My job as a mother is simple: I’m raising my son to best prepare him to leave me. That is neither hyperbole nor future-tripping. It is simple pragmatism.
On nature’s dictate, we separate from our parents even before the moment of our first breath. It was an occasion I’d imagined many times while pregnant, shedding tears in the shower as I shaved my legs. Come on, Allison, my obstetrician said in her New York accent during this fantasy. One more push. Then my child would appear with the requisite tears and joy, my husband cutting the cord with ceremony if a slight amount of squeamishness.
It didn’t exactly work that way. Instead Baz was born by unplanned Cesarean section, butt first, grayish, Apgar score of four in the first minute. There was no time for ceremony. Instead they whisked him off and gave him air. I was doped up and less than half-aware; the round of congratulations that made its way around the room was my first alert that my child had emerged. Yet emerge he had, not merely out of me but disconnected from my body, never to rejoin.
How to reconcile the split?
Here’s the simultaneous good and bad news: I’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice. My son is only five months old, but I’ve already seen how he pushes against me, aching to become his own person, free of my ministrations. I place him on my chest and he presses upward with surprising strength until the only connection between us is his feet and a lengthening line of drool. I move to kiss him and he giggles before turning away. To him development is nothing more than a game, a folly that for right now constitutes his entire existence. He doesn’t yet understand what I know all too well: together we face a series of dissolutions, mini-divorces, endings large and small.
It is my goal to practice, and practice well. It is my responsibility to shed those tears, to not only endure that pulling-away but to foster it. It is my dream for my son to come full circle by creating a connection with others, to discover new love and new life, and to bring all the lessons I offer to bear in the process. This is all I can do, and it is everything I can provide.