On Motherhood and all the love I never thought I could muster in my heart

My journey to motherhood wasn’t easy. I tried getting pregnant at age 35, after marrying at age 34. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to wait, but my then husband and I had agreed we would only try for a baby after (1) I was gainfully employed and (2), we had a place of our own.

It took us just under two years to get both done. Two miscarriages preceded my full pregnancy, so it was a roller coaster ride seeing it to fruition. When I finally made it past the first trimester, I did all I could to make sure this one made it through to delivery. I even refused an amniocentesis for fear that the pin prick puncture of the amniotic sac would lead to a miscarriage. And more importantly, we told our obstetrician even if we found out there was something wrong with our baby, we would still see it to full term.

Eighteen years ago today, I was induced to deliver and finally held my infant son in my arms after 15 minutes of active labor. After delivering a 9.5 lb., 21.5 inch baby, I became my obstetrician’s poster child for normal delivery. It wasn’t easy battling the gestational diabetes and all the other complications of a late pregnancy, but determination and prayers got me to the finish line with no issues.

The boy is now 18 years — a legal adult in some parts although New York pegs the age of majority as 21. He is a grown man now, almost a full head taller than me, with fingers longer by almost an inch when we hold our palms face to face.

He still calls out “I love you, Mum” from out of nowhere, and would sometimes knock at my door as I’m about to sleep and ask for a hug, bending down to rest his head on my chest. When I walk in the door at the end of the day, he calls out and asks if I need help, meeting me at the door of the stairs to carry my bags up the steps.

We’ve gotten into a somewhat funny dynamic of him calling me when he thinks I would be on the bus already, asking where I am at, and what time I will be home. I have kiddingly asked him if he’s my dad with the tone he takes..

There was one night I went out, and I found him dozing off in the living room when I came home at past 2am. I asked him why he didn’t go and sleep in his room, and he meekly said he was waiting for me.

While all is not perfect in our world— he is a teenager, after all — I’ve been lucky to have raised a caring and sensitive child who has respect for his elders. Sometimes I find him pushing the envelope, but when I push back, he knows better than to nudge again. More importantly, during those moments when he knows he was in the wrong or that he had offended me, he knows to say sorry and make things right.

Sometimes, I look at him when he’s deep into a game or as he strums his guitar, or as he eats the dinner I cooked with such gusto — and I can’t help but feel a sense of pride in seeing this human being in front of me. And the love I feel is just beyond words.

My world has always revolved around him — so much so that I chose to stay here in the US instead of going back home when my marriage fell apart. When we were finally uncoupled, the world I rebuilt had him at the center of it all. And he still is. It’s just that he is entering into a new phase of his life— stepping out into the real world and pursuing his dreams. And that impending departure has me reevaluating things and the way I see the future.

I’m trying not to hold on to him too tightly to pull him back— because I know I cannot do that. So as much as that is a day I fear, I know I love him enough to let him go and conquer the world on his own. And while I would give anything to be right there with him every step of the way, I know that the best I can really do is just be here, ready to help when he calls out for me.

I have always told him no matter what he chooses, I will find a way to get him there. And yes, even if that means he ventures farther out and further away from me, I will even hold his hand to show him the way.

One of the moms whose reflections on Mother’s Day today resonated with me reminded us that a mother’s love knows no end— and time and again I have known that to be true. It may be the toughest job in the world, and for all the heartaches and obstacles that came my way, I would do it all over again to have this light in my life. Without skipping a heartbeat, I would say yes to going through it all, all over again.

This Mother’s Day was his birthday. And like I tell him, his coming into my life was the best Mother’s Day gift — ever.

Motherhood

On Facebook, I wrote:

“Happy birthday to my one and only forever love, who came into my world 18 years ago. I am blessed every single day with your love and presence in my life. I am always here for you and will just be here ready to support you every step of the way. Know that mama loves you always— even when you talk to me like you’re my Dad, asking me what time I’m going to be home(!).

And don’t forget our acceptance speech when the time comes for you to go up that stage— a reminder that at age 17, I told you never to underestimate your abilities and say you will probably not do anything great enough. You have already surprised us at this young age, what more when you go out there to conquer the world. Happy birthday, Anak. Love you more… always.. in all ways.”

