Dear Old Friend,
Our mutual friend, she knows you better than I do. I’ve known you longer, but she knows you better.
I’ve loved you longer.
Although there were years where we didn’t talk, years where we lost each other’s phone numbers, a span of time in which our lives may have been too different to align . . .
I still loved you.
We were little girls together. We got our periods together. We practiced gymnastics routines in my backyard together. We gossiped and fought and got drunk for the first time, together. We refilled the bottles from the liquor cabinet with water so your Mom wouldn’t notice the levels were lower. We went jet skiing and purposely sent some asshole kid out into the water on a ski we knew was broken. We laughed from the shore. We stole hair dye from the grocery store and fried our hair in my bathroom. We got boyfriends. We lost our virginity. We went with each other to Planned Parenthood for birth control. We were smart girls. We were strong. We got in fights with our parents and showed up on each other’s doorsteps crying. We wore matching dresses to homecoming. We sat on the floor of the bathroom together for hours painting our nails, deep conditioning our hair and listening to Da Brat. We got driver’s licenses and drove around downtown smoking weed.
We grew up.
We grew apart.
And now you’re about to have your first baby. A baby that for most of your life you were unsure you’d ever have.
We’re talking again. I don’t want you to think it’s only because of the baby.
It is because of you.
I’ve missed you, but I knew up until now you probably couldn’t relate to me. Maybe I’m wrong about that. If so, I’m sorry, I should have been there.
I know how hard this is going to be for you, because it was hard for me. I longed for it, and it was still hard for me. I know the ways in which it will rock you because I knew you as a girl.
I know you, even after all these years. I’m here for you.
You know me too, by the way. In a way no one else ever will. Because at one point in our lives we told each other everything. Everything.
I have been warned not to “scare you,” not to overload you with information. I have anyway, I cannot help it. It’s in my nature to talk too damn much. I have a compulsion to share information. Yes, I know what an annoying personality quality this is. But you already knew that about me, now didn’t you?
I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you, but shit’s about to get overwhelming and I’ll be here.
When we spoke on the phone the other day I told you there was no possible way to prepare for motherhood. I cannot tell you what it will be like. I can only tell you what it was like for me. You probably don’t really care about what happened to me, about my experience. You will have your own. But incase you’re wondering what it felt like, well, this is the only way I know how to explain it:
You will think back to when you didn’t have kids and your brain will insert them into memories. You’ll remember a trip to Mexico and for a split second you’ll think, oh where was he? Then you’ll remember, Oh, he wasn’t born yet. And this concept will seem impossible. The idea of a time and place, a universe in which they didn’t exist. You will feel deeply as if they were always with you. And this will feel spiritual and cyclical in a way that will make you believe in the possibility of fate, reincarnation, God, whatever. You will look at their face and it will seem familiar in a way that transcends place and time.
I look at my children and I see my parents, and grandparents and old worn out black and white photographs of relatives that died long before I arrived. I look at my baby girl frown and I see my husband and I, but I also see the corners of her mouth turned down the exact same way her grandmother looked on her deathbed. I see them all in their faces. As my father once said of my son, “I look at his face and I feel like I’m looking at a face I’ve seen everyday for my entire life.”
I would often rock my son to sleep as a baby and gaze upon his face and have the vivid feeling that my grandmother did this same thing with this same boy. I felt connected in a way that I never thought possible. As my Mother once told me, “Having children will make you understand that you are truly just one link in a very long chain.”
It gave me compassion for my parents and all the mistakes they made just trying to do what was best with the tools their parents had given them. Sometimes they didn’t have the right tools. Sometimes I don’t either. I wept, flooded with a love I now understood they felt for me.
At night I rock a baby girl that looks like me. I put her blonde hair up in pig tails and look in her giant blue eyes and I know how my mother felt about me. Loving my daughter is loving myself, but it is also loving my mother, and her mother.
This is the thing, mothering your babies will drain you of everything. But the love for one’s child is a form of self love. I love them. They are me.
I love me.
I didn’t always love me.
I see so much of me in my babies. I see things in them I used to hate about myself. I realize they were born that way, and I must have been too. I forgive myself my flaws by loving theirs.
I held my infant son and sang “Beautiful Boy” to him with tears streaming down my face. I thought of my aunt (the most loving mother) who lost a son when he was fifteen. I relived his death with my newfound perspective and sobbed in the living room unable to breath as I nursed my own boy.
My heart ripped wide open and there was no putting it back together.
Your heart is going to break my friend, for the most beautiful possible reason.