Happy (almost) Mother’s Day! It’s that special time of year where church attendance goes WAY up for one Sunday, the Olive Garden is inexplicably packed and everyone scrambles around trying to find a gift that says “Thanks, mom, for wiping my butt, teaching me how to eat, and generally helping me to become a functioning member of society”. But, really there is no gift that can adequately express all of the gratitude and love we have for our mothers so we usually settle for a Hallmark sentiment and if you are a member of my family, yet another cute framed picture of the grandkids, who she loves more now anyways. Mother’s Day is especially near and dear to my heart because Levi made his triumphant entry into our world early on Mother’s Day morning four years ago. He was a week late and we have since learned that he will always do everything on his own schedule, thank you, and he came dangerously close to being born on my birthday two days later, which would have caused great beef between he and I because I believe firmly that birthdays are sacred and people should really try to stay off each other’s birthdays. Fortunately for both of us, he wisely chose to keep a few days between our sacred celebrations. My husband has been making fun of me lately because I have become extra sentimental this year about Levi’s birthday. Levi and I have been looking at old pictures and videos of him and I have been telling him stories and reminiscing about yesteryear. He turns four this Friday and it’s hitting me that now he really isn’t a baby anymore. Each year that has passed I have had this epiphany but somehow this year it seems even more certain that he really is growing up and needing me less and less. Ever since Levi was born, I have felt like he and I were on this huge adventure together. He has been learning how to, you know, basically be a functioning human and I have been learning how to be a functioning mother. I wish I could tell you that our adventure has been easy and light and full of fireflies and wonder.
I have learned that no journey into motherhood is easy or light but mine seems to have been particularly bumpy…at least from my perspective.
Maybe every other mother feels the same way but we just don’t talk about that at music class or gymboree. Levi was a little bit of a surprise to Greg and myself. When we had gotten married we thought we would never have kids and then five years in, we had just barely started to think, “Maybe we could handle one kid…in like another 5 years or so” and BAM! Levi happened. It threw us for a huge loop. Greg was self-employed as a graphic designer and my paycheck was our main source of income. After doing the math we realized that me staying home was the smartest solution financially and emotionally and everything else-ly and so in 9 short months I watched everything in my life begin to change dramatically. And we all know by now how much I love change…. Not only were things changing but all I could feel was a feeling of profound loss. I was losing a body that I had known for 28 years, as it began making room for another little body. I was losing my job. I had always worked since Greg and I got married, since i had graduated college, really, and I didn’t know what not working would really look like for me. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my friendships as I knew them. We were the first of our close circle of friends to have a baby and while they were so excited to be a part of Levi’s life, we all knew our life was going to be drastically different than theirs. I started to feel like I was losing all sense of freedom. I couldn’t eat, drink or workout like I wanted. My marriage was feeling different. Greg was reeling from the idea of becoming the main source of our income and also at the same time feeling that primal urge that providing for his family was now solely his responsibility. We were both so scared and so overwhelmed but convinced the best course of action was to smile bravely at each other and tell each other it would all be alright. And then Levi was born. I remember when they handed him to me for the first time. I will never forget that feeling in all my life. I wish I could tell you I had that classic washed over with love feeling and all my fears melted away and I knew I could do it. HA! So far from it. Don’t get me wrong, I instinctively loved this new little bundle they had placed in my arms but that love was buried so so so deep under my fear and terror and dread. This picture at the top of this posts makes me crack up and tear up at the same time. It’s hilarious because I found it on Facebook from the day we brought Levi home from the hospital and its captioned something like, “so happy and content in his new home”. First of all, he lasted about 2 minutes before he started losing his mind. Secondly, and this is the part that makes me tear up, you can’t see me standing next to his crib bawling my eyes out. I felt so terrified and so uncertain and so very very hormonal that all I could do was sob next to his crib while Greg put his arms around me and wondered what in the holy hell had happened to his once emotionally stable wife. Most of Levi and my first months were spent like that. Me, bored out of my mind, staring at him doing nothing for hours at a time, wondering if this was what the rest of my life would be like. Levi and I, we duked it out for that entire first year…or should I say motherhood and I had a little cage fight. Levi was just trying to survive being a new human and having a mother who was trying not to dread every moment of it. Motherhood and I went round and round. I bucked and scratched and despised her. In that first year I thought for sure I was a dead woman.
Until I realized I was doing it all wrong. I was trying to make Motherhood define me. I thought Motherhood meant certain things and I thought it lead to certain feelings. It was as if I was a woman divided.
I wasn’t battling Motherhood, I was battling myself. I slowly came to the realization that I didn’t have to let being a mom define me. Instead, I could welcome in all of the wonderful and hard parts of being a mom into the woman I had always been. I was allowed to be a mom the way I wanted to be a mom. Motherhood was simply another facet of who I was. It was added to being a wife and a sister and a daughter and a friend and a hard worker and a want to be good cook and all the other parts of me that make me unique and make my heart beat a little faster. It’s taken me literally years to become comfortable in my own skin as a mom, and most days, I still find myself cat fighting my way through it. I think that’s why I celebrate Levi’s birthday so hard and so vivaciously. It doesn’t just represent Levi having survived another year. It represents me growing into another year as a mom. Each year I feel like I settle in just a little more, I hear my own rhythm a little louder. He and I are on this adventure together. And with each year that passes we fall in step together a little better. Our family feels a little more at peace. And motherhood gives me a little tip of her hat and smiles.
3 thoughts on “My Cage Fight With Motherhood”
You’re not alone, my friend. Those first years are tough. Then they get a little easier. And then, I am warned, they get tough again. But you, you cage fight with unexpected grace and ferocity. And really good hair. Love you!
You have twins and a son whose uncle is Justin. You have my utmost mom respect, heather.
I’ve never read you before and now I never want to stop. You are honest and vulnerable and rare. And I miss you!!!! Thanks for the heartfelt laugh and hope for my future babies (and Dear Lord please, husband).