I don’t believe I’ve ever been officially diagnosed as obsessive compulsive, or maybe I’ve been diagnosed, but I don’t remember. Wouldn’t someone with OCD, remember a diagnosis like that?
I have always preferred even numbers over odd. I can’t explain why, but in 2006, (a nice, even year), I was scheduled to deliver my second daughter via cesarean section on December 13th. I decided it was time for me to stop worrying about odd numbers, let alone the “unlucky” number 13. Now, thanks to Charlotte, my second born, I have mostly embraced the number 13. Just don’t ask me to live on a 13th floor.
As of six minutes ago, I officially became the mother of a teenager. My first born, Juliette, was born on November 25th, after a horrific 13 hour labor that resulted in an emergency c-section. Today, is my first baby’s 13th birthday.
I think from the moment I became pregnant with Juliette, things were pretty awful. I had all day sickness for most of the pregnancy, and looked like Karl Malden
except with a more bulbous nose. While I’d heard of the pregnancy glow, I only had “heinous schvitz zits.” Even my friends, and many of them pregnant and gorgeous, looked at me and gently exclaimed,
Pam, you really took one for the team.
I was absolutely hideous during this pregnancy, but I was excited to meet my son, “Benjamin.” That’s what I called my enormous belly for almost nine months. I was sure I was having a boy. A mother just knows these things, you know.
When Juliette was born, I wasn’t awake. My then husband wasn’t with me. It was a real emergency. When I finally came to, I saw Juliette
and couldn’t believe how absolutely beautiful she was.
After Juliette was born, I couldn’t care for her. I was extremely sick. While I hated not being capable of caring for her at first, I was too sick to do anything about it.
After a few weeks, I finally got myself together physically and swiftly lost the “Malden look.” I fell in love with being Juliette’s Mom, but wasn’t necessarily comfortable with my identity being too wrapped up in being just Juliette’s Mom. Now I see the downright privilege being a mother is.
So much has happened in these 13 years. I have made mistakes and am destined to make more. I do think, however, that Juliette and I are well-suited to be matched as mother and daughter. She has more smarts, beauty and talent than almost anyone I know, but she also has some tricky traits that look very familiar to me. While I want more than anything, to be able to remove her pain, her fear, her self-doubt and self-loathing, I just can’t. This is her road, and while I try like any parent, to guide her, I can’t force her to go down the road I would choose for her.
I wanted to write Juliette a beautiful love letter for her 13th birthday, but every single time I tried, I’d begin to cry and not a pretty, graceful cry, but to the point of sobbing.
Some of the qualities I see in Juliette frighten me and especially as she gets older. I know what I put my own self through and even though she knows much of my story, it won’t keep her from making some of the same choices. Smarts, talent and beauty mean nothing if you don’t see these things in your own self, right?
When I was young, I was lovable but didn’t know it. Juliette is lovable but doesn’t know it. As much as we shower her with love and praise, it has to come from within her. I pray for that light bulb to go on in her, daily and sometimes hourly.
What I often tell both of my daughters, is that,
You are enough, just as you are, right now.
This is usually when Juliette rolls her eyes at me and exits. I still say it and will continue to say it. There is a sign with that message posted in our home that serves as a periodic reminder.
When she says (screams) she hates me, which is fairly often these days, I tell her I know it isn’t true at all and I remind her that I will always know that she loves me. I never want her to feel guilty for words she absolutely never means. Not only that, but I don’t want her to feel guilty at all, period.
I know when she is mean, and she can be very mean, she’s aware that I know that I’m enough, exactly as I am in any given moment. If she can learn this from my example, then I don’t think there’s anything more important that she can learn from me.
I love Juliette as much as I can love anyone, and many times, even on the days when we really struggle, we are enough, together, as mother and daughter. We are exactly as we should be at any given moment.
I love you, Juliette, exactly as you are. Happy 13th birthday. Love, Mommy