Abel at Garfield Park in Norwell.

It was a cool, quiet, Sunday morning in August. Abel, my 15-month-old son, and I had been at Gaffield Park playground in Norwell for about a half hour. It was our first visit there, and we’d already checked out the swings, the toddler-size jungle gym, and some of the woods that surround the park.

Our next destination was the “big” slide. Abel loves to go down the toddler slide, but he also enjoys riding the “big” slide in my lap. He was excited to see this “big” slide for the first time. I let him scramble up the many tiers of the jungle gym, following closely behind. Once we reached the top, I sat down and he crawled into my lap.

You may remember reading last year in this column how shocked I was by the changes to my life that motherhood brought. Becoming a mother really threw me for a loop. I wrestled with post-partum depression for my son’s first few months – and struggled quite a bit longer with depression-related anxiety issues.

Through much of Abel’s first year, I could function well enough, but I really didn’t feel like “myself.” My doctor likened it to being between the rungs of the monkey bars. I had let go of one, pre-parent, version of myself, but had not yet grasped hold of the new “mother” version.

Identity-wise, I was in sort of a free-fall. It was scary when I had time to think about it — but as any mother of a young child will tell you, when you’re raising a little one, there really isn’t much time for thinking. Not the thinking you used to do before you were a parent, anyway. Not the big picture thoughts that come up when you take long walks in the woods, or spend an afternoon kayaking on the river.

Back to the slide. We were up high — ten to fifteen feet off the ground. Abel was secure in my lap, with my arms around him. I had scooted to the lip of the slide, and was just about to push off, when I paused, just for a few seconds.

I could hear the wind in the trees. I could smell the peat and decaying leaves of the woods around us. I could sense the presence of the North River, which isn’t far, as the crow flies, from Gaffield Park. I could hear birds and insects and distant traffic. None of this was remarkable except the simple fact that for the first time in at least 15 months, I was noticing it.

Could it really have been that long since I’d stopped to be aware of my surroundings? Since my mind was quiet and content enough to experience such simple peace? Apparently so.

Spending time outdoors has always been an important part of my life. I love to go out on the water, to visit nature preserves, to find someplace beautiful and just sit and listen – and watch. Such activities have always made me feel good, and more connected with myself.

In his first 15 months of life, my son has already visited a number of conservation areas here on the South Shore. He’s been to the beach; he’s sat beside the rivers. His dad and I – and the rest of his family — look forward to exposing him to much, much more of this. We hope he’ll experience the same sense of peace and contentment there that we often do.

Sitting at the top of the slide with Abel nestled happily in my lap, I felt so grateful. To have survived the first year of motherhood; to have reared (so far), a smart, healthy, sensitive child; to have so much to look forward to in the years to come – even if some of it might be scary.

“Are you ready?” I asked Abel, giving him an extra squeeze.

He giggled.

“Here we go!” I said, pushing off.

And down the slide we went, both smiling.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, correspondent
August 2007

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit