Today I am 31 years old.
When I was 28, on the verge of turning 29, I spoke to a professor of my fears of entering the last year of my 20s, because 29 evenutally led to 30 and all that. She told me not to worry about entering the realm of Dirty Thirty because Thirty-One(derful) was just around the corner.
And here I am.
I spent my 30th birthday with my husband and mom. We went to lunch and to see Up. I was hugely pregnant and uncomfortably swollen, but I knew I would meet our little boy soon. I was scheduled to be induced the day after my birthday, and I was very nervous and anxious about it. After our day out, we had dinner with Roy's family, and I was having mild contractions and cramping. I kept hoping I would go into labor on my own, but sadly, that never happened.
I knew, even before it came to pass, that this past year would be hard. I knew that becoming a mother would change me forever. Because everyone tells you when you're about to have your first baby that your life will never be the same. It's something that you can somewhat understand, but you can't really know it until you do it. I had no idea what I was in for. I had prepared as best I could, but nothing could have prepared me. You can have the perfect nursery, a closet full of freshly washed baby clothes, and a car seat in the backseat of your car, but none of that really means anything.
When I came to after being put under general anesthesia for my c-section, it was like swimming upward toward an unknown land. I saw my husband holding our son, and I will never for the rest of my life forget that moment. It's clearer to me than the first time I held Charlie. It was the most wonderful sight, but it broke my heart in a thousand pieces. I was so proud of myself: I had grown that perfect, beautiful baby. But as my labor stalled and I ended up in the OR, I had failed him - and myself.
I was broken.
The incision on my lower abdomen, even as it healed and became a light pink scar, was a constant reminder that I had missed one of the most important moments in my life - and Charlie's life: his birth. I never got to hear his first cry or see him straight out of the womb. We never got a moment to be together, just the three of us, basking in the glow of our new family. Instead, it was pure alienation: bright hospital lights, a steady stream of visitors that I tried my hardest to look happy for, and a baby that screamed so loudly it tore the marrow right out of my bones.
Over the course of this past year, I've been working towards putting the pieces of my shattered heart back together. The work has been so difficult. There have been so many times that I've wanted to give up, times when I have been so positive that everyone would be better off without me. There is nothing worse than the feeling that you are a failure as a mother - and as a person. I have had to constantly remind myself that the pain is worth it and that I am doing my best. And it is. And I am. Today I run my fingers over my cesarean scar and know that because I have it, I have learned so many things.
This year I have learned compassion. I have learned love. I have learned family. I have learned how to let go. I have learned that there is no such thing as balance, not a balance that can be maintained day after day. Life is just too fickle, and I am just a woman. One woman.
I have learned to trust myself. To stop giving others the ultimate authority over deciding who I am and what is best for me. To realize the truth of what's throbbing in my heart and squirming around in my guts. I have stopped looking to others for the answers. I have stopped denying my own wisdom. And so I look deep within myself, and I see her: woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, child.
Survivor. This year I've been through a war. A war between the mother I am and the mother I thought I would be. A war between the birth I wanted and the birth I got. A war between the thrill of happiness and the depths of depression. I have had such wonderful cheerleaders on my side as I've mucked my way through; I've made so many phone calls, sent so many emails and texts, and reached out through this blog, and every time I have been received as a person, not a failure.
Thank you. I could not have done it without your support.
Tonight I will put Charlie to bed for the last time as a baby, knowing that in the morning he will wake up a toddler. I will do this knowing that I am leaps and bounds away from the woman who swam upward towards her son (and her new life) one year ago.
31, I am ready for you. Happy (re)birthday to me.