missing the best part of my life.  She would point out that I was the mother, I was the one who took care of the child.  It logically followed that he was the father, he was the one to support the family, and I probably should be grateful not only that he had a job, but that he got up and went to it every single day.  So gently did she chide me, and so crazy was she about her first grandchild, that it sometimes made me feel ashamed of myself.  As it should have, but that only added to what I saw as my misery.  It is hard to adjust from everything being about you (pre-parenthood) to nothing about you really mattering anymore (parenthood).

Being a new mother is an emotional roller coaster.  To this day I don't know any way of preparing women for this time.  Until it happens you are floating around on all these great hormones of happiness, and cannot believe anything could bring you down.  Then you have the baby, which makes you the happiest of all, and then you get home and you look in the mirror and you realize that you are no longer the you you have always been before.  Not physically, not spiritually, and least of all mentally.  All those warm, fuzzy hormones go away, and you find yourself in what feels like free fall. Instead of floating on the cloud you have been on, you find yourself plunging down into the depths of despair, worrying about everything from your babie's cord drying properly to the world at large not being safe for him to ever walk around in.  Nothing is as it was, even yourself, and you have a cold certainty in your heart that it never will be again.  Add to that the fact that there is nothing you can do about it and you have a recipe for a panic attack.  I must point out that the phrase "panic attack" is relatively new to our culture, while the period of adjustment after a new baby is decidedly not.  But if it makes you feel better, hey man, grab onto it and just try to keep afloat.  You will reach the shore, or at least a quiet eddy in the river of life, before long.  Whatever you do, don't give up hope.  This too, shall pass, and before long you will miss these days.

It's an intense trip, but one that you must make.  You can't get over it, under it, or around it.  You just have to go through it.  Hard as it is to go through, this is what makes you brave and gives you strength.  It's your training for facing the unknown, which is exactly what parenthood is, in a nutshell.  I can promise you that in 5 years, you will look back on this time and laugh.  At yourself.  And it won't even bother you at all.  As if that weren't enough, because of this time you will have such strength that you will be able to face scary circumstances in the future with grace and (seeming) calm.  You will be able to bring calm and comfort to others even when you are quaking in your boots inside, all because you have gone through this and come out the other side.  It's the same process as basic training for the armed forces.  It tears you down in order to build you up stronger.

Because in between the paralyzing terror and burning rages, there will be moments of quiet and humbleness and pure joy. Lots of them.  In time, these moments will outnumber the scary times 1,000 to 1.  I swear it's true.   In the quiet of the night, when it's just your little family together and your are safe and warm (and the baby/new mom is not screaming), you will know that nothing is ever going to be the same again, and that's ok.  Everything is changing and even though you are scared because you don't feel like you are in control, you have never been in control anyway, and everything is changing into something better.

I'd do it all again 1,000 times

The Rock Star made me a mother, and in a sense saved my life.  If not for him I would have continued to be an irresponsible, scatterbrained, shallow, selfish person.  If not for him, I would have never learned patience, gratitude, or what sacrifice is really about.  Before him, I did not really know what it was to love anyone else enough to actually be willing to give my life for them.  He changed all of that the minute he slid out of my body and into this world.  He made me into what I am today, and I can only thank God for him being such a funny, witty, smart and good person.  

I love him so much that I cannot leave him to this day without crying like a baby.  Even though he is 23, and The Beautiful Redhead almost 21, it seems so wrong to leave them after we have been together that I spend the first 10 minutes or so trying to see through tears well enough to maneuver through traffic without getting us all killed.  The twins don't even worry about this anymore.  They think it's normal. For us, it is.  Try as I might, I don't think this is ever going to change.

So I write this to you, my first baby, on your 23rd birthday, sobbing in the basement at my computer, with the twins explaining to their company that nothing is wrong with their mom, this is just what happens when she writes, (I suspect Stephen King has a different process), knowing and happy that you are out having a great time and living it up in Kansas City.  I hope you have the best birthday that you ever dreamed of.  I hope all your dreams come true. I always have, I always will, and that will never change.

On a lighter note, I would also point out that I was your exact age when I got pregnant with you.  No pressure, but you just rest assured that there will not be any happier person on earth than myself on the day that we find out you are going to become a parent.  I so look forward to that day, because I know I have the strength and grace to guide you through the hard times that it will assuredly bring. 

Of course I do, that is just the first thing in a long line that you taught me.

Happy 23rd, Taylor-boy.  You are so loved, have always been, will always, always be.

Daaayammm, that is one good looking man!