After Becky was born in 2001, Knute stayed home for a few days with us before heading back to Big Giant Corporation to earn a living for our little family.
I remember his first morning back to work only vaguely; already the trials of new motherhood were working me over the coals. Sleep deprived, painfully engorged, and swinging from one adrenaline-laced peak of giddy joy down to the dark valleys of oh-my-dear-Jesus-is-this-baby-ever-gonna-stop-crying?! despair every few hours left me with scant mental space to think, much less store memories.
But I do remember him hugging us and heading out the door, both of us wide-eyed and somber, both of us bearing the weight of our new roles and responsibilities as father and mother - him, to provide; me, to sustain.
And I remember being terrified.
I was the youngest of three in my family. I had younger cousins, but they lived far away. I had never once held a babysitting job in.my.life. Other than the books I had read and the childbirth classes I had taken at the hospital, I knew nothing about taking care of a baby.
And here I was, infant in arms, charged with the task of keeping her fed, clean, alive, until Knute came home.
It seemed a near impossible task.
But I survived that first day and many more to follow, the dark days as well as the easy days. We all survived in the beginning, Knute, me and Becky, and by survived, I mean just that - survived. There is no other way to think of it when you have a new infant, especially when that infant is colicky and refuses to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time.
Food was brought by friends, pizza was ordered, and the dirty clothes began their rapid and steep ascent into the Mt. Laundry that has taken up permanent residence in our household. The dogs didn't get walked, the mail sat unopened, and we, all three of us, knit ourselves together into the beginnings of a family.
It got easier; it always does, thankfully. It got easy enough that we added another baby, and then another, and started the whole re-knitting of our family all over again. Each time was easier in some ways and harder in others.
Hardest for me and for my ego was looking forward at the calendar and seeing so many years of my life devoted not to myself and my goals but to them. Through our careful planning and through simple circumstance alone after moving and moving again, I was fortunate to have the choice to be a stay at home mom.
But it was hard.
All the trappings and voices of our culture, all that has been held up as being necessary, worthwhile, hard-fought-for entitlements for women of my generation, women who, like me, were told from the a very young age as we watched Sandy O'Connor take her Supreme Court seat and Sally Ride rocket into space that it's now possible to have it all, fantastic career, happy family, strong marriage, still worked on my psyche, still tempted me, still made me feel that somehow I had not tried hard enough, that I was lazy, that I was settling.
That I was just a mom.
Then a funny thing happened.
My kids got a little older. Their personalities blossomed. They gained perspective as each birthday passed and began to be more than people who just needed me 24/7.
They began to step into the world as their own selves: capable, kind, curious, and loving.
And from time-to-time, they began to say things or do things that made me see the seeds I had planted so long ago, the hours given over to feedings and play groups and puzzles and pushing on the swingset had been far more valuable than I could have ever imagined.
Those seeds of my love and sacrifice had fallen on good ground in each of them; they began to bloom in the world, to bloom and to grow and to bring goodness into others lives.
To bring goodness even back to me.
And so this First Day was tinged with sadness, yes, but just a small portion.
For I know that my days gone past with them were ALL good days, even the hard days. I know that I have done something fine and honorable and important.
On this First Day, unlike the very first First Day, I felt joyful.
I love you, Becky, Huck, and Tom.
Thank you for making me a better person by being just your mom.