My son cried all night, inconsolably, for the first two years of his life. I was exhausted; never sleeping at night; trying to work during the day. I felt there was no way I could possibly have a second child. I did not think I could survive a second child. And yet, every time I decided that there would not be a second child, I could not stop crying. A friend suggested to me that perhaps a second child was written into my script; that it was something I was meant to do in this life; a contract made with myself before I was born. Nineteen years later, I have two children; one is 21 and the other is 18; and I cannot imagine my life without either one of them. But I also see the lessons that each has offered me.
My son taught me about the limits of my beliefs. When he was born, I had separated from my parents and re-built myself out of beliefs collected as a young adult. I called myself a feminist, a socialist, an environmentalist and a Pagan. I worked for the labour movement. I studied with a Shaman. I gave birth at home with a midwife. I breast-fed on demand. I would not let my children cry without being picked up. I would not use disposable diapers. I made my own baby food. Trying to be super-woman with no sleep almost put me over the edge.
My son’s sleeplessness in the first years of his life taught me about the messiness of life; about the things that are beyond our control; about the limits of our beliefs. Those years taught me that, while beliefs may be beautiful, clean and crystalline, they are often fragile and unrealistic, untempered by life. This was a lesson I needed to learn.
My daughter taught me about healing. When my daughter was born, I felt I had been stripped to the bone; raw and exposed. She came along like a salve for my soul. My daughter is the merger; the diplomat and the counsellor. She hangs on to friends and family and belongings with both hands clenched. She is loyal and accepting; compassionate and loving. When she was little, she would come into my room each morning, rub her chubby hands on my face, and say, “I love you mommy!” When I would get mad with her as a little girl, she would deliver me hand-written notes that said, “I love you Mommy even when you are mad at me.” My daughter has given me the unconditional love that I had never known as a child.
I look back on the young woman who did not think she could survive two children and I see so clearly the important role that each of my children has played in my growth and development. I see how much more I like and love myself today than I did back then, and I know that much of that has to do with each of them. In those moments, I “know” that there was a contract that I made with myself before I was born, and that both of these children I love were part of it.