It was a humid morning in late May as I walked the seemingly longer and longer seven blocks from Grand Central Station to my office on First Ave and 38th Street. It was beginning to require more energy each day to place swollen foot ahead of swollen foot, carrying swollen belly from one place to another. The morning walk was especially strenuous as the heat from hosed down city streets rose to meet humidity in the already heavy air.
I had spent most of my life with my mind and heart aware of the baby rapidly growing in my stretched out belly. But it wasn’t until that final trimester that my body really came to know him as well.
Every moment of every day.
The weight of him pressing into my hips, the kicks of his tiny feet projected sharply into my ribs. Every flutter and turn, hiccup or practice breath a reminder of his presence, pulling him out of the dreams he had lived in for 30 years and into my reality.
I spent those walks each morning thinking and worrying, wondering and daydreaming, but most of all praying.
I hope I do right by you, my son. I hope we teach and protect you in the safety of freedom to explore and learn on your own. I hope I live up to the dreams I have had of the mother I will be, for you. Your mother, my son. I hope we give you all that you need. I hope we raise you to be a man filled with love. God, allow me to raise him into a man of empathy, integrity and passion.
That is one of the funny things with prayer, that you sometimes speak out requests for things you had yet been able to identify yourself as needing.
Empathy, Integrity, Passion.
For months I had wondered what it is I wanted for him and there it was; three seemingly simple things that mean everything.
And so, as swollen feet became more swollen, I prayed these things for my son.
As swollen belly eventually gave way to full arms, I prayed these things for my son.
As he became physically separated from me for the first time, yet somehow more connected than ever before, I prayed these things for my son.
That he would know empathy as the only way to love. That he would live a life defined by sharing others’ pain without ever making it his own. That this empathy would be so interwoven into the man he is, that those looking on wouldn’t see them as separate things. Rendering all of us unable to define where he ends and his empathy begins.
That he would be whole and undivided, aware of what’s right and willing to always choose it, even when alternatives seem easier or more fulfilling in the moment. That his principles would rarely waver, but if they do, that he would own his failures with such sincerity that other’s trust would never be broken.
And passion, oh passion. That he would know the unspeakable joy of a life of purpose that feels thrilling to live, even in its simplest moments. That among other things he will know passion for justice, serving others, respecting the environment, committing to his word, and eventually pastries, strong coffee, and fine wine paired with enriching conversations. That he will find his own passions and live them so fiercely that just being in his presence makes others love them too.
In a moment I find impossible to describe, as he lay on my chest for the first time with his eyes meeting my own like we had known each other all along, I leaned toward him and whispered into his tiny ear.
I am your mother, my son. And I will work every day to love you, and in every moment to teach you empathy, integrity and passion.
And as I leaned even closer to kiss him, his warm body in my thankful arms, I began to experience them too; in ways I had never before.
Perhaps from within, he had been praying for me as well, to be a mother filled with empathy, integrity, and passion.