The following guest post is by Miriam Levine.
As my son’s first birthday is rapidly approaching, I can’t help but rewind this past year in my mind. The first year of life is remarkable. A symbiotic worm emerges into this world and before the year is over a little man is running after me, feeding himself and communicating through sounds. That sudden transformation sets the stage for an emotionally intense year full of extreme highs and lows.
Of course it is healthy and normal to watch your child grow and gain independence. But it is truly a shock to the mind and body to internalize this separation after housing him inside of you for an entire pregnancy. I’m baffled by the fact that he is an individual completely different from myself because I feel such a closeness and attachment to him. It doesn’t seem that long ago when we were one, and now we are very much two.
I also have never felt so conflicted and in contradiction with myself. I simultaneously want to birth a hundred more babies and get my husband’s tubes tied. I want to sing and dance with limitless energy and sleep for a hundred hours. I feel hungry and full. I want my son to be a man and I want to shove him back into my uterus. These polar opposite emotions can drive me crazy but I’m slowly learning to embrace them and ride the waves. Being a mom is not simple and the complexities of raising a person stem from the paradoxes living inside of me.
I never understood what it meant to be proud before I had a kid. In a tepid way I was proud of myself and my accomplishments, and of my friends and family. Now, when I really look at my son I feel a rush of liquid oozing through my body, exploding out of my pores. My face gets hot and my vision gets blurry. I burst with pride. This total body experience was completely foreign and it took 11 months for me to identify it.
It may sound trivial, but I am in constant fear of getting sick. For most of the winter months my son has had some kind of cold ranging from innocuous sniffle to full-blown fever and phlegmy cough. Inevitably, I catch whatever he has and when I’m down the whole ship is down. I was never a hypochondriac but since becoming a mom the second I sense any physical ailment I go into panic mode. When I’m healthy I feel strong, confident and in control. When I’m sick, I’m helpless, incompetent and foggy.
I feel a strong push and a stronger pull. I feel a push to step aside in order for my son to develop a separate, individuated self. And I feel a pull to love him deeply, protect him, and encourage him so he can continue to grow.
I hope that Year 2 brings more serenity, peace and calm into my life. Realistically I know the toddler years will only bring more challenges, but also opportunities to expand in ways I never knew possible.