Over twenty years ago I made a promise that is utterly beyond me to break. I sometimes think of it as a contract, but that doesn’t work because the others involved had no choice.
Over twenty years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. I had chosen to get pregnant because I wanted to be a parent. I have noticed over the years when I have been talking to others that there is a difference between what I wanted and what some others wanted. I have friends who wanted a baby and have then felt conflicting emotions about their child’s ongoing needs, demands and time-taking capacity as they have grown. I didn’t want a baby, I wanted a person.
I knew from my first decision to get pregnant that I was making an unbreakable commitment to a person who I hadn’t met yet. I knew that in becoming a parent, I was promising to always put my offspring first in any way that I could. The depth of my commitment scared the whatsits out of me but I knew there were going to be no half measures.
While I was wrestling with all of the fears of how to cope with parenthood, I had my first scan. I didn’t know what to expect but I soon became aware that the silence was too long. We had seen the heartbeat, so I squashed down the fears and stayed icily calm.
They had found anomalies in my baby’s heart. They couldn’t say what it meant. We had to go to a specialist fetal cardiac unit. We had to wait a week for the appointment.
In that week, I learnt that without doubt I would always put my child first. That week stripped my soul bare and laid any hints of the self-centred thoughts about holidays, social life etc under the spotlight. In that week, I measured up what I need and what I needed to do for my child and my needs and my child, and now my children win every time.
Those anomalies are still there, but fortunately they proved to be benign.
I do feel occasional bouts of envy when I see the freedom, the spontaneity, the lack of complication that others have. Those bouts of envy are short lived and about short opportunities. I would not swap my responsibilities and my commitments for them.
My children are growing. My eldest is an adult. The ways they need me change. They will always be my priority and in a few years time, when their needs have changed and they grow into their spaces in the world, I will still be naughty and happy and ready to grab those short opportunities as well as loving the long lasting ones. In a few years time, putting their needs first will include watching them soar into adulthood from a little more distance than I have now. When that time comes, the space and time will be mine. Until then, the largest part of my space and time and soul is being there for them.