Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Aiden's 4th birthday

(I wrote this over a week ago, but it's been a busy one, which is why I'm just now getting to posting it.  Sorry for the delay.)

I always knew love at first sight as a rare, romantic occurrence.

It happens, sure, but certainly not for Joel and I.  No, ours was a mild acquaintance that grew to inseparable friendship that evolved into strong and honest love.

But I still reserved the phenomenon of love at first site for the birth of our first child. 

Children were my dream.  I was that little girl playing mother to children mere years my junior.  Forming babysitting clubs while still in need of services myself.

My pregnancy with Aiden was uneventful, but I thrilled at every little nudge and panicked over the mildest of cramps and slightest of temperatures.

Labor was typical.  Long and hard.  I planned for an epidural only to completely miss the window in a narcotic-induced fog.

So when I finally peered upon my slimy, purple son I was tired.  And angry.  And amazed.  And hungry.

But I was not in love.

I knew I loved him, and I managed a few drunken "That's our baby boy"'s before they whisked him off to the weighing station.

I happily watched as Joel stroked the arm of our screaming baby, saying over and over, "It's okay buddy, it's okay."

But when it came time to hold that little thing I just wanted someone to take him away and let me sleep.

Now much of those early emotions were a direct result of the late-in-labor narcotics I begged for.

But hours later after an all-too-short nap I gazed down at this little life cradled in my arms, and I felt resentful. 

I mean, I was more than prepared to mother this creature, just right after I caught up on the entire night's sleep I missed while birthing him.

In the course of the next few days I oftentimes peered into his clear, plastic cradle and literally hurt with love.  But other times it felt like spying on a shriveled stranger.  (It didn't help that the blonde-hair, blue-eyed newborn of our imaginations ended up with a flattened nose and jet-black hair, and that the first day I could barely pick him out through the nursery window.)

I cried a lot that week.  When Joel wanted to watch the football game on our tiny hospital television.  When I found an elephant ultrasound while flipping past the Discovery Channel.  When we were served applesauce with dinner (a pregnancy favorite).

Looking back I view this tearful time as a kind of grieving process.  While I thought I was bringing home a little bundle to snuggle and tote around like one of those fashionable dogs, I was actually losing a whole world that, despite marriage and my best efforts at selflessness, revolved entirely around me.

And on top of that this particular little package, while sweet and sleepy and seemingly good-natured, did little to make my heart soar.  At least not how I imagined it.

I loved my son from the very beginning, and at times I think even before that.

But I didn't realize that you could fall in love with a child as well.

And now, four years later, when I sneak into his room at night and lay my hand on the slow rise and fall of his chest, the love I imagined from day one hits me like a brick.  Knocks the wind right out of me. 

I find myself searching to both contain and express a love beyond words and actions. 

Sometimes I wonder if I could possibly love him more, only to realize the next day, as he bravely conquers imaginary fires and tells me I make the best cupcakes in the whole world, that somehow it doubled overnight.  And if it keeps going at this rate how will I even survive him leaving in just 14 short years?

In the past four years I watched him grow from a dependent little baby with spiky, black hair, to a tireless toddler with enough energy to power a rocket, to a full-blown little boy... one who thinks about other's feelings, who engages in actual conversations, who fights fires and pilots airplanes.

Any resentfulness is long gone.  In a way it is like he was always here.  I certainly can't picture life without him.  

He was our first step towards a complete family (well, second maybe, if you count marriage, which I probably should).

A family I am so happy with, so content in, we could quite literally go anywhere in the world... as long as we're together.  

And as we face life's challenges here together, I find I love him even more.  At his best, and at his worst.  And though he's only four and can completely drain me, his laughter and kindness and even his drama keep me grounded.  

This little four year-old makes the strangest of places feel like just home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When worlds collide

Five days back and no regrets.  No sadness.  No temporary bouts of depression.

Just something that must be contentment, with a slight chance of happiness.

Because to answer my previously posed questions, I felt three weeks ago like I was going home.  Then I felt like I was home.  Then like I was going home.  And now, like I'm home.

When I first referred to our return to Budapest as "going home" Joel did a double-take.  I'm sure he had no idea what I was talking about.  I couldn't possibly mean Budapest.

But I did, and I do.

I loved our time in the States.  Family and friends were like a breath of fresh air.  The grocery stores were bigger and more packed with every imaginable food and non-food item than I even remembered.  Sales people were friendly and helpful and, most importantly, spoke English.

I'm pretty sure I ate almost two gallons of ice cream and cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And I can say in hindsight, the few extra pounds were definitely worth it (and it's not coming off quickly with all the Reese's peanut butter trees I stashed in our bags).

For three weeks we lived with our children's four favorite babysitters.  Joel and I could come and go as we pleased.  No need to book weeks beforehand.

But in light of all that, and though there were tears in my eyes as we said good-bye, I was ready to come home.

I was anxious to be here.  Both nervous and excited to function as a family of four again, out on our own.  To face the challenges of daily life with a little more courage, and a little more ease.

So when we flew by our house and eased onto the runway I found myself surprisingly calm.  Such a stark contrast to our arrival five months ago, when we stepped terrified into the small airport, feeling lost and alone and utterly helpless.

And though the children screamed mercilessly from the time the plane landed and though the stewardesses were forced to carry them off in tears while we toted a ridiculous amount of luggage, it all felt strangely comforting and familiar.  I was used to the way they so easily took charge of my children.  I understood they would force on their coats, though at that point a blizzard could have blown through and I wouldn't have taken the time.  And five months ago it may have, but this time it didn't bother me.

We knew our way to the elevator and quickly found our familiar bus driver, who happily greeted our just-barely composed children.

The city sparkled in the sun and we saw it for the first time as our home and not a tourist destination.  The familiar roads and buildings, the places we've been and the ones we want to go, and finally our village, the narrow streets leading to our house, waiting just as we left it.

Yet in that strange way things morph with time, it was all a little different.  Our village seemed just slightly more cluttered and disorganized.  Our house bigger and a little more empty.  And, as Finny so delicately put it, "Our TB's not big enough!"

But in a way it's a fitting summary of our time home.  Being here changed my view of being there, and being there changed my view of being here.  It made it possible for both worlds to coexist, for the old memories and the new to stand side by side, neither forgotten in light of the other.

Now I would like to maintain the right to misery from time to time.  I mean, really, it's only been five days.  Just hoping it's misery with a little perspective... and a lot of happiness to cushion it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Returning soon!

We are home. We're safe, we're happy, and we are incredibly tired. So give me a few days to sleep off the jet lag and I will return from my accidental month-long blogging hiatus.