Before the days of ultrasounds and 3D imaging, I was left wondering if I would have a son or a daughter. When I became pregnant, there were no expectations of knowing until I could hear my doctor proclaim at the time of birth, “You have a boy” or “You have a girl.”
I don’t recall a secret desire for either. I just wanted a healthy baby. People told me they predicted a girl, something about the way I carried the growing life nestled under my heart. Some were convinced and gave me dresses at the baby shower given by the ladies of my church.
When I consider the morning sickness that lasted all day long, the girth of my belly, the stretch marks, the pain of labor and eventual C-section, it was all worth it. Seeing that beautiful round head as my doctor announced, “It’s a boy” veiled everything else.
The first time the nurse brought my son to the room and placed him in my arms, his eight pounds felt like the weight of the world. Realization hit me that I was responsible for this child. How could God trust me this much and was it really such a good idea?
I hoped to parent as I had been parented, with patience and kindness, lovingly nurturing my son and teaching him the ways of a world brand new to him. I failed a lot.
I was determined he would not be a shy child like I had been. I didn’t understand introversion, extroversion or personality types. What I knew was how I’d suffered from being painfully withdrawn. So I encouraged him to speak up, say hello, don’t hide behind.
One day while riding an elevator, this small boy of mine was friendlier to strangers than I was, and I knew I had nothing to do with that. This was who he was. His very own personality was blossoming before my eyes. I would discover him rather than make him into someone I thought he should be.
More than anything I wanted him to know Jesus loved him and to learn to love Him back. We went to church a lot. I read Bible stories. We talked about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I tried to point him in the direction of the cross while being woefully imperfect at modeling Christ-like character. I prayed for him.
When it became apparent that he would be our only living child, I packed away the dolls, small china dishes, a little bed and high chair my dad made for me, things saved in case we had a daughter.
We made room for trains and guns, matchbox cars and star wars figures, drum sets and bikes that let him do tricks down our lane as he called, “Watch this, mom” over and over.
I stayed up hours at night with him to help with homework. I walked the halls of the school, confronting teachers and going to bat for him, mustering courage that didn’t come naturally to me. I fought for my son, my inner mama bear emerging if I thought he was being treated unfairly.
He grew into a handsome teenager and girls looked his way. I turned over the keys to my recently acquired, new-to-me blue Nissan Maxima so he could take his date to the prom. He never knew how often I stood at the window watching him drive away from the house, praying for his safety, that he would return home in one piece.
I tucked him into bed as long as he would let me. Sometimes after a tiring day of working a job and working a home, he’d be in the mood to talk, and I knew these were precious moments. I hope I patiently listened despite my weariness. I hope that’s what he remembers more than when I was in a rush, was frustrated or short tempered.
He became and man and chose a wife, and I knew things were going to be different for me. I determined I would love the other woman in his life. I also understood I had been displaced from being the most important one.
Years fly by, as they do. Time, distance, and circumstances have taken us on our own paths. He isn’t close enough to drop by for a cup of coffee like he once did. But when he calls, my world lights up. His laughter is sweet like honey. He probably doesn’t realize how his voice on the other end of of my smart phone is sunshine on what might be an otherwise cloudy day.
As I look back over the years since his birth, I see how his very first tottering baby steps were leading him toward independence. His first day of school, learning to drive, finding a job, going to college, all of that was designed to take my baby boy into adulthood, toward becoming a man able to stand on his own. Had I considered it, I might not have been so anxious for him to learn to walk.
After I sent my boy a picture of the birthday box I mailed on Tuesday, he texted that he had forgotten. My response was, “I remember. I always remember you, your birth, your life.”
I identify with Isaiah 49:15 where God describes his love for Zion like this:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.
How could I forget how he changed my life forever? How could I forget the child I loved when I only barely knew he existed? How could I forget this one who is always in my thoughts and prayers? I cannot forget.
I find it beautiful that the Creator gave us the privilege of sharing in the creation of life so we could understand on a smaller scale His magnificent, ever-faithful, unconditional love.
It’s my boy’s birthday today, and I thought of him first thing this morning, before I plugged in the peculator, before I washed my face or prepared to read my Bible. I thought of him. I can’t help but think of him. He is part of me in a way too mystifying to understand.
He has children of his own now and we have an understanding between us. His love for them mirrors my love for him. We get it, this inexplicable attachment and devotion, going deep into the heart and soul of us.
I heard this recently, that the heart has secrets no language can ever express. Indeed it does. For I will never be able to describe in words how I feel about this boy of mine.
Let it be enough to say, he is my son and I love him.