In one month, my son will be five. I have been a mother for five years, and it has been the single biggest transformation of my life.
I spent my whole first pregnancy planning for every variable and fending off nerves. I tried to sock away enough money to be able to stay home from work for about six months, knowing there was a good chance it would be closer to three. I stared at the ceiling at night, imagining how I would convert my tiny closet into a reasonable nursery, and reading way too many books on natural childbirth. And then my son was born, induced nearly a month early, an ordeal that was anything but natural. He was tiny and my blood pressure was high, and those circumstances kept us apart for his first day of life, a day that tore my heart in two and had the midwives wondering if they should call in a therapist. I joke that it was the last time we were ever separated, and that joke is very close to the truth.
Becoming this boy's mother changed big pieces of me that I previously imagined immutable. My former identity was so tied to architecture, a profession my husband and most of our friends shared. It was literally unthinkable that I would not return to work, until I held my baby boy... and suddenly leaving him for any space of time was the unthinkable act. I pride myself on not judging, especially in motherhood where any judgment is truly toxic. And so it's with significant shame that I admit that until my daughter was born, I didn't understand how any mother could leave their baby and go back to work, because I could not leave this boy. A baby who was joyful and peaceful, but only if he was tied to me every minute of the day. My daughter would have been fine, she is fierce and confident and could have thrived with any loving care giver. I get it now. But this boy was different, and we have worked together over the years to build his confidence and independence, which kills me with pride each and every time I see it in action.
I am a radically different person than I was five years ago, and I will forever be grateful to my son for giving me the gift of motherhood, which in my case has been about so much more than being a mother. I look back on this journal, and see that being his mother has afforded me the space and time to reflect on my own childhood, which was beautiful and complicated and informed more of who I am today than I had ever realized. It's changed the way I approach my ever-growing professional life, and also given me greater perspective with which to parent to my daughter, who is divinely feisty and much closer to my own natural tendencies.
I wasn't a particularly young mother, and so it's a little embarrassing to confess that my son and I have grown up together over the last five years. He is the reason that I started this journal, freaked out and self-doubting over what the hell I was doing with my life, a very unfamiliar place for a control freak to find herself. I never anticipated finding the community that this forum has granted me, nor did I realize how valuable all that introspection was to my own personal development. And now, five years in, my life includes less pondering and more shuttling to and fro school and activities, more design work and volunteer work and outside obligations... and yet I value this space... I need to write out and learn from all these milestones and from this community. I certainly still have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm proud of what we've done.
*With his fifth birthday looming, it seems as good a time as ever to turn the page from 'Little Smith' to simply 'Smith'. You all know this kid's name, but I do prefer preserve his future searchable anonymity, if possible. Like Roo, this is an actual nickname, so it feels very natural. Although I am so used to Little Smith, it might take me a beat to leave it behind. Ch-ch-ch-changes.