When I was an expectant mother, I gave a lot of thought to the kind of mother I would be. I thought I would be pretty chilled out, but two months into the pregnancy I realized that I was not cut out for chilled out. Testimony to that would be the white coat syndrome (hypertension only in a clinical environment) that I developed during that time. The further along I was, the more I realized that pregnancy actually brought out my most anxious, most paranoid self. I was bordering on obsessive, I kid you not, the way I worried if everything was going well. I am slightly ashamed to admit now that when the call came from my ob asking me to come in for an induction, the first thought that came to my mind was not that I would finally be meeting my daughter. It was that I could finally stop worrying about the tracking the movements of the baby and checking my blood pressure every three hours or so, and generally about things that were not in my hands. Maybe that was part of the reason I was so calm and composed on the way to the hospital. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of a lifetime of worrying.
I had never intended to babywear or bed share, but it just sort of happened. She hated the stroller from the very beginning and I needed my hands free when we went out so I tried wearing her first in a ring sling a good friend had given us, then in the amazing Babasling and later an Ergobaby carrier. I have mentioned this before, that I started bed-sharing when she was four months old and never stopped. Add that to the fact that I have exclusively breastfed her (she’s never been even offered a bottle) and what you get is what I am now, an attached parent. Which is all nice and all, except it makes the baby, well, very attached. Everybody told me I was raising a very needy kid, and that I indulged her a little too much; that maybe I should let her cry sometimes. But I guess during those early days, my focus was not on how to get her to be less needy, but how to make my life easier with a needy baby (it made more sense to me than letting her cry) Which is what led to what I am today, a mother with a toddler literally attached to her hip.
People tell me it is my fault that I don’t have a life beyond motherhood and that I shouldn’t be complaining about it since I have brought it on myself. Maybe it is true. But well, what’s done can’t be undone and fact remains that over the period of time I thrived on being needed. I needed to be needed, you see. And today, as I see her walking about the house with a ball in her hands, without even looking back to check if I am following her or not, I feel equally proud and sad. Yes, sad. Because I realize this is just the beginning. As I sit on the couch watching her balance herself, I force myself not to walk behind her to stop her from falling. I tell myself I can’t stop her from getting hurt forever, and that she has to learn how to pick herself up if she falls down. I tell myself that she has a world now of her own, with her newfound independence, and that I should get used to being ignored while she toddles about exploring the house.
Even as I write this I realize the sadness has to do both with not being needed and being powerless when it comes to shielding her from hurt. And in both cases, I need to learn how to let go. I know mothers keep desperately waiting to send their kids to kindergarten or preschool but I am dreading the day she has to be out of my sight for that many hours. I am working on it though. I remember the first day I sent her out to play in the park with my live-in helper, and how I actually called up my Mom to stop myself from walking right behind them. It’s become much better now, thankfully. I don’t peek outside the window every five minutes to check on them, and nor do I sit straining my ears for the faintest sound of her crying like I used to before.
Sigh. Of all the things I thought would be tough about motherhood, I never thought it would be letting go that would be the toughest. I have a lot to learn as a mother, and I am glad I have wise words to counsel me. Leaving you with this beautiful poem I seek solace from.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.