Fifteen years ago, at this very moment, I was holding a baby. He was nine hours old. We named him Asher Steven. “Asher” because Rob’s best man said it sounded like the name of a future great American novelist; “Steven” in honor of my deceased father.
Asher’s birth was “uneventful,” if it is possible to assign a word like that to the birth of a human and the initiation into parenthood.
About a week before Asher was born, my dear friend — at that time of seven years — had her first baby. When we learned that we’d be entering motherhood around the same time, I was happy she was “going first.” I’d be able to get her insights about the experience before undergoing it myself. While she would probably consider me “braver” than her, in early 2001, I was comforted by the idea that I’d have more “real information” when the time came for labor and delivery.
I can remember talking to her about the birth experience on the phone. (It was 2001 when people still did that sort of thing instead of texting.) I was sitting on my couch, phone propped on my right shoulder, both hands on my enormous belly. (I gained 40+ pounds with my 7 lbs. 10.5 ounce Asher.) My friend told me about the sights and smells and sensations of her son’s birth. It was all in excruciating detail: exactly what I wanted so that I could feel fully prepared.
Twelve days later, Asher was born. His entry into the world was very different from my friend’s son’s. By way of comparison of two hospital births, the two were on either ends of the continuum. Nevertheless, my friend’s telling of her tale helped me to approach my coming inevitability.
Last night, my friend came over for a few hours. We usually meet up half way between our homes as we live over an hour’s drive from each other. She was “in the neighborhood” because she was chauffeuring her 15 year old and his friend to a rap concert an hour and a half from her home.
When she walked in the door, I said, “It’s the Mother of the Year.”
She laughed, but I meant it. Her willingness to drive a couple of teenagers to a rap concert, wait around for several hours, retrieve them, and return them home safely is “above and beyond,” in my opinion.
She’s always been like that with her kids: not in a spoiling, helicoptering sort of way — more of an accessible, take-an-interest sort of way.
What’s been really neat for me over these fifteen years is having conversations about our specific experiences of parenting and not about our specific children. She doesn’t “know” Asher, and I don’t “know” her 15-year-old son. They don’t play on the same soccer team, go to the same school, or share any community experiences. Most of the conversations I have about parenting are with people who “know” my kids. With my Mother-of-the-Year friend, such is not the case. This has been of immeasurable valuable because it allows our focus to be actually about parenting and not about parenting to a specific child.
Fifteen years ago, my focus was on diapering, breastfeeding, and postpartum depression. Last night, she and I discussed what it feels like to begin to “let go,” how to talk honestly about sex, and what to do upon finding stolen, half-consumed beers.
Again, the talk was about our existential adult experiences in the raising of a child without the added, complicating awareness of who that “other” child is by way of temperament and personality.
I am grateful for my initiation into the ranks of “mother” fifteen years ago today and for the presence of a witness not so much to my child’s growth but to evolution of me as a parent.