Dirty faced babies running outside in the sunshine, and all but one is mine. Oh, he’s mine on some level, same grin and orneriness, same hair… the grandbaby runs, transfixed on his Uncle Eli, all of 3 years old, copying every move, and Eli plays, alternately miffed at the intrusion of attention lost, and loving the adoration and company. It’s so much different than the life that we plan out, isn’t it? I sit poised on the edge of 40, no time to worry about wrinkles with the multitude of children, and ponder what’s gone on. But one huge difference still affects each of my days-my son. I was given a son at the age of 16. I knew nothing. I had babysat, but that is NOT the same. (Can I get an amen?)
My entire life from that day forward would be changed in that instant. Who knew? Babies stay! They live and breathe and need and love and hurt and cry and later, babies grow up and do things you want to save them from, knowing full well that their paths will be chosen only by them, not the mama. I watched as my boy walked through an unplanned, young pregnancy, and remembered firsthand the lonlieness, and fear that accompanies that choice. He is a good Daddy, but wistful for how things would have been different, as I had.
The heartbreak that comes when you have to hand that baby to your almost inevitable “ex” for the weekend (if there is someone around), the time you miss, the time you want to hand them to someone but it is only you… so overwhelming. And not the way it was supposed to be. I can remember clearest the way that the birth could not be celebrated, there was shame involved. Oh, we got happy, and made plans, and Mom got the grandbaby that she would never have known otherwise, having passed on at the age of 55, but the nagging lack of sheer joy was always there. That concern for what the neighbors thought, commingled with guilt over being in this position in the first place.
I know that I was not alone in that. I heard about a National Mother’s Day Baby Shower. I took in the idea that another girl, just like me, would be handed a beautifully wrapped present, a gift for that baby on the way, a joyfully presented lovingly chosen gift for that new little baby to start it’s new little life. That wrapping paper with the footprints on it may be the only joy ever associated with that impending arrival. I imagine her for a moment holding that precious gift atop of her belly and smiling big. Someone loves this baby like I do.