Cinco amigas cheias de criatividade e pontos de vista diferentes.
Having him changed my life. And not in small ways either. He transformed it completely to the point where not a single aspect remains untouched.
Some of these changes are wonderful. When he was only a few months old, I would wake up in the middle of the night to make sure he was breathing properly. I would watch him sleep, hypnotized by his abundant baby fat. Whenever he learned something new my husband and I would exchange knowing glances and praise that tiny occurrence as if it were a major accomplishment. In all honesty, we still do that.
And speaking of my husband, if you were to ask me how often I hear him sigh and say something like, “Look at our beautiful son,” I would reply: daily. Sometimes I lay my head down next to him just to catch a whiff of his scent, the most delightful scent in the world. For the past two years and three months, getting home has become the best part of my day because I’m greeted with unconditional love and affection. And when my husband arrives my son’s elation is tenfold. “Daddy’s home” has it’s own ritual with an accompanying theme song at our home.
The smallest things are now enchanting. The sound of him walking around the house is comforting music to my ears. I feel an even greater rush of love when he starts kissing me for no apparent reason. I’m addicted to observing his reaction when I bring home a new toy. He literally jumps for joy! He always rummages through my purse because he knows that’s where I hide his surprise gifts. When he learns the name of a new stuffed animal I beam with pride.
Mother and Father’s Day are such magical dates when we have children of our own. Yes, they are also rewarding celebrations when we assume solely the role of the child – regardless of our age – and treat our parents to a special day. However, there is something so singular about waking up on Mother’s Day and having the chance to hug and kiss that small and chubby being who loves you above all else. There aren’t words to describe what it’s like knowing that that tiny life exists in the world, has a specific story, and has that structure because you (and your husband) decided to start a family. Obviously, I select the gifts that “he gives” my husband and vice versa, but that doesn’t matter. These dates are wonderful even if he doesn’t fully understand them.
And don’t get me started on the photographs! I had to buy a new phone with copious memory space so I could store the thousands (I’m not talking dozens or hundreds, I mean thousands) of pictures of him. I capture every moment because there isn’t a single thing he does – be it sleeping, playing, running, or jumping – that isn’t fascinating and spellbinding to me. I must confess: sometimes my eyes fill with happy tears just by thinking of him.
To be fair, some changes are terrible. Whenever I leave the house I feel a pang in my heart. I thought it would get easier with time but the longing I feel has not diminished. I used to love to travel but nowadays I feel so heavyhearted with the prospect of being away from him that going on a trip has become a terrible, anxiety-inducing ordeal. Sure, I still enjoy the trips I take. But I cry daily and always promise myself that it will be the last trip I ever take. But I know that I have to keep on traveling and that I can’t give in to my neuroses.
In order to assuage my nerves, I schedule every trip I take with adequate notice I make sure that my sister can stay at my apartment to take care of him. There’s a ten-page manual with all of his likes, dislikes, rituals, allergies, special care instructions, and preferences. With my sister looking after him I feel (somewhat) at ease because I know that she cares for him as well as I do. Even with all these precautions, unforeseeable circumstances are bound to occur. For example, my husband and I went on a trip about one year ago, and she had to leave him with our mom because she had an emergency (a fire in her husband’s childhood home, and so an understandable reason). I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t think of my brother-in-law or his family’s safety for the first ten minutes (I’m sorry, Rafa…). I spent that time thinking only of my son. Was he all right? Did he feel scared? I was in New York when I heard the news, at the Spotted Pig to be precise. I started crying like a banshee to the point where the person sitting next to me began to comfort me. Normally, my husband would die of embarrassment with such a public scene, but he was also single-mindedly focused on our son. (Who was just fine with his grandma, by the way.)
Holidays and other festive occasions are also different experiences now. An example that comes to mind is Christmas. Before he arrived, my husband and I used to spend a quiet Christmas Eve with our extended families. Because we are small in numbers, our celebration was peaceful and civilized. He was the first addition to the family in this generation. And nothing was ever the same! All of the presents are for him. And he gets so many of them! There’s always that friendly competition to see what gift he likes best and it’s usually the one we least expected (and sometimes it’s something silly like the box or the gift wrapping). He has an early bedtime, but until he goes to sleep we all take turns playing with him, even during dinner. He’s too cute to say no to!
