To my lion-hearted son, Noah,
You were asleep in my arms. Your sweet body cradled next to mine, your tender breathing pulling your chest in and out in perfect rhythm. I nestled you closer. I shut my eyes and pressed my lips against your cheek. I stopped rocking for a brief moment to listen for Zoe in the other room, I wanted to make sure all was well with her so that I could steal away just a few more quiet moments alone with you – sleeping soundly, so perfect and tender – my beautiful son. It was that moment, in the golden quiet of the afternoon, and as if God himself spoke the words “let there be light,” that understanding came to me.
I have struggled to feel a sense of wonder and contentment as your mother. All those endless months of screaming were like a dull knife – slashing my confidence into a very slim existence of mothering. When I held you in quiet moments, those difficult memories, and the emotions that were so deeply entangled with the recollection of your worst days, haunted me. I truly felt stricken.
I knew the signs, and I had them, so I began to research PTSD and how to treat it. I told your father of my experience and expressed my need for support and help. He gently allowed me to share – to empty out my steeping brew of discouragement. His listening was so valuable to my soul. I felt like each heavy word I spoke aloud was a captive bird released from my rusty cage of mother-shame; my confessions brought me closer to healing, closer to your father, and closer to you.
And then, on that quiet afternoon while I rocked you to sleep, I had a revelation of my love for you. It was so subtle that I almost feel I cannot call it a revelation – but rather, a discovery – like searching for an object in a room that has been there all along; at the tip of my fingers yearning to be found.
Sweet Noah Luke, I understand now that I’ll never love you like I love Zoe. And this has been my greatest mistake in parenting you so far – to think that I would, or rather, that I should. Not only a mistake to you, but to my own confidence as a mother. Noah, I will love you like I love you, and that love for you is like no other thing, meant for no other person, and created for nothing else but your heart. This love is not to be compared and not to be given to anyone but you.
With each child different expressions of love, different sounds of love, different mechanics of love will arrive. Yet, and this is important, while the look and feel of my love may vary between my children, the intensity and measure of my love for each of you remains the same.
This is the beautiful mystery of mothering that has taken me a full year of wrestling with to finally realize. This mystery, this revelation, has silenced the haunting of my soul. No more guilt, and no more striving. My soul is liberated from my own accusing finger. Because I now know, without question, I am in love with you, son. It is a love that looks, and feels, and smells totally and wonderfully different from the first time I fell in love with a child born from my body, but it is a powerful and equal force of love all the same. I am fiercely protective of this love for you, Noah.
As I stand on the edge of your first year of life, I can see that you are iron sharpening my heart and coal cleansing my lips. Your arrival has required sacrifice, strength, commitment and steadfastness. This first year with you has revealed my humanity and need for grace and mercy – from you, from your dad, from your sister, from my closest community, from myself - and in my most quiet secret hours, I asked for mercy and grace from God.
This realization is my reckoning and my peace. I understand that you are the strongest wind in my life – I can do nothing but unfold the sails of my heart and hold steady my soul - for this kind of love between a mother and her son is not a bright flame, it is a slow burn. It is the smoldering, intense embers of love oozing like honey from the hive, heady and sweet and dripping with myrrh.
Today, Noah, you are a year old. Happy birthday to my lion-hearted son. You have made me courageous. Thank you.
I love you completely and recklessly,