Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Where Did I Go?

When I was a little girl, I dreamed only of being a mommy and shamelessly played dolls well into my early teens. When I reached the magical babysitting age, I swapped my dolls for live kids and babysat every chance I could get. College was something I did, not because I dreamed of an illustrious career, but because it was expected and because it was a great way to find a potential daddy for the children I knew were in my future.

I met and married my husband, secured a great job, and started counting the months before we could start trying for a baby. I became obsessed with pregnancy, all things pertaining to babies, and looked forward to 9 months of not having to suck in my stomach. Without a doubt, I knew who I was and where I was going.

When I finally received the long-awaited news, I embraced every aspect of being pregnant from the first flutter in my womb, to my ever-changing shape and my new shiny hair. I poured over baby name books, devoured parenting how-to books, and was certain we would be the proud owners of a scheduled baby who slept on command and was easily transportable.

Somewhere between planning baby showers and painting our gender-neutral nursery, the unthinkable happened. I realized I had fallen in love with my career. I was appalled at how this did not fit my well-orchestrated plan course for my life, but I soon found out that nothing about motherhood was well-orchestrated.

Our son was born 6 ½ weeks early, attended all his pre-planned baby showers, and ate every 2 ½ hours for the first 12 weeks of his life. I stumbled around in a sleep-deprived trance, dark circles under my eyes, wondering if I would ever feel rested again. I glared at the big belly bulge that no one told me would remain post-partum, resented my husband for expecting me to take up cooking now that I was a “homemaker,” and marveled that a 5 pound, bread-loaf-sized baby could be so draining physically and emotionally. I felt lost in my own life and couldn’t seem to find a compass that would point me back to something familiar.

Somehow I survived the initial learning curve and jumped at the opportunity to continue my career with an at-home, part-time position. I suddenly had daily goals, a guaranteed adult conversation with my boss, and a To Do list that included more than nurse, change diapers, and wipe up baby puke. Working was the compass that magnetically pulled me back to normalcy and I began to recognize myself again in my altered world that was finally feeling comfortable.

Fourteen months later, the familiarity ended when we held a surprise bundle in our arms. Caring for two babies proved to be quite challenging and all structure flew right out the window. Once again, I could find no semblance of myself in my world.

Sleep was sparse, needs were multiple, and I was expected to resume my work load six weeks after our daughter was born. The belly bulge shrank quickly this time because I had no time to eat and was constantly nursing, tripping over toys, and lugging around both a toddler and those ridiculously heavy car seats. I adopted the “whoever is crying loudest gets my attention” rule, made pasta almost every night for dinner, neglected my husband and started making errors in my job. Work, which had been a salve after our son arrived, became a burden weighting me down to yet one more thing I did at a mediocre level.

I floundered, alternating between being blissfully happy with my amazing husband and two chubby babies to major meltdowns that included sobbing on the phone about my intentions to quit being a mom starting NOW! For someone who thrives on structure and measurable accomplishments, the unpredictability of motherhood drove me crazy. I caught glimpses of my former confident self through the fog, but then the clouds would envelope me in an unrecognizable life. What happened to the self-confident woman I used to be? Where did I go?

One month before I gave birth to our third baby in under three years, I blissfully resigned from my job and resolved to become the super-mom and wife I longed to be. Motherhood the third time around seemed easier. I was accustomed to never sleeping, could more easily manage multiple needs, and had mastered the art of simultaneously nursing a baby and making dinner. I scheduled play dates, schlepped all three kids to story time, played at the park, and made meals that didn’t involve pasta.

Then the boredom set in. Each day was a groundhog day repeat of the day before and the tediousness began to wear on me. Play dough was too messy, crafts with glue and little pieces made me cringe, and even my dreams were overrun with cows jumping over moons in great, green rooms. I could finally recognize myself as a mom, but felt one-dimensional, with a life that revolved exclusively around my kids. I yearned to have a hobby, a creative outlet and some intellectual stimulation.

This yearning spawned a quest to grow and develop in areas that interested me outside of being a mom. I auditioned for the worship team at church. I toyed with running. I scrapbooked like a fiend. I found intellectual stimulation through a challenging Bible study. As I became more dimensional, my confidence as a mom grew too.

By the time our fourth and final child was born, I was comfortable in my skin, stretched out and saggy as it was, and I felt more settled in my identity as a wife, a mom, and a friend. I embraced motherhood the way I originally dreamed I would, relishing every moment and marveling at the miracle of a wrinkly, scrawny newborn daily transforming into a healthy, roly-poly baby. I managed to work consistent exercise into my schedule and finally melted off that stubborn fourth baby weight by fulfilling a life-long dream of running a marathon. For the first time since my journey of motherhood began, I maintained a tentative balance of being mom to our kids, lover to my husband and friend to the wonderful women in my life. I even saw myself reflected in the frazzled eyes of new moms who came to ME for advice!

Looking back, I realize that I didn’t go anywhere. I was still me beneath the insecurities, sleeplessness and mid-day meltdowns. God gently took me, a self-focused, career-driven woman, and through the process of a mothering metamorphosis, transformed me into a well-rounded mom embracing my God-given purpose. I can hardly wait to see where I go next.

1 comment:

  1. This post really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing... Brenna