Another occasion that comes to mind was the 2013 Carnaval celebration (a popular weeklong party in Brazil). One week before the festivities he was diagnosed with an ulcer in his cornea and had to operate. The procedure had no complications, but he somehow managed to remove his own stitches. To ensure the healing process, I had to apply eye drops on his left eye every hour for a fifty-day period, twenty-four hours a day. Needless to say, I didn’t get any real sleep during that time, which meant that towards the end I had to set my alarm to a deafening volume because nothing else was capable of waking me up. And I’m usually a light sleeper.
There were also changes to my body. I have scars because of him. I don’t love these scars, but being his mom is worth sporting any ugly mark. New bruises are added to my legs on a daily basis because of our roughhousing (he’s under the mistaken impression that he is both small and light). I also have a permanent lower back pain because he enjoys napping on top of me and he’s just way too heavy for that. But, again, I can’t say no to him. It’s a small price to pay to feel a joy that cannot be measured, to revel in a kind of love that I didn’t know existed, not just because of its intensity, but also because of the form it takes. A love governed by fear that he will get hurt, by a fierce need to protect him, by guilt when I have to be apart from him, but mostly by bursts of fulfillment and happiness in knowing that he’s a part of my life. My husband and I have explained to him that he didn’t come from my belly, but rather from our love. He obviously cannot wrap his head around this concept. But he understands the love. Of that I am certain. He knows that the two of us – his dad and I – love him hopelessly.
Of all the changes, the biggest one is the widespread lack of spontaneity in any decision my husband and I now make. Do we feel like going out to dinner? Then we need to devise a plan. After all, if it’s too hot he can’t be left unattended. He could also feel lonely if we end up staying out for too long. Our maid decides to quit? It becomes a crisis that needs to be managed! He’s used to her. Will he like the new person just as much? We decide to drive to Araras for the weekend? We need to make sure that we are bringing all of his medication (he’s terribly allergic and so there’s always some ointment to apply). Do we want to watch a movie? Hold on, we first need to check if it’s a MGM production because, if so, he won’t stop barking because of the lion in the opening credits.
Wait a second… Barking? Yes. My son is a dog. His name is Babaganoush and he’s an English bulldog.
For those of you who didn’t know this, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “That doesn’t count! He isn’t a real son!” I’ve heard this from so many people, and when I do, I laugh on the inside. Because I know that it counts. I know the love I feel for him and I also know that those who don’t understand this probably mean well, but they are utterly mistaken.
I’ve also heard, “It’s not the same thing!” When a statement like this comes up I go ahead and laugh out loud. The same as what, exactly? As a human child? Of course it’s not! But does it have to be for it to be genuine? For it to be real? Come to think of it, to the best of my knowledge, no two experiences with motherhood is “the same”. Single mothers have a widely different experience than those women who have a partner raising a child with them. And what about a person with a hyperactive child (such as a parent of a kid with ADHD), raising them is a whole other ball game! And how about people who have fulltime help (like an au pair or a live-in nanny) versus those who have no childcare assistance whatsoever? And what about stay-at-home moms as opposed to moms with demanding careers? None of these cases are “the same thing” when compared to their opposites.
Perhaps you’re thinking “But he’s a dog! He doesn’t belong to the same species as yours!” That’s true. But so what? He won’t ever learn to speak English or have the same cognitive abilities as a human, but what about a mom who has a kid with special needs? Is she less of a mom because of that? Yes, his life expectancy is significantly shorter than mine. But my aunt lost her son when he was very young, meaning that she will outlive him by several decades. Does this make her less of a mom or not a mom at all? Also, it’s true that we don’t share DNA (although he has my sister’s eyes for some inexplicable reason). But no adopted child does and they are just as much their parent’s children as biological kids. Would you disagree? If so, come out of that box you seem to be stuck inside. It’s so much better to think – and live – outside it.
Motherhood is a deeply personal experience. Perhaps one day I will decide to have human kids and then I will be able to properly examine the differences between human and canine children (I am certain that these differences exist). But to those who keep asking me when I plan to have a baby, please be advised: I already have one. His name is Babaganoush and he is perfect.
Written and published by Fernanda Cecília.
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