Travel Journal: Postcards from Austin

Through the years, one of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing has been to send postcards back home, addressed to my son. At first, it was more of the postcard collector in me, even if my focus has always been on getting the postcards mint and keeping them that way. But after I sent back the first few postcards, I found it to be a meaningful way to create a story of our travels and vacations. Others do scrapbooks, I do postcards.

His Dad and I had taken to writing postcards early on, with him sending me a postcard or two from wherever he went on business trips without me, or wherever we went on vacation. When our son came, I started addressing the postcards to him. It didn’t matter that he was too small to read them. I wanted to have them ready for when he was older, so he can continue the conversation in postcards.

So I always travel with a postcard mailing kit I keep in a handy holder – usually a hard plastic zip pouch. The important thing was that it was compact enough to fit in my purse, and sturdy enough to keep the postcards from getting banged up. I had:

  • Stamps on the ready in the denomination I would need it.  Unless I was traveling to an overseas destination, in which case I would get this upon my arrival.
  • Address labels with his name and our address on it – because I’ve been caught in a situation where I would buy the postcard and write on it at the same time and go look for a mailbox.  Having preprinted address labels for him and friends I meant to send postcards to made it so much easier.
  • Airmail or other stickers and pens – so I can whip them out when I got a break, while I was in the car, or later in the day when everyone was asleep and I could write on my postcards.
  • The postcards come last as I get those from the area we are visiting.

For our trip to Austin, I actually ordered some LouPaper postcards of Texas ahead which I decorated, addressed and wrote on, with the intention of sending them out to fellow postcard collectors from there . Upon arriving at the airport, I immediately scoured the magazine and souvenir stores for the all too familiar postcard racks, and grabbed a few. I try not to splurge here because I know they are usually pricier than the usual souvenir postcards found in tourist traps in my destination, but they also tend to be of a different line and quality. True enough, the postcards at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were not the same postcards I found in other stores. When I buy postcards, I try to buy at least 2 of each, with one to keep, and one to send home. If a particular postcard looked interesting and I remember a friend who might want one, I buy an extra or two.

By the time I landed at the hotel, I had a dozen or so postcards which I kept in my bag and took with me everywhere, hoping to do some postcard selfies along the way. (And we did manage to do this – but that’s for another blogpost.)

There have been vacations where I sent as little as 2 postcards, and as much as more than 20. It depends on whether or not there are enough postcards available, enough things to write about and the time to do it. But this trip was special because it’s only the second vacation my son and I have taken just by ourselves, and this was most special for the shared memories.

[1]

LouPaper Texas postcard

11/7/21: Love that we got to do this together despite the pandemic. It’s been so much fun making new memories with you. We haven’t done this in years! Love you! Mum

[2]

“I love you so much”, Artist: Amy Cook, est, 2010, over at Jo’s Hot Coffee, Austin, TX

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21: I read about this even before we got here, so it was nice to be able to find a postcard, and actually see it and post next to it with you. (Thank you, Dusty!) And yes, MAMA LOVES YOU SO MUCH. Always, in all ways. Mum

[3]

Greetings from Texas

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21: Thank you for patiently sitting through lunch with Pearson, Keoni and Caspian. You sat there and let us catch up, quietly letting Mama have her moment with them. I love that photo of you and Caspian walking back to the car. You are so good with kids… it’s because they know you have a kind heart. Love you always— Mum.

[4]

Mr. Rogers (mural), Artist: NIZ

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21: Another iconic mural we got to see in person.  That pedicab tour was well worth the money.  You and I sat through it speeding through the streets, narrow alleys and walkways of Austin.  I know you enjoyed it, too.  I am so glad we got the chance to take this trip together.  I wish we could go on more fun vacations – just you and I.  Love you!  Mum

[5]

Greetings from Texas, the Lone Star State

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21:  DID I EVER TELL YOU how lovely and heartwarming it feels when you put an arm around my shoulders and hold me close as we walk?  That has always been one of the best things that happened since you shot past me.  I remember you used to do that even when you weren’t quite so tall and It was awkward for you, but you still did it as we walked.  I hope you will never tire of doing that. Mama loves that.  Sometimes, I wish you wouldn’t grow up so fast, but this is one instance when it’s okay.  Love yout o pieces.. Mum

