18 years ago yesterday I started my maternity leave for my first born. I had four weeks to prepare. Well that was the plan anyway! Less than 12 hours after packing up my kit, I was in labour and within 20, at 21.44pm my son arrived weighing just 2.9kg or 6.5 pounds as it was back then!
Like most first births that I know of, it was horrid and protracted, ending in an assisted delivery by forceps. I don't think as a human being I have ever felt so violated as I did that day. The only thing that saved me was the unswerving support of my ex-husband and the arrival of my younger sister.
She was due to turn 30 in mid March which was my son's real due date and had planned a big party to celebrate. I had always said that it was unlikely I would be able to go. Just as I was being wheeled into theatre, she arrived at the hospital having flown back early from a business trip and gave the mid-wife her party invitation to hand to me. On it she had scrawled "You will be able to make it now. Go girl!" She has always had a knack of making me laugh in a crisis.
In all honesty my son was not a gorgeous baby, but in the same way Hans Christian Andersen's ugly duckling transformed into a beautiful swan, he has matured into a handsome young man, with a smile that melts hearts.
Our journey together over the last 18 years has been tumultuous in stages, particularly in his early infancy when his father and I fought to save a relationship that spanned our teenage years and early adulthood. Divorce when you have a young child is tortuous because you so desperately want to do the right thing by your child and the family unit that you have created but there is also the instinct for self-preservation that demands you think of your own well-being. Happiness is something we are all owed and one of the simplest ways to be happy is to let go of the things that make you sad.
As a single working mum my son kept me going each day and I don't mean just until it was time to clock off and get back for bath time, but in terms of giving me a much needed focus for my life at that time. His well-being and the future I could offer him became my number one priority. I didn't want him to suffer as a result of his parents' separation. I wanted more for him in every possible way and never wanted him to feel let down.
The relationship between a mother and her son has been held up for centuries as being crucial to the way a young man will grow up. By my own admission I am quite strict, but hope that over the years I have also been fair. I have always showered my son with love and affection and not just with physical displays. I have always made sure he knows I am there for him no matter what and I hope in doing so, as my son takes that final step into adulthood today I have imparted an emotional intelligence that will ensure he is in tune with his own feelings and is as a result astute, empathetic and compassionate to others and above all loyal to those dear to him.
An incredibly shy child, as a young adult he remains quite reserved particularly in "new" company. His preference is to sit back and observe, but once confident he is warm, engaging and great company. He boasts a large circle of friends and has an ability to bring disparate groups together, reveling in the new relationships he has helped to foster. This has helped him to gain a reputation as a good team leader and throughout both primary and secondary school has been head boy, school prefect and various sporting captains. He is diligent, hard working and extremely organised (almost to the point of being anal), kind, considerate and funny.
Of course life is not perfect and there are many things he does that infuriate me daily but as those dear to me are prone to remind me, on a scale of 1 to 10 they are minor and common to most teenagers and as today is a day of celebration I am only focusing on the good bits. A few months ago Alison at Mad House Mum asked for my contribution to her celebration of teenagers and today seems like a good day to remind myself of the great things about my eldest teenager. So to my 18 year old son, I say I love it when you ....
- walk up to me and just say "hug"
- you laugh and your face lights up
- worry constantly about everything
- always look out for your little sister
- make the house shake with your music before you go out
- pretend you are not looking at yourself in the mirror (!)
- become so focused on something it becomes an obsession
- are so passionate about proving people wrong
- tell me to calm down because it's not good for my health
- tell me I don't look old - just like your mum
To anyone else that asks I say, all in all I adore his smile, welcome his hugs and admire his tenacity in life but more than anything else I love that he is my son and the young man he has become.