Cutting the umbilical cord swiftly, it turns out, is not necessary for baby health, and it may deprive the baby of valuable blood supply.
I knew as soon as my baby boy was from my womb untimely ripp’d (“untimely” in the sense of “after 40+ hours of labor”) that the process of maternal differentiation would be a long, slow, delivery.
My own differentiation from my mother took a long time, and didn’t really take off in full until I became a mother. I spent my thirties in a state of recurrent if not perpetual irritation, and it wasn’t until my mother got breast cancer that I returned to her side to deal with the fear of losing her company forever.
That doesn’t mean I’ve remained cleaved to her one remaining breast. We maintain a fair amount of separation in our lives, though I dispute her claim of a few years back that I’m not interested in her. I think of her daily and know full well that she’s out there, to be either taken for granted or trusted, depending on one’s perspective.
I keep waiting for my kids, teenagers now, to reject me and everything I stand for. L, who has been snarky and clever since around the time he could speak, will occasionally burst out with a parodic whine: “You don’t know me, Mom! You don’t know anything about me!”
Really, I don’t, but really, I know everything. I’m not going to reveal all the secrets I know, but I do know that at 18, he still asks for parenting, in a way I was not comfortable asking, though I needed it just as much.
These thoughts are coming up not so much because Mother’s Day is right around the corner (still not too late to rush out and buy some standard gift package that shows Mother how much you care based on how much you pay!), but because L is taking a step tomorrow that will ritually launch him into the adult world.
Tomorrow, he will read a thesis to his school community arguing that he is ready for the adult world. If his community agrees, they will vote to grant him a diploma.
This is in many ways more significant than the graduation ceremony itself, three weeks hence. This is a test of strength and bravery, to stand up before your friends, teachers, and relatives, asking them to believe that the little boy whose first choice for a school thirteen years ago was based on the colors and types of Legos in the classroom, is ready for a world he knows little about.
How could he possibly know? I don’t know, and I’ve been living in this world for a theoretically long time.
I had my first job at 15. He has yet to have a “job job,” though he’s had paid acting and stagehand jobs.
I moved across the country the week before I turned 18. He turned 18 five months ago and has indicated that he’s comfortable living at home for the foreseeable future (the money from those theater jobs not being enough to sustain the startup costs of moving out).
He doesn’t drive a car. I got my license “late” at age 17, which made sense as I didn’t live in a household with a car.
And so on. These behavioral signs of maturity aren’t there, though outwardly, my bearded 6’5” boy can buy cigarettes, vote, and be convicted as an adult (though they’d have to catch him first).
Tomorrow, I will watch him stand up and deliver his first essay to the world. It is highly likely he will be elected diploma-ready by a landslide, as no one from his school who has made a presentation has yet been denied. Plus, it’s him. Plus, though I haven’t read the essay (a draft of which was left behind carelessly on the dining room table today, radiating temptation), he talked to me about it, and I gave him my best writing-teacher advice, with just a pinch of mothering thrown in.
My motherhood wet dream is to be directly acknowledged in his essay as a contributor to his up-growing. Whatever he says, though, will be right, and will be sufficient. I see myself in the audience tomorrow, holding my breath, holding my husband’s hand, holding a box of tissues, holding space for L to enter into the adult sphere as if he were crossing an invisible threshold from which there was no return.
Like differentiation, though, there is no such threshold. There is one day, and another, and another, and there is looking back over time and seeing how you’ve changed in ways that matter so much internally and so little to others who’ve seen how you are since you started moving from the inside out.
Once in a while I get a gas bubble that reminds me of the way it feels when a baby moved inside my body.
I get all misty-eyed, and then I fart.