He came like fire.
I was there for all of it, yet I was someplace else too. As he was coming into this world another opened up for me and for a while I existed in both. The memories flow inside me in a lucid place where time and space do not function in organized rhythm, but move as passion does, a wild beat that pulls you into itself.
There was a softness to him that went beyond the feel of his skin and a warmth that penetrated my being. He was placed into my arms, my husband cradling us both, I felt his tiny, peaceful, trusting self, and a rush of awe. It was like holding a hummingbird. Immediately, this infinitesimal creature pulled me to stretch beyond myself. To be brave. At this, the fear I carried with a firm grip during my pregnancy wilted and I relented. Yes, I would be brave, I would stretch beyond every limit I believed I had.
He is my son and it took me three days to speak aloud the name I had long known I would call him. “Finnegan” I would eventually whisper in the dark of the night.
My husband was proud, I was shy, and we were both deeply in love. This little newborn fit easily in the palm of his Papa’s hand, with legs tucked in, his body was cradled in the palm while the tips of Kendall’s fingers held his head. Everything about Finn was impossibly small: his fingers, toes and nails, those little lips and ears. I couldn’t believe body parts came in this size. I was unsure how to hold him.
I moved through these days as if everything I loved was made of glass. There should have been rituals, baths, and prayers to hold us in this moment. Voices lowered in reverence. Somehow others did not understand that these days were sacred. Instead there was a steady intrusion of the loud and domineering.
The other world closed up and I felt abandoned to this one alone.
The birth of my son was to take a long, epic journey in the dark only to wake and find that I was right where I started. What I had, as I moved through that dark, magical world, was a grand life experience, one lost to all others and confounding to translate. These moments tend to bring perspective; they manage to distill our lives down to their simplest elements. They let us see clearly what is important, uncluttered by the details of life. What I brought back with fervent clarity was that I was going to love my son. I became committed to this over everything else.
I was disheartened to find that those moments don’t transform life, they merely show us where we want to go. My husband still had his struggles, I still had mine, and we still had ours. I was distraught to learn that the path to my heart’s simplest desires was so impossibly hard. But, if I wanted to get there I just had to do the work.
The struggle wasn’t in loving Finn, but translating my love to behavior. It was in learning to slow myself down; letting go of hurts and moving on; looking at what I did have, not what was missing; taking responsibility for my thoughts, emotions, and actions. I struggled with all this and more. I didn’t know how to do any of it, yet I wanted to learn to do all of it because I loved my son. Most of the challenges of parenting are the many opportunities it gives me to grow as a person. Love in all its forms urges us to be our better selves; relationships highlight our weaknesses and love gives us the desire to do something about them.
The years that followed were distressingly difficult, filled with heartache, regret, loneliness, and instability. Sometimes it felt as though we would never make it through. I feared I was doing everything wrong and sometimes I was. It is humbling to be a human and even more so to be one trying to drastically change their life. I look back at all my mistakes and my stomach turns with shame. It is in these moments that I remind myself of what I did: everyday I woke up attempting to take a new a road when all I knew was the old one. I chose to learn and change.
I kept reminding myself of what I glimpsed when he was first born: light and beauty, joy and love, a life that was peaceful and steady for all of us. At first, I thought I that I needed to get back there. That that was the goal. If I could just recapture that feeling, everything would be okay. Eventually, I realized the goal wasn’t to capture that moment, but to have the capacity to create more moments filled with light, beauty, joy, and love. Each their own, only to be had for that time, experienced with gratitude, and let go. It was also to accept the times of turmoil, understand them with a spirit of grace for each of us involved, and slog our way through it. It was realizing that none of us make changes to our life simply based on desire, we have to be willing to put forth the effort, to choose over and over to do it differently. It’s then that change happens, that new roads are forged. It changes slowly, with great effort, over time.