Before I gave birth, many people told me that my life would change the moment this kid arrived. Some said I would feel a bond like no other, that love would essentially cascade out of every pore in my body. Others told me I would be overcome with emotion, that my protective instincts would immediately kick in. None of this happened for me. After being in labor for 25 hours, having a resident tell me that the first 12 hours didn’t count (yes, I nearly killed her), having my water broken manually, being placed on Pitocin to assist with the contractions, getting an epidural that did not help ANY of my breakthrough pain, spiking a fever, and being exceptionally concerned that my son would go into distress, I was simply exhausted when he finally arrived. Apparently, so was he. That was the last night he slept all the way through until he turned 1.
He came out at 9 lbs and 8 oz. He’s remained a big kid since. From the moment he arrived, he’s eaten like a champ. I breast fed him until 6 months. At night, I was up every three hours. It was brutal. I was exhausted. Learning to be a parent, struggling to be a spouse and trying to return to work drained me daily. I couldn’t tell you how I felt about my son, or my husband, or even myself most days because my exhaustion eclipsed all sensation. I wish I could say otherwise, but some days are just blurs. I only know on what day he first turned over, and the day he began to walk because my husband videotaped both events. Good Lord.
Despite all of the things I didn’t do, all of the blurry memories, every moment of exhaustion, somewhere in those small moments, this kid and I built a bond that will never be broken. When he FINALLY began to sleep and I emerged from my stupor, I realized those instincts, those emotions blossomed while I was on autopilot. Throughout all of that, he crawled right into my heart.
Seemingly connected by invisible strings, he knows when I am balanced and when I am out of sorts. He knows when to hug me and when to give me distance. Make no mistake. He is 7, which means a great deal of the time video games, sports and superheroes are his primary conversation topics. I still don’t know the difference between a Marvel superhero and a DC superhero, which gets me in trouble routinely. With this noted, he’s completely on my frequency.
Initially, I worried when I didn’t feel as others said I should right out of the gate. As I look back, I realize I unfairly questioned myself. The bond forms when the bond forms. For some, it might be immediate. Mine took time. In the midst of exhaustion and chaos, diapers and formula, spit up and giggles, we built that bond. Here is the truth: it can’t be forced, and it is always created.
When we went for ice cream this past Sunday, he dabbed a bit above and below his lips, Turning to me with a big smile on his face, he then asked, “What do you think?”
As I laughed, and that string between us thrummed, I said in response, “Perfect, pal. Just perfect.”
Just before I went into third grade, I went to a summer camp near my house. A girl my age named Mollie and I were in gymnastics together, which was one of the camp activities offered. After gymnastics on one nondescript day, Mollie turned to me and said, “You know, your nose flares when you speak.” I was mortified and speechless. Another girl stood by as Mollie said this to me. She and Mollie giggled to themselves as they walked away.
Being 8-years-old, I didn’t have the equipment to respond to this comment. I had never been unkind to Mollie. Rather, I’d tried to befriend her. Instead of being kind to me, she appeared to delight in making me feel small and insecure. Thankfully, she and I did not go to the same school, so I only had to deal with Mollie at summer camp. I avoided her after this exchange.
A few years later, my eldest male cousin decided that my nose looked like a ski jump. For the remainder of my tween and teen years, he and his siblings referred to me as “Ski Jump.” Again, finding myself mortified because of descriptors related to my nose, I withdrew when my cousins showed up. To my dismay, we spent every holiday with those cousins. Thankfully, the nickname fell away around the time I went to college.
Obviously, these unkind but truthful comments have never left me. Over the years, as I processed how I felt, I realized those comments were factually correct. I also came to understand that they could have been delivered more kindly, or not at all. Absent those circumstances, I eventually would have realized that my nose is pointy and that my nares flare when I speak. I didn’t need the words to be delivered as they were - in a cutting, hurtful manner.
Some people use facts as weapons. Under circumstances like those above, the delivery is meant to be unkind and disabling. The deliverer will likely want to you believe that the fact is pure and unadulterated. You are not required to believe this. You are smart enough to detect this lie and address it directly.
If you find yourself in a circumstance similar to one of the above, try this: thank the deliverer for his or her comments. Praise your own attributes. Disarm the deliverer by owning what is yours.
Follow your nose.
Greek mythology tells the story of Sisyphus, who, in broad strokes, was condemned to continually roll a rock up a hill in Hell because he cheated death. Although few on Earth will ever be held accountable by Hades, I suspect some of you have felt like Sisyphus at one time or another. I know I certainly have.
Reasons abound for why you might feel, or have felt, like Sisyphus. Perhaps you are having difficulty at work, or are having difficulty with a relationship. Perhaps you feel stuck in a situation and have not yet figured out how to change it. Perhaps you’ve experienced a loss and are struggling with the emotional tidal wave. Without a doubt, all of these circumstances can make you feel like Sisyphus. Up the hill you push that huge rock, only to lose your footing, causing you to lose control of the rock. Helplessly, you then watch the rock roll back down the hill.
Overcome with anger, grief, helplessness or despair (choose your Gremlin), you might find yourself questioning everything. Many of us have been in that exact place (which might give you a moment of solace).
How do you change this circumstance? How can you operate differently so you feel more like Athena or Hercules and less like Sisyphus? Now, hang on. This is where the answer is simple, but, for a moment, the path gets a bit more difficult.
You must change.
You: Arguh. Are you kidding?
Me: Nope. Not kidding.
TRUTH: We can only control ourselves. Although we have the ability to influence others, we have the absolute power to control just one person – ourself.
By making one change, even if it is ever so small, the situation changes. You stop repeating history and start writing history. You stop making yourself subject to the circumstance and you make the circumstance different.
In this space, I can’t cover every circumstance to which this analogy applies. However, I can make clear that you aren’t required to carry the weight of another unless you choose to do so. Similarly, you are entirely able to let go of weight that is holding you back.
Here is my suggestion: if that rock needs to move or be moved and your efforts have not been successful, try a different tactic.
Drop the rock.