Before many women have their first baby, so much emphasis is placed on their birth experience and success breastfeeding. New mothers’ seem to believe their whole worth lay in the balance. Yet, once your feet come down from the delivery stirrups; life goes on. Because the truth is, the evolution of becoming a mother is not something that happens overnight. Our validation is not found after a victorious birth experience. It is a slippery elusive thing intertwined with our ability to parent and find joy in the drudgery of rearing children.
Early on motherhood feels like a stripping away of all the elemental pieces of ourselves that brought definition. As time trudges on, you begin to realize it is not about losing hold but about blossoming. We emerge from the chrysalis of our former selves intrepid and unsure if we are ready to embrace our new form and take flight. Some of us flounder. We hold on too tight to who we use to be and miss all the possibilities that reside just over the