My son Noah turned three today. We celebrated in the heart of Chicago, visiting the neighborhood where we lived when he was born. Our jaunt left me wistful. City life holds the secrets of my salad days, when life was relatively unfettered.
Our Streeterville high-rise was a stone’s throw from Michigan Avenue, a handful of grocery stores, and scores of restaurants. The only schedule I kept was my own. I juggled deadlines for writing assignments, traveled for work and pleasure, and visited regularly with old friends and new.
My urban existence was a time to dance. I reveled in the tight spaces, constantly tangled traffic, blaring horns and pushy people. I’m most comfortable there, most creative in the middle of organized chaos. Mystery, variety and anonymity–three sterling qualities of the big cities I love best, qualities that stir good writing.
My husband is the opposite. He needs space and quiet. We agreed that after children, we would move. The homogeneity of the suburbs, with their chain restaurants and perfectly manicured developments, frightened me. So I stashed spiteful thoughts of leaving my beloved cement jungle.
And then Noah arrived.
It was a time to be born. A new baby to grow, to nurture, to love. New responsibilities. A new life for me.
It was a time to die, a time to mourn. My old life had passed. The week after Noah was born, I sobbed uncontrollably. Part of that was hormonal imbalance, but I also was mourning the loss of my once-free self. I felt as if I had slammed into a brick wall, head first. No one told me having a baby might mean walking through hell.
I remember thinking that if my mom were alive, she would’ve warned me. I shudder at the adage, “Nobody loves you like your mother,” but those shopworn words defined my dismay. I was a mess of a woman, and motherless. With my role model long gone, I was sure to fail.
It was a time to embrace, a time to heal. I had to suck up the shock and get on with it. While I got busy embracing motherhood, God got busy helping me heal. From the loss of my mom. From the physical and emotional trauma of Noah’s birth.
I believe I’m nearly healed from the emotional scars left by the birth. But I’m not ashamed it’s taken a while. I’m acquainted with a doula, Colleen Curry, who puts it this way:
It takes time to process our births, and to find a new place to put these enormous experiences.
A Time to Build
The days were long. The months were short. Before I knew it, my baby was crawling. The confined space of our cozy high-rise seemed inconvenient for raising a child, so we moved to the suburbs. They still scare me. But I’m striving to maintain my inner urbanite, and I still get downtown to cover stories and see friends.
The abundance of open spaces and good schools–it makes the case for staying in suburban Chicago. I’d probably do better downtown. My children, though, will do better here.
Three years after that icy night when Noah was born, it’s a time to build. A family. A home. And a new brand of organized chaos.
- A Mother Lost, A Mother Born (Mama Writes, May 9, 2011)
- When I Have Fears (Mama Writes, May 24, 2011)