“When a woman gives birth,
two are born;
from the womb of its mother
and a woman
from the womb
of her former existence."
The arrival of Mother's Day always does something to me, puts me in a contemplative mood, perhaps especially because it coincides with the month of the birth of my firstborn, so I am always thinking in particular of when I became a mother. This child, my daughter, this baby, who suddenly came into the world and transformed me into a mom. I struggle, as perhaps all moms do, with feeling adequate, with feelings of guilt, all my shortcomings laid out in sharp detail with every parenting misstep, every single day.
And now I find myself in an interesting stage of parenting. This middle stage. All my children are in school. It's an "easier" stage in a lot of ways. Not yet driving or dating. No potty-training or diapers. No nap schedules or nursing schedules. We can leave them with a sibling who can babysit. Admittedly, there is more fighting, whining, screaming, throwing things, hitting, and crying than I would have expected at this stage, but I am learning that things are very rarely, if ever at all, like you expect them to be. Really. Like my face pain. Just when things were supposed to be getting "easier" . . . nope, BAM! Let's hit you in the face (almost literally) with chronic pain instead. Have fun with that.
Anyway. I wanted to tell you the story. This story of when I became a mom. Just because all stories are fun, right? And this is my mother's day story. And we all have our own stories. I don't mean to diminish anyone else's or glorify my own. Yours may be a story of not wanting children at all, or wanting but not being able to, perhaps a story of having children young or waiting til you're old, whether by choice or by circumstance, of adoption, of infertility, of being rich or being poor, or having a single child, or 12 children, or something in between, of being married, single, divorced, widowed. I don't know all of your circumstances, how can I. We each have our own story to tell.
This is mine.
Zac and I had known each other about 4 years when we got married so we felt like we already had a somewhat solid foundation and knew each other very well. Although there is always an adjustment period being newlyweds, there was a deep well of trust and emotional bond that we had to draw from from the very beginning of our marriage so that we felt we were ready to start the next phase of our life together. Even though we were both still young college students, we felt strongly that as soon as I graduated we should start our family.
I was graduating in April so we figured May would be the absolute earliest that we'd want to have a baby, counted back 9 months, figured it would probably take at least a few months to get pregnant anyhow (right?! I mean, of course!) and we started trying.
And I got pregnant right away.
That was September. So I spent Fall semester pregnant, sick and running out of my classes puking. Then Winter semester I had a full time internship during which I became very swollen, uncomfortable and very pregnant.
I graduated 8 months pregnant.
Here is my department head congratulating my very obviously about-to-pop belly:
Having a child I think is like a million other hard but wonderful things in life where you cannot really wait until you feel ready or you will never do them. You are never ready. There is no ready. You can never be ready for something so completely transformational, so unexpected, so deeply individual.
So was I ready?
Of course not.
I would never have been ready.
No one ever is.
Ask any mom. Any parent. I don't think anyone is ever really prepared for what lies in store when one becomes a parent because it's never really ever what one expects it to be. It can't be. That's just the common refrain of life isn't it?
So there I was. I was 24 years old. Just graduated from college. Zac had a really great, well-paying, important-prospecting summer internship at a firm in DC so we were actually packing up our apartment and leaving to drive across country. In 3 weeks.
Um. Yes. This was slightly crazy. And turned into the perfect recipe for a delicious brew of postpartum depression, but I didn't realize any of that at the time. It wasn't any one thing's fault. It was just a combination of factors.
(Here is zac with 3wk old Abigail at a gas station stop somewhere in Wyoming)
We packed up everything we thought might need for the 2 of us and a newborn baby that we could possibly squeeze into our tiny Tercel floor to ceiling, front to back, and we took off, stopping at least every 2 hrs to nurse this tiny infant and change diapers and outfits and blowouts at the side of the highways and at gas stations and rest stops and soothe her whimpering and crying all along the way across the country. I remember she still had a bandaid on her heel from her PKU test in the hospital and her umbilical cord stub fell off somewhere along the way on that trip. It was . . . perhaps . . . the longest car trip I have ever been on in my entire life.
Then we eventually arrived to stay in this strange apartment that was part of an semi-attached garage in the house of a lady who attended our church there in Fairfax,VA. We were sub-letting the apartment from a couple who were coming out to UT for a couple months and thus leaving it furnished and leasing it out for the months they were gone. We would occupy it for those 2 months. But the owner of the house was an older lady whom I felt like never really liked us very much (who knows why) and I felt uncomfortable and shy and weird in this other person's apartment with their furniture and belongings. It just felt strange.
Zac worked long hours. I was home alone with Abigail without a car in this apartment. It was so hot and humid outside, I was afraid of the baby overheating, and I don't think I even had a stroller. I felt self-conscious and even paranoid going outside (clearly something was going a little bit wonky in my brain). I was a brand new mom with no friends in the immediate area and I had not a clue what to do. We didn't even have a TV (and this was before prevalent internet). I read some books. I called my mom and cried to her. I nursed my new baby and napped with her and talked to her and watched as she developed new skills. But that was all I ever did. I was lonely and depressed. But I didn't recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression at the time. It was only looking back in hindsight that I see it and sometimes I am a little sad that those were my first months of motherhood. But I know now it was also more than just circumstance - it might have happened to me even under the very best circumstances just because of my very susceptible chemical makeup. Anyway.
I also had no clothes that fit me. None. I think my socks were all that I still had that fit. Nothing else. Even my feet had swollen and become a half size bigger. This persisted as a problem because we were still rather poor college students (trying to save his great internship income, of course), now with baby costs, and also I was still holding out great hopes that I would soon be able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. That's what "everyone" said would happen, right? That was the expectation. So I wore Zac's baggy clothes to get by and tried to adapt to my new body that felt so foreign to me. I remember the first time I tried to go for a run that summer, the first time since sometime before I had gotten big into pregnancy, and I felt shocked by what my body had become. It wasn't me. It couldn't be. And yet I looked down at myself and yes it was. Oh.
And I never did get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. I guess that's part of my point in this story. More than just the clothes, I never went back to person I was before I had Abigail. I never could. I don't know if I would want to. Everything changes. Everything. When you become a mother. If I wrote about all the ways that I changed, this story would never end.
But this is my story now. It never ended. I guess it wasn't how I expected it to be. Nothing ever is.
This is the story of when I became a mother.
Everyday I become
more of my story.
This is my story.
Everyday is my story.
I become more
Related posts that got me thinking:
Why Mother's Day is For the Birds
Don't Call Me Mommy - Unless I Birthed You
Birthing a New You