Lately I’ve been spending spare moments reflecting on the experience of motherhood and how I can best represent this journey through writing. I have a vision and so many ideas of what this blog can become and I have been trying to wrestle the excitement of that with the realities of the time I have to devote to this project. I’ve also been coming to terms with the reality of sharing this journey so publically through social media. The idea of openly journalling thoughts about my new identity and parenting struggles has given me pause. In fact, I’ve been having quite the writer’s block despite inspiration that continues to flow. Returning to the creative outlet this project was intended to be, I hope to embrace the unnerving vulnerability and take a leap.
Below are a few aspects of this new identity I’ve been grappling with lately. This list is by no means exhaustive and I really could fill the Internet talking about each, but here’s a little summary.
Finding a tribe. The other day I sat around a circle of women and for the first time in quite a while, I felt a calm sense of belonging. Taking a moment of mindfulness, I took in all of the babies, the other mothers, the details of the room – the sights and sounds – and the fluffy snowflakes lightly falling outside the large windows that framed the scene. In this moment I felt calm enough to be present with these women. In doing so I realized how infrequently I felt this calm sense of being. There was no chatter occupying space in my head wondering what these other Moms thought or worrying about my baby, who sat content in the centre of the carpet taking in the scene as well and contributing his own noises to the conversations. There was only vulnerability as these women admitted to struggles faced, and support in empathetic glances. Moments like this one remind me how necessary it is to surround myself with women who are comfortable meeting other mothers where they’re at, who live themselves authentically, without airs or pretending to have it all together. In knowing that they don’t, they can make room for the beauty and the realness of the messes of motherhood.
Serving oneself. Being a Mom, I’ve learned, is hectic. I now laugh at my expectation that I could take on a project or learn new skills during my maternity leave, as though this year were more a holiday than a reassignment in work. Even just the day to day in caring for Finn and nourishing his body drains my own depleted energy stores. Which is why I’m learning to be choosy in how I spend this year. Finn is best served in spending time with me, so that makes me the priority. The role of mother in many ways is synonymous with sacrifice, and I’m prepared for this, but I’ve also learned that I can’t give my all to my child and my family when there isn’t anything to give. In giving my best to Finn I should first nourish myself. It seems simple enough, right? Alas, this was not always obvious to me. So I’ve set out to spend what remains of this maternity leave nourishing myself. Doing so means spending time with those who heal the soul and calm the mind. Choosing tasks and priorities that do the same. I’m in search of the moments of peace like the one I described above. I’m in search of nourishment.
A shaken identity. Something at some point gave me the impression that becoming a mother would instantly do away with any self-doubts and insecurities and would usher in a new, confident version of self like a Phoenix from the ashes. How disappointing that I should be faced with all of the newness of this role with none of the fringe benefits I imagined. My strength as a mother wasn’t born with Finn, but rather needs to be cultivated. I will write about postpartum separately because the experience of it is monumental, but those early days with Finn shook me to my core. It’s almost as if I was striped away and needed rebuilding, but had to use the same materials as the first time and those were found lacking. Rebuilding, I’ve come to accept, won’t occur overnight (especially on those nights of little sleep). Rather, I’m sure one day I’ll arrive at a moment where I’m tested or strangely present with myself and I’ll see this new version of self as though she was always there. A shift in perspective has already clearly appeared as I empathetically relate to other parents regardless of the differences of circumstances. My heart breaks as I read about what mothers endure in moments of crisis and war, be it in the past or present, or think of children whose physical or emotional needs go unmet. I feel on a different level as I learn to put the needs of another before mine and appreciate better those who do the same. At times, these changes in my sense of self unsettles me and cause me to feel ungrounded, but the changes I see opening my eyes in a new way lead me to believe that I’ll find myself again and like the lens through which I see the world and how that causes me to relate with others. I look forward to embracing vulnerability and continue to work to be comfortable in that state so that I can humbly be the person I hope to be for my children and partner.
Embracing the Mom Look. My dear sister, Erin, recently admitted to me that she felt relief when after Finn was born my looks also took a hit. With a few years of attachment parenting ahead of me, Erin had other priorities, while I could show up looking fresh and put together. She never resented this of me, but I can see now how it would have added to a Mom’s burden. As with all things, I followed along the path my sister laid before me and I too took on the look of a Mom. When I think back to those early days postpartum I shudder just a little. The unwashed hair, the clothes that no longer fit my in-between body — not pregnant, but decidedly not the same as when I first purchased the clothes in my closet – the dark circles under my eyes. My lack of togetherness gained me entrance into this new tribe of women who are tasked with the well-being of their babies instead of themselves. What an honourable exchange that is. And so I embrace the tired look, the extra plumpness here and there, and the uncoordinated outfits (didn’t I wear this yesterday? — oh well, at least it fits and isn’t yet covered in spit up). It’s ok though, right? No one’s looking at me with my little cutie around anyway.