A New Life, Literally
by Anne Hosansky
I hadn’t expected to be writing about Beatrice. But there was no Beatrice before yesterday. She’s my niece’s newborn daughter. Her family describes her as “healthy, happy and hefty” (she weighed in at nine pounds!).
Although she’s more than a thousand miles away I’ve already seen her, thanks to the Internet. There she is on the screen, eyes closed, oblivious to all the curious people viewing her. Although encased in a blanket from head to toe, she seems vulnerable in this chaotic world.
But it’s the second picture that moves me to tears: a triumphant young mother holding her baby close.
I’m awed by a new life coming into the world, and tender about that Madonna-like image. But I confess to another feeling – envy. How lucky my niece is to have motherhood so new. I remember the days following the birth of my own daughter, my first child, and how I prayed that I’d be a good mother. Meaning, no room for failures. I would always love her “unconditionally,” as the saying goes. Of course, the unacknowledged hope was that she’d love me just as fervently.
Predictably there were many stumbles in the years that followed. Though I’d give anything to have a giant-sized eraser, no technology provides that.
Years ago, when a friend gave birth to her first child I told her, “I envy you because it’s a clean slate.”
“But I’m not,” she said.
Her wise words have echoed through the years. For we all bring into any new relationship our warts and wounds, our neediness.
So my hopes this morning are not only that my niece will be a wise and loving mother, but that she will forgive herself for the moments when she isn’t. When exhaustion or – yes, resentment – take over, or when her own needs conflict with her daughter’s.
It makes me look again at my relationships with my now grown children, and with my partner, my sister, friends. I’m so prone to pointing an accusing finger at myself – should have said, shouldn’t have done… But I seem to have amnesia about the moments when I managed to do it right (whatever “right” is).
In a recent issue of AARP Magazine, actress Sharon Stone talked about her major mistakes, that resulted in losing parental rights to her son. She could have dissolved into overwhelming guilt about what she labeled her “stupid” decisions. But that’s paralyzing. Instead, she confides, she’ s making a stronger self and a better life by reminding herself: I also made a lot of great choices.
It’s something to think about this spring morning when the year is still open to hope, and the scenario for a new mother and child is yet unwritten.