There's no doubt that a baby's first year is incredibly difficult for the parents, especially if they're first time parents. While I felt totally prepared and ready to have a baby and make the switch from being a young woman to "mom," I don't think there's ever really words to prepare you for the complete identity shift that occurs when you have a little one.
I'm still me in many ways, but other parts have had to fade away and new strands have emerged. And it's good. I like who I have become. I've always known I was meant to be a mama. I feel like I am really basking in the place God had prepared for me. It's taken Jonah's 13 1/2 months on this earth to finally feel like I've (kind of) arrived at this point.
Jonah's birth was traumatic. I think it took me almost two or three months to shake off the newborn delirium and finally realize just how traumatized I was by it. I started writing a few posts on it here on the blog but I never published them because I couldn't make the time to wax my true thoughts and feelings into written words, but also because it was hard to try and iterate something that is not culturally recognized and talked about.
I'm not sure that I'll try to go back and talk about it to the extent that I truly want to. I will say, though, that Jonah's birth- my process to become a mother- consumed pretty much my spare thought. The what-ifs. The I should'ves. The I wonder ifs. The if onlys. Of course logically I know you're not supposed to do that, and you can't do that to yourself, no matter how much I fought it I couldn't escape. Will was my rock through those dark, dark months, but no matter how patient and understanding he is there comes a point that really no one else can truly understand. I kept waiting for my light at the end of the tunnel. I prayed it would come soon.
Finally, around the time Jonah was 9 months old I began to feel the vice grip of his birth lessen its hold on me, if ever so slightly. No longer consumed, however it was always still there, like a tide lapping at the edges of my mind. Life swirled on around me. People long ago stopped asking how I am, but rather, it was and is always about my child. This is not to say, of course, that people should not be interested in Jonah or ask about him or coo over him. However, hello, I'm still here too. This subject has been written about many times by other moms- the loss of personal identity because all anyone sees anymore is your cute little kids. This is something I've really been feeling a lot recently, though. At first it's fine because, yes, my kid is adorable and yes, I love talking about him. But then there comes a point when no one asks about you. No one truly wants to see you; they just want you to come to bring the baby so they can see him. No longer can you have conversations about anything you think or about things going on in your life, because either your conversation partner steers the conversation to the baby or is distracted by the adorable baby and you can't even finish your sentence.
So, anyway, coming out of that rabbit hole. Will and I had always planned for me to be a stay at home mom eventually. Probably after our second kid was born. But then I went back to work when Jonah was five months old and it was the worst seven months of my life. It's hard to go to college and get a degree for something only to realize not even three years later it was all for waste, because I was not born to be a teacher and take care of everyone else's kids. I was born to be a mom and raise and nurture my own children. Many moms can do both, and I salute those superwomen. But I could not do it. I wasn't doing a good job at anything- working or at home. Will and I discussed and prayed about our options. And then one day I was talking to a coworker who was pregnant with her second child. They use the same daycare we did, and I asked if she was planning to stay home or come back to work (I had assumed she would stay home because paying for two children in that daycare would be approximately 2/3 of our paycheck, and to me, it would totally not be worth it. Teaching is too stressful and hard to only bring home 1/3 of a paycheck). Now, this lady is so incredibly sweet and I respect her and in way judged her decision. She kind of laughed and said no, she wanted to finish decorating her house before she quit her job.
Something clicked for me when she said that. This is totally not about her and her personal decision, but when she said that I saw my own life in front of me. The only reason I was considering going back to work next year was because of the money. So we could pay of student loans. Put some more into savings. Set us up to not have to live quite so frugally. To make things easier. And yes, because there are still a lot of things we want to do to our home. Crystal clearly, I saw that I was choosing things and my house over my child. And I could not do it. That night Will and I decided I wasn't going back to work.
Then the race to the end of school was on and it felt like we would never make it. Of course, we did and suddenly, like a breath of fresh air, I had time. I had breathing space in my head that allows me to concentrate on things like my family and my home and cooking and laundry. All mundane things that are enough to make some women cry, but this is my place at this stage in my life. I am so happy. I am content.
I saw both of my midwives right after school was out and each of those visits was the most healing I've had in a year. Though neither of them said anything particularly profound, being in their presence again and talking about my feelings; finally having someone (other than Will) acknowledge what I went through. Acknowledge and affirm my feelings. Acknowledge how hard it was. Acknowledge that I had every right to feel like I do. THAT was like the proverbial balm on my scar I never realized I needed. I'm still working through a lot of my feelings, but I feel so much lighter and healed than I was three months ago.
Of course this is not to say everything is easy and a breeze now! Oh, no I don't think any mother could say that. Jonah still fights almost every single nap. I'm really struggling to get back to a healthy place with my post-partum body. The normal wear and tear of motherhood and raising a baby. Laundry piles up on my couch. My kitchen floors are proverbially sticky. I fight the cat and dog hair on my floors constantly. But the dark cloud that's been hanging over me is much less like an ominous storm cloud, and more like a wandering puffy cloud. It's there, but not so scary. I'm in a much better place now.