On My Birthday, I Interviewed My Parents: What Was It Like To Raise Me?

When I was growing up, I didn't realize that I was also watching my mom and dad grow up. I spent most of my life focusing on their imperfections instead of seeing that they were just two imperfect humans doing their best at being parents.

For my birthday this year, I interviewed my mom and dad about what it was like to bring me into this world.

I wanted to hear about the day of my birth, the weeks and months leading up, and what the early years of raising me were like from each of their perspectives.

I wanted to understand and honor all their struggles, sacrifices, and moments of joy that led to my existence.

It wasn't easy.

My maternal grandmother passed away while my mom was still pregnant with me. To prevent my mom from having a miscarriage from the stress, her family and my dad kept my grandmother's death a secret. On her deathbed, my grandma courageously spoke to my mom for the very last time, telling her she was going away on a trip so that they couldn't talk for a while.

My maternal grandfather was also dying from lung cancer and tuberculosis and passed away only days after hearing that I was born. He held on, wanting to know that I made it safely into the world. To this day, my mom's heart still aches from not seeing her parents and saying goodbye before they passed.

I can't imagine what that pain was like for everyone, especially my mom.

I learned from my dad about the astounding number of nerve-racking, life and death decisions he had to make on the day of my birth—from approving a risky spinal anesthetic after my mom struggled to give birth to me for 15+ hours, to deciding against allowing the doctors to test my bone marrow for an infection.

I can't imagine how scary all these moments were for him. He stepped up and made one courageous choice after another, just like he has my whole life.

My mom spoke of giving up her career dreams and becoming a stay-at-home mom. Among countless commitments, she read books to me every night until I fell asleep. She did this for ten straight years, hoping I would take in the wisdom. I did.

I just sat there, listening in awe of their dedication and love.

Parents are not just human. They are superheroes.

They stayed true to their commitments despite all the times I lashed out, misbehaved, and created undue suffering for them.

I want to spend the rest of my life reminding them of how deeply I love and appreciate them for who they are.

So on the day every year that celebrates my life, I want to honor my parents.

My birthday isn't just "my day." It's the anniversary of the day my mom almost died, and the day my dad stared at fear straight in the face, all to bring me into this world.

I love you, mom and dad. Thank you for this life you've given me. There is no greater honor than to be your son.

Three Prompts For You

Question: What was it like when I was born?

Action: Share one thing you appreciate about what your parent(s) did for you when you were growing up.

Reflection: What experiences did your parent(s) have to go through to raise you that you still might not know about?

Joseph J. Lam
On a mission to help people connect deeply with their parents. | CEO & Co-founder of Parents Are Human (parentsarehuman.com)