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Letter About My Son

This letter was written as part of my job as Product Manager at Tripod. One person contributes a letter from Tripod each week which is published on the Tripod web site.

Letter from Tripod:

Jeanne-Elise Heydecker, Product Manager:

Speaking, I think, as the only single mum working at Tripod, I thought it was time for me to introduce a different take on the people who work at Tripod. This may sound odd, but I've always hated children. I really can't stand them. I used to tell people that pets were better because if you ever got bored with them, you could sell them or put them to sleep. I still get pretty disturbed when someone's child disrupts my dinner party or wakes me up on a transcontinental flight. I don't know how to talk to them, and I certainly don't like to play with them.

However, in 1993, I discovered I was pregnant. I was 32, and in the middle of a divorce. I was between jobs at the time, accruing significant debt due to my legal fees. My friends' advice at the time ran from using my pregnancy to my advantage in the divorce proceedings to getting rid of it in a quick outpatient procedure. I'm not a particularly religious person. I am staunchly pro-choice. I wasn't sure if I would ever have another chance to have a child in the future. I certainly did not intend to marry again. Ever. Still, I was between jobs and couldn't really support a child. The decision weighed heavily on my mind. The thought of interviewing in maternity clothes seemed to be a serious drawback to finding the right job. I didn't know what to do.

I knew that I was going to have to tell my karate instructor about my pregnancy because I taught junior dragons (teen students) classes for him. He had always been very blunt with me, and I was not prepared for his reaction. When I told him that I was pregnant and didn't know what I was going to do about it, he said, "Finally you can learn about humility. Having to worry about somebody else should do you some good." At first, I was insulted; after all, I taught classes for him for nothing. It was expected of me as a black belt to give something back. Finding his comment uncalled for, I left the dojo feeling angry and unappreciated.

I finally decided, whatever the consequences, to continue with my pregnancy. Once I made the choice, I became very, very scared. I felt that there was no way I could raise a baby on my own. I didn't know anyone with a baby. I had never babysat a child in my life. I didn't know the first thing about diapers or breast-feeding or anything. How on earth did I think I was capable of doing this? When I went to the obstetrician, I was in tears voicing my concerns. She took off her gloves, sat down, looked at me, and said, "You know, there would be a lot less teenage pregnancy in this country if they would just think about the impact a baby has on your life. The fact that you're worried is healthy."

I found a great position within a fantastic company a week after I made the decision. The company consisted of only 26 employees; 8 of the 14 women were in varying stages of pregnancy, and 4 of the male employee's wives were pregnant. The owner used to joke that there was something in the water. We supported each other, and it made me feel less alone.

By the seventh month, I could hardly wait to get this child out of me. He complied and was born 7 weeks early. My son was born on my mother's birthday, December 8. It was the best gift she ever received her first grandchild. He had to spend the next few weeks under observation in the hospital, but he made it home for Christmas Eve. I love my little boy, but he took a lot of getting used to. I'm not good with children, and having never spent time around parents and kids, I actually thought you could make them do what you wanted. It seemed reasonable to believe that since you bathed them, clothed them, fed them, and read stories to them, they'd understand that you were in charge. At times during those first few months, I would wake up, look out the window at a gray day, peek at the clock, and not know whether it was 6:00 a.m. or p.m. I didn't sleep for days at a time.

All of my money goes to making sure he has good day care, decent clothes, healthy food, and a safe environment in which to learn and grow. I spend all of my free time taking him to museums, theatres, and traveling around the country. He spends his vacations in the Bahamas, and I'm planning to take him to Scotland next year to help him learn about his family history. He's almost six now.

I ran into my old karate instructor the other day. I was shopping at the mall with my little boy. It seems like I'm there every two weeks buying another pair of sneakers. I happened to be poking him (because when you're bored, it's fun to poke your kid), and he kept giggling and running out of my reach. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and there he was. He said it was good to see me again, that he barely recognized me. We chatted about where we were in our lives and made some vague plans to get together sometime soon. He made me promise to get back into shape and come back to the dojo. As I was turning to leave, he smiled and said to me, "Now you know what's really important, don't you?"

I thought about his comment as we were driving home in the rain, my son making a mess of the back seat with his Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and Catwoman toys. I thought about how, because of my concern for my child's welfare, I have become a more caring and empathetic person. I put his needs first, because he depends on me. Boyfriends have come and gone because my son comes first and always will. Sure, I'm still driven in my career, but somehow it doesn't have the same weight for me as it once did. Now, the best thing in the world is to wake up to my son wiggling up through the bed linens to snuggle with me in the morning, before the alarm goes off. It's the sound of his giggles when I tickle him that make my heart sing. It may be a lot of work and sacrifice, and he costs me a fortune, but I wouldn't have it any other way. All he has to say is, "I love you, Mummy."

Me, a single mum? Don't be absurd. I call us a two-piece set. And I like us just the way we are.

Jeanne