It was my son’s birthday a few days ago, he has been mine and I have been his for twenty years now, you guys! It has been that long since this amazing kid first showed up vulnerable and whole, willing to be loved by his daddy and me.
When I found out I was pregnant with him, I wasn’t overjoyed, or ecstatic. I was terrified and scared to death! I was supposed to figure out how life works before having kids and I was supposed to figure out how to love myself first so that I could then learn to love them.
But against my own logic, I went out into the world and found someone who was broken like me and set my intent on being loved by him, instead.
It made much more sense to do that than it did for me to try to arrange all of the broken bits inside of me because when it came down to doing the work that it would take to overcome the things that were keeping me from accepting myself and my story, I didn’t know how to.
Knowing what I know now, I have a hard time justifying the choices I made. All I can honestly say is that it felt right to try to be “normal”. It felt right to try to just forget about all the ways in which people had dishonored and disappointed me, and that making the choices that I did was my way of containing the brokenness inside of me.
I felt that if I could just keep it to myself, if I didn’t let it go anywhere else, all of the things that were wrong about me-or with me-would eventually disappear and then I wouldn’t ever have to deal with them.
When I met my ex-husband, love didn’t come first. Need came first. I had a need to be wanted and it didn’t take much effort on his part to fulfill that need because I’d learned not to expect much from anyone, especially from men.
I only wanted a normal life, that was all! But I wanted a normal life without having any idea of what normal really is. I wanted to give myself a chance at normalcy because I felt that it would make up for the feeling of inadequacy that I’d felt for most of my life.
And we tried to be normal, we tried to live with each other and make it work but it didn’t work. It was a painful experience for the both of us because people who hurt, hurt others.
Marriage for us was a constant battle field. We fought our demons separately, we fought each other, and we fought together to be normal and stay together.
By the end our demons had grown to understand each other well, binding us more than love ever had. So, it was hard being together and then it was hard being apart, too.
Of all the battles we lost, the one we won was the experience of bringing our son into the world together. His existence is the one thing we both rejoiced in and the one gift we gave each other wholeheartedly.
I remember the look of awe and genuine wonder in his daddy’s eyes as he cut his umbilical cord while I, almost instantly, felt a sense of inadequacy larger than I’d ever felt before and thought of all of the ways in which I wasn’t ready to love him because I didn’t think that I knew how to.
I remember his daddy, beaming with pride as he announced to visitors that we had a son, while I was silently dreading the moment we’d get to take him home and he’d be ours all alone to love and to care for.
When the excitement of having a newborn wore off and I finally had alone time with my son, I had to face the reality of having brought him into the world while it felt like my world was crumbling around me.
I looked at him and I felt a pang of guilt for getting him off to such a bad start in life and I cried. I cried at how defenseless he was and at how much his well being depended on my being whole and healed.
And I cried for myself, for not having figured out sooner how to love myself enough to make better choices for the both of us and because I knew that then and there the work that I needed to do to heal had just begun.
It’s been twenty years now and since then, the most important thing that I’ve learned from my son is that we aren’t born winners and we aren’t born losers, that we are born choosers. And that even when we have no control over our circumstances, we can choose how we react to them so that they don’t determine the direction of our life.
As for his daddy and me, I believe that if there were medals for fighting wars as madly as we fought ours to make things work, our son is ours.
And if there is anything that I wish for him it is that he will someday know our som as I do because his existence is the one exceptional thing that we accomplished together and I can’t imagine missing out on the privilege of being here to see who he is turning out to be…