Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To the me before

It has been almost five months since my last blog. I have been struggling with the balance of working full time, being Mom full time, and being Wife full time. It is as if I have forgotten how to be anything else. For the past few months I have swung between feeling resentful that others need me to feeling ashamed and angry that I am not more with it and able to be a better daughter, sister, friend, citizen. When I get home from work it Harrison wants me and by the time we have done play time, dinner, bath, bottle, bed it is nine or ten and Justin and I take a few moments to breath before going to bed and waiting for our middle of the night wake up call.  I hate the way this opening paragraph makes me sound as if I don't love my son or my husband, because I do. However, there have been moments when I have looked in the mirror and wondered "who is this woman and what happened to the me that I was?"

I was 34 when I became a mother. I knew who I was and what I wanted. Blissfully secure in my marriage and forging ahead in my career, I had no concept of how completely and utterly my whole life was about to change. This is a letter I wrote in my journal a few months ago and I feel that it is the best way to explain my long absence:

To the me before:

At this moment, you are poised on a precipice that you can not see. Having swum through the seas of resentment and anger, you have come to peace with your infertility and are attempting to move forward and build your life. Soon you will be the recipient of a miracle, and when it comes you will hold your breath and fear saying it aloud while longing to shout it from the roof tops.  The thankfulness you will feel at this will overwhelm you. In your whole life you have never been blessed like this, and you will dream and ponder and pontificate, but you will never again be who you are now.

Did you know that you can sit for hours and watch a pair of beautifully formed eyelashes rest gently on chubby cheeks that are flushed with sleep? Fingernails, knees, and lips will become fascinating. Every head turn, hand wave, roll, laugh and smile will feel like your accomplishments. When he smiles and calls you "Mama" the universe will shrink down to one small person who holds your entire world in his hands. Your heart will no longer be yours, neither will your dreams, or wishes, or prayers. Everything will shift to serve this small being.

That shift will destroy you. This sounds extreme, but it is true. Although you no longer carry him inside your body, when he first comes home he will still physically be a part of you. He wants you. Your smell calms him, your body nourishes him, he wants to be attached to you. Without him, you feel a mild panic. His crib is too far and he must sleep next your bed, so that at any moment you can look at him and make sure he is still there. You and your husband will loose track of time and the outside world as you cocoon yourselves around your miracle. Weeks will pass without you being aware of a single thing that is happening in the wider world. The woman who read 8 newspapers a day is gone, but you are too tired and too busy to notice her absence.

Your love for your husband will change. When you hand him his son and watch him brush those baby sideburns, you will understand the depth of your feeling for this man. As they build their own relationship, you will find yourself catching your breath and whispering prayers of thanks. On the other hand, lack of sleep can cause tension. The pressure can crack and break your marriage. Resentment is easy to give in to and frustration can boil over. You have never been this angry before. How dare he question your parenting? Why doesn't he do it your way? How can it be possible that you are this poor? He needs to work more to make more money, and though you will understand, you will also struggle to not be angry at his absence. You have always been equal partners. Both working to support and build your future, but now it feels as if the balance has shifted. Why aren't you an equal earner? The two of you will learn to communicate, love and forgive in ways you never knew possible.

At this moment, in the before, you are who your mother raised you to be. You have a career and you are proud of your work. You love your students and you are pushing  yourself forward. You want to move up and become and administrator.You push yourself to be the best of the best. Most of who you are is in this classroom. This is what you know. This is what your life is about.  Before the boy comes, you push your pregnant self to prove that this child will not change your teaching life. This will be the last thing you let go. Just a few weeks before he comes, you will tearfully tell your husband how there is a part of you that wants to stay home. When you say it, it feel as if you are betraying all of your hard work and dreams.

When he first comes, you will forget about work in  a way you didn't know was possible. The part of you that was so hard to let go of will flit away, but as the cocoon loosens and you reemerge into the world it will begin to call to you again. You will admit that you are not a person who is meant to be a stay at home Mom. This is when you will experience guilt and anxiety as you have never known it before.  The reality of being a working Mom will overwhelm you at first. How can you leave your little man behind and be happy away from him? What would you do if your mother couldn't watch him? You will also feel society react to you in new and strange ways. No one asks your husband how he "handles" work and fatherhood, but you are inundated with that question and that imbalance frustrates you.  The equal partnership seems skewed because you need to get home after school, but you also still long to be leader and effect change. This will bring you low.

The moment you go back to work full time, you will feel anxiety as you never have before. You will be a ball of confusion and resentment and extreme emotions. This is the post-partum anxiety you feared. There will be no one to speak to, because you won't know what to say. Your husband, who loves you so, will steer towards your doctor and you will go on meds and the anxiety will lift and the clouds will part, but you still feel separate from so many you love. Not because you don't want them in your life, but because you aren't quiet sure who you are anymore and that makes it difficult to function in relationships. Who is this woman? Where is the me that I was before?

Through all this, there will be the constant of your blue eyed blond haired miracle. The wreck of your body (don't even ask what will happen to it, the trauma is too much to bear) will lift and carry and play with him. In your most anxious moments, he will be the one to make laugh and smile. He will test you and consume you, but you will learn balance and comfort in this new role of Mom. The fear will subside, the confusion will clear. At some point you will come back to yourself.

You will not be the you that you were before. That person is gone. This you feels more solid and rooted. The happiness is deeper, the love is stronger, and yes the fears are greater. You will be transformed through a year of God breaking and rebuilding you. All mothers go through it, but for some reason few people discuss it. You will fail and fall, but you will also succeed and soar. This time is about running the race with patience and looking towards the author and finisher of our faith.  You will be vulnerable and humbled, but you will also be blessed and thankful.

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