[6] Welcome to Texas

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21:  THANK YOU FOR ALL THE FAB PICTURES AND THE LOVELY MEMORIES… I know that you don’t always like it when I want to take pictures of us — but I can’t help it.  I was doing selfies with a real cam, not even a smartphone, way before selfies were a thing.  I somehow mastered focusing w/o seeing what the camera was covering.  So many nice pictures in this trip because you let me click away. LOVE THAT!  Mum

[7]  Hampton.com

Postcards sent from Austin

11/9/21:  I almost missed this postcard tucked into the information packet in the room.  We didn’t get to see much of Marble Falls but I think we did well on this vacation, making a lot of memories.  Loved having spent all this time with you.  Can’t wait for our next Mom-Son vacay.  Love always, Mum

I had actually acquired quite a hefty bunch of postcards from all over Austin and I’m quite happy with these 7 I sent back. So many memories tucked into each one. I can’t help but reread them as I scanned them, and I know I will be going back to these postcards in the next couple of weeks and more. Even now, as I am typing away, my heart is smiling.

Postcards from. Austin

Opening school year blues

With the first (almost) full week of classes officially done, I guess you can say we’re back into the swing of things.  From school supplies to new backpacks and the routine of waking up the now seventh grader in the house, I know that summer is over.

Every year we have a ton of paper to fill out, and I just finished doing this year’s batch last night.  It makes me wonder if it won’t be easier for them to just ask if anything in the student’s  information has changed, but I realize now that would mean for missed information and a nightmare keeping up with around a thousand students annually.  Why am I complaining?

Out school supplies now come from each teacher, and while it is easier because you get a shorter list (which doesn’t include crayons or markers anymore, thankfully!), it can be difficult when the major subjects require a separate ring binder each.  I was so reieved to see two ask for composition notebooks instead, and one even asked for just a section of a binder.  Children complaining about back ache is not a good sign and speaks of the load they carry on their still growing spines!  For my part, I try to use the lighter binders to help ease his load.

School opening bluesThis year, he’s taller and his shoulders are beginning to get broader.  A hint of a moustache is already showing on his upper lip.  His voice cracks when he talks excitedly and now gets pitchy.  At around 5 feet tall, his shoe size is a whopping 9 1/2 and still growing.  (The dad has big feet.). His hands are no longer smaller than mine and I can feel the difference those few times when he reaches out for mine to hold it in his.  Still, I see a hint of “my little boy” in his eyes and voice when he utters “I love you, Mama” ever so affectionately from out of the blue.  I am praying that he never outgrows that part of him.

So the homework routine has started and kickstarting the new school year has been a bit of a challenge but we’re getting there.  Even he is aware that it’s a totally different ball game, and it requires adjusting anew.  There’s the usual check in at the end of the day and the constant reminder to get his backpack ready for school the following morning.  I sound like a broken record reminding him about keeping his keys and his bus pass in his backpack at all times.  Phone always charged 100% ! Turn on the ringer when you get home (!!)  Put away  your socks… and the list goes on and on.

It’s a routine that I both love and cherish for the special bond that brings us even closer.  We have done homework via the phone, facetime, texting and of course, me in the kitchen counter, and him on the dining table.  He knows there’s always the kindle app when he needs a book, and I’m trying to get him used to figuring out homework before calling out to me.

He has grown up.  A lot has changed.  He’s the same that he’s not.  My “tween” is almost a man, but I’d really like to keep him where he’s at for as long as I possibly can,  before I have to start looking up at him when scolding him.

Here’s to another school year.. let’s see what lies ahead.

The things that matter

Happy birthday to the one who lights up my world and warms my heart.. @angelogon2004 turns 11 today!  My life has never been the same since you came into my life, and I cherish every day that you continue to bless my life with you love.  I love you, Amal.Friday was a momentous occasion.  (Drumroll, please..)  My little tyke turned 11.. can you believe that?  It seems as though it was just yesterday that I was cradling him and complaining he was just sooooo heavy — and yet I couldn’t get enough of kissing him and breathing the air he breathed out.  Everything in my life was colored by his arrival.  It was love at first sight, and I’m still falling in love with him every day.  (Even when he starts rejecting me for a selfie… or when he starts giving me the look telling me he’s upset at Mom for being a mom.. )

Has it been THAT long?  I look at his frame and see him literally growing up.  He will soon be as tall and then taller than me.  His voice has always been low, but even that will become deeper.  I hold his hands in mine and I can’t help but notice how his grasp is filling up my hand even more as the days go by, those times that he STILL lets me hold his hand in mine.
Teaching this #LittleNewYorker, @angelogon2004 , how to ride the #subway on our way to #Manhattan because #ThisIsHowWeDoItInNewYork . #mynewyork #motherhood #motherandson #NYC #publictransportation #mta

It seems like it was only yesterday that he could hardly speak, but he would cling to me with a sense of urgency that made me feel like he was a literal extension of me.  And he started speaking and I heard those three magic words that made everything else matter so little.  As the years passed by, his presence remained constant and kept me anchored to the ground through the worst times and kept me tethered to my humility those times when I was just feeling over the moon.  Through the worst and the best, he was the one whose love mattered the most.

These days I would grab him and hug him as if it were the last time I was going to hold him — remembering that in my lowest of lows, it was his love that kept me going.

Mother’s Day has never been the same for me each year since he was born.  While I had always celebrated it as a daughter, it has taken on a new meaning since I started celebrating it as a mother myself.  Although the day’s focus should be the mother, it plays around motherhood in my eyes.

Today I celebrate it because I hold the heart of my son in my hands and I know it beats a fierce devotion and a tender love that keeps growing each day.  Motherhood, challenging though it may be, is its own reward.  In my heart I know I have done well.  I may not have the riches others possess, but I own something far more priceless.  I look at my son and I am rich beyond measure.  He is the reason today is, indeed, a happy Mother’s Day.
My little guy

A love like no other

Everyone who knows me knows my world revolves around this little guy who has been the love of my life for the last 10 years. From the moment he came out into this world, my life was changed forever. Although I would discover later that it had changed even more than I had perceived, and it appears that his entry into my life had caused a drastic change in other parts of my world I didn’t even see, I would not trade his being a part of my life for anything else. No matter what challenges I have faced or am facing, knowing I have him in my life changes the face of the game.  I look at him and I know I’m in a good place.

I pride myself in teaching him to be outwardly affectionate and expressive of what he feels.  It’s not always easy and he is not the same way with everyone else, but that has given me precious rewards like a poster with scribblings of various declarations of love for his Mommy.
Love like no other

So forget that he missed out on a word or two — I get the point.  Unfortunately, my son didn’t inherit my penmanship but I’m not complaining.  And for my son to know my birth date and birth year shows my History professor-to-be has a knack for dates like I used to at his age.  (Dates and phone numbers were easy for me, just don’t make me do Math please.)
Love like no other

Naturally, the Dad was jealous as can be, but the boy told him there was only one poster board.  (We shall scramble for another.)

Love like no other

I like these little surprises he springs on me — for no reason at all, except that he thought of it one afternoon.  I wish I could frame the entire poster but it was half a sheet.  So I took snapshots instead and might frame one of these.  I have a knack for keeping his scribblings and projects — and even at just 10, he marvels at my memory box which contains a lock of his hair, his belly button stump, his first onesie, and all that stuff.   When I can, I incorporate his works into my art journal.

Precious words from the 10-year-old who lights up my world and warms my heart.  Forever, son. #motherhood #motherandson #dinnagon #angelogon #love #anak

A friend on Facebook commented the above was so eloquently said.  I couldn’t have phrased it better.  I am proud that my son’s heart has the eloquence to show what it feels — and I am heartened as that bodes well for him when he grows up.  That’s a precious gift that I hope I can continue to nurture.  One day, he will love others — and I want him to be able to express that love the same way he has expressed his love for his current “love of his life — his Mommy.”

Children come into our lives and we are never the same again.  After two miscarriages, I was almost ready to accept that I would not be given that precious gift until he came.  My pregnancy was very challenging with gestational diabetes and all, but when he came out into this world, I forgot about all those challenges and focused on this new life I gave birth to.

He is the reason I am still around, and hope to be around for years to come.  I look at him and I see that I have been blessed.  Forget about the heartaches and the disappointments — he makes it all worth it.  He alone makes the negative seem trivial compared to all the joy he exudes and the love he gives.  I reach out to touch him and I feel an overwhelming reassurance that everything will be okay.  I know his love is like no other.

 

Motherhood comes first

It was a rather busy evening last night with the boy coming down with the flu.  I was able to manage his fever but I had to stay up part of the night to help put a cold compress on his forehead and to make sure it stayed there.  I was thinking of taking a day off but decided that I would’ve spent the better part of the morning giving instructions and working anyway so I went into the city.  I did leave at 1pm and headed home, stopped at the post office for the all-important swaps that are due, picked up some food for the boy and headed home.  After dropping my tote and non-essentials and changing into my rain boots, I walked in the opposite direction to pick up homework from his  school.  (The magic of technology — his teachers may not be reachable via phone but they have their smart phones which makes e-mailing the best way to get any message to them.)

I think I am more exhausted with everything I’ve done instead of feeling rested after getting home earlier than normal.  The boy’s fine, still coughing, but his fever was gone.  We’ve taken a quick shower just to stabilize him even more, and now he’s already bugging me about turning Criminal Minds reruns off so he can watch his shows.  (I am not relinquishing the remote control!)  And now I’m cooking tempura for dinner.

I’m glad the boy is feeling better.  I can live through a week of body aches, a runny nose or an exhausting asthma attack, but I go into full battle mode when he starts showing symptoms of the flu.  Motherhood.

Sometimes I see how he’s growing up in simple every day conversations.   He had a tinge of hurt in his voice when he once chided me for never ever being upset with his Dad.  He says he never sees me scream at his Dad like I raise my voice at him in an angry tone.  I’m trying to impress upon him that the fact that I don’t scold Dad doesn’t mean that Dad is more important than him.  He has already taken notice that although he gets a dose from Dad and me, he doesn’t see us screaming or raising our voices at each other.  I simply told him it’s different — he’s our son.  When he has a child of his own, he will know why.   (And we haven’t even started talking about rules.)

He still asks to sit on my lap — and although he is a tall 8-year-old, I always indulge him when I can, dreading the day when he’ll stop asking.

Dinner’s done.  The boy dutifully set the table when I asked him.  One of the greatest rewards of motherhood is seeing him turning out to be a good person.  I keep telling him that when his Dad and I are gone, I know he’ll be fine even when he’s on his own if he has a good heart.

Art Journal Every Day with Angelo: I love Mom

Art Journal Every Day with Angelo: I love Mom

I wanted to keep this as playful and “innocent” as my eight-year-old is at this point.  I asked him to draw me something and I just added a few details and scribbled all around it to make it a collaborative effort between us.  Precious!

While majority of my pieces have been solo works, I decided to incorporate Angelo’s artwork and writings in some of the journal entries I’ve created to help keep those bits and pieces of his second grade in school year alive in my own compilation.  I want to keep encouraging him to write and draw like I had been encouraged when I was younger.  He may be no Picasso or Van Gogh, but the fact that he is able to express what is in his heart is enough to make it doubly rewarding to get these special art works from him.

I just got him his own watercolor palette over the weekend so you can expect to see more of our joint entries here in the coming days.  Below is the original painting by Angelo.

I love you, Mom

If you want to see more of my Art Journal, please click here, or you can always choose my Art Journal Every Day page from the list on the top left of the blog page.

I invite you to view the Flickr Group dedicated to this endeavor by clicking here, and be inspired to create your own art journal.  (Artistic talent optional.)

One of those days…

Pink RoseSome days are better than others.  Sometimes motherhood can be such a challenge, and try as I might, I feel like I’m not performing as best as I can.  Am I teaching my son the right things about life?  Am I succeeding in trying to make him a good person?

It is not often but my son can drive me to tears sometimes.  In his innocent way, he doesn’t realize he has such power to tear my heart to pieces.  It’s not his fault.  Perhaps it is because I am his mother and he is my son.  He is, after all, the most important person in the world to me.  His happiness reigns supreme over mine.  It is difficult to put into words even now…  I can’t help but wonder how many such sacrifices and heartaches I have caused my own mother.  She wouldn’t have told me, like I am keeping things to myself now.  He wouldn’t understand anyway.

So I let the tears flow… I wipe them away… I take a deep breath, and I look at him from afar.  I call him to me and ask for a hug which he gives so lovingly and unconditionally.