I thought Independence day would be a good time to think about what the concept of freedom means in my own life and how it has changed so dramatically in the past year.
Before Oscar I considered myself to be a pretty free person. Free to live and work where I wanted, free to come and go as I pleased, free to eat anything, and free to sleep in until ten on the weekends. Like the early settlers of this country, dependent on the Motherland, my freedoms have been stripped away one at at time by my own little tyrant king, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The first freedom that I lost was the freedom to put whatever I wanted into my body. After seeing that positive pregnancy test, I gave up my beloved caffeine, as well as alcohol, sushi, bacon, sausage, and lunch meat (there is a special place in hell for whoever decided that these things are bad for pregnant women). Darin and I argued frequently over what I should or should not be eating, until I developed heartburn so severe that I almost didn’t want to eat anything, and before I developed ketones in my urine which led our midwife to admonish me to eat anything, just eat.
What appealed to me about home birth was the idea that I would have control over my body during the birth process. When Oscar moved into a breech position I was robbed of all of that control. I not only had to have a hospital birth, I had to have a C-section. Having a spinal block removes freedom of movement, and I wasn’t even free to hold my child after he was born.
For the first twenty-four hours of Oscar’s life I was confined to bed, utterly dependent on Darin, as well as strangers, for my most basic needs (not only freedom but also modesty is stripped away) as well as the basic needs of my son. Except for feeding him in bed, there was little else I could do for him. I will never forget the first time I got out of bed without being restricted by wires and tubes. Darin handed Oscar to me, and for the first time, I got to hold him while standing up.
After Oscar came home with us, freedom became a distant memory. I am no longer free to go where I want when I want. Any trip outside the house involves some sort of strategic planning, either to find someone to stay with the baby, or to figure out what I need to take along for the baby. I am not even free to eat and sleep when I want. My life is an endless serious of planning, timing, and negotiations. That’s because the one person in my life who has absolutely no freedom at all is Oscar. Oscar can’t feed himself, change himself, or even walk across the room to get his favorite toy. To have someone so dependent on me is a tremendous weight of responsibility.
But there is one more thing that has changed, and that is the way Oscar allows me to be present in the moment. He notices the little things, like the breeze on his face, a bright colored object on a shelf, the sound of birds in the morning. He forces me to remember the kind of freedom that only little children know, freedom from the knowledge that anything bad could ever happen or that this day could ever end. When I smile at him, his whole face lights up, and I realize that I am bound and shackled to him forever. I have never felt more dependent, and I am glad.