I felt the warmth of my daughter’s body as she scooted closer to mine tonight during a mommy and daughter snugglefest. I watched her smile as Calliou came on and finally pinpointed the sad, sinking feeling that has accompanied me for months. Instead of jubilant about the baby, I was feeling pressure and stress to be the same mother the second-time around. I realized in my daughter’s eternal wisdom and life’s never-ending lessons that I wouldn’t be the same parent, I would be brilliantly different…..

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When Ava when first growing, I imagined myself as a vessel. I wanted to be a viking ship, or lifeboat that could carry her heart’s desires wherever she chose to go. I had been heartbroken and alone during the first few months of my pregnancy until I met someone that brought hope for something else back. Dozens of breakups later, my daughter and I traveled on. I wore my single parent badge like it was bestowed as a gift of honor and courage, afraid to think of anything else but Ava. Even when John moved in, I so worried about losing the credibility that “I could do it all,” that suddenly, I didn’t know how to love someone else again.

This little girl, with bright brown eyes and auburn ringlets showed me the true meaning of fighting for what I wanted and gave me the incredible gift of unconditional love. For most of her early years, I worked 2-3 jobs. We moved 8 times within 4 years. I gave up and gave in and eventually swore off love wanting only to protect her. I wrote Ava dozens of love letters, signing each with, “Be humble, because you are made of the earth.  Be brilliant, for you are made of stars.” The truth is, I failed more times as a parent in those first 4-5 years than most parents have failed their entire lifetime. Stretching myself thin, both in patience and time, I often sidelined her to provide, (as many single parents do.) The guilt of not relishing MORE, will stay with me to an eternity.

The cure for parental guilt isn’t easily fixed in anything but the determination to let go of whatever occurred and let in an unbelievably forgetful and forgiving soon-to-be first grader. The cure. is simply loving more than I ever thought I could love any being. Therein, lies the rub- the feeling that I couldn’t shake for months. How could I possibly love another being as much as I love this child? Surely her baby brother would read old entries and wonder if I felt the same way about him? The time spent with the new baby would be time away from her and the guilt, the overwhelming urge to protect HER at all costs was tapping into the worst fear I’ve ever experienced. You see, I had never seen myself beyond my Ava, beyond single parentdom or wearing my badge of honor and courage for the world to see. I hadn’t dared truly think that I would be living in a quaint, peaceful home on a street lined with trees, not alone but with someone to pick her up and drop her off and love me, even when I didn’t feel loveable. I could have never imagined becoming who I was, simply because I had labeled myself as something less than I was- that my heart wasn’t big enough for someone else.

This has been a tremendously difficult pregnancy. In the night time when my son kicks, I often wish for restful peace.  I’ve become weary with hyperemesis and struggling to keep my chin up about a plan to tackle the cervical cancer that still destroys my cells. I perhaps, have labeled it all again- my body as a threat and the baby as a conundrum of sorts. He’s been a fighter for the past 8 months and I have been not the same mother I was when Ava was developing her fingers and toes, kicking softly as I cooed her to sleep. Already, my children are drastically different and I am a different mother. I remember the early days with Ava and the worry that I couldn’t possibly do what she needed. I even remember wishing she was a boy because I didn’t want her making the same mistakes I had. Irony, at its best.

I’ve struggled to write the baby love letters as I haven’t seen his face or touched his hands or even whispered heartfelt promises into his little ears. My daughter, in her incredible grace comes up to my stomach, wraps her arms around me and says, “Hello Baby Daniel.” She’s planning a party for him, (complete with cupcakes.) Ava has already chosen what Polly Pocket houses will be his to play with and how he needs to make sure not to cry or poop or otherwise be a baby, (and then softly she says, “but I’ll still love you.”) I can’t understand the unbelievable wisdom and grace from someone so small.

I thought I understood the world at 30 years old; surely life’s path has brought me here, heartbreak, cancer, success, breakups and all. Destiny, right? But the sobering truth is, my daughter understands love more than I. I’ve been negatively and positively tainted by the journey- forever stained which experience, regret and thankfulness. Even in the most humble of situations, Ava is reflecting back to me exactly what I am trying to portray to her. Love, isn’t diminished or lost because our arms grow heavy with more people in our lives. In fact, do we notice the heaviness? I love my mother and father and John and Ava and friends and family far away. My love for them isn’t a weight on my body. Love isn’t a chord with just enough length to wrap around one person. Love might be a mutating, alien, magic trick that when expressed with truth, grows indefinitely. I’m still not sure. The jury is out.

Have you ever tried to define love? I have, millions of times with too many relationships. The only thing I’ve able to concretely realize is that love is undefinable, it lacks shape, form or color and often it goes unrecognizable to the present, but offers startling clarity when viewed in the past. I love my little girl beyond words or emotion, (which is a failure as a writer to proclaim.) Her vessel started as a womb and moved to my arms and now, it’s a home, savings account and kisses after she’s asleep saying, “You are made of stars.” Baby Daniel’s vessel isn’t a second-hand cast-off as I had thought once. Everything around him isn’t worn-in or already-used, but instead re-designed and purposed to help guide him in every possible way. Soon, these arms will be his too and maybe instead of feeling guilt over not being able to brush my daughter’s hair out of her eyes while my hands are full, I’ll find newer and greater ways of loving her, while simultaneously loving him.

I travel and teach business lessons. Sometimes I stand before amphitheaters and rooms proclaiming the great truths of success, communication and authenticity. Some lessons are closer to the heart, they are hard to speak loudly until you understand there is no syllabus to life’s most personal moments. That in itself, is a gift. If we had all the answers, we’d never know how to evolve and shed the misconceptions we hold. Thank god for failure, opportunity and doubt. I’m still learning.

Related Posts:

Strange But True: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2011/12/06/the-strange-part-is-its-true/

What My Daughter Is Teaching Me About Truly Living: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2011/10/19/fear-not-what-my-daughter-is-teaching-me-about-truly-living/

Parental Guilt And Good Business: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2011/08/09/reckless-what-parental-guilt-is-teaching-me-about-good-business/

A Love Letter To Ava, 2010: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2010/08/01/to-my-ava/

Enough For Two: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2010/03/29/enough-for-two/

Badgeless: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2009/12/17/badgeless/

Ava Is Four: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2009/11/18/ava-is-four/

6.10.2009: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/2009/06/10/letter-to-ava-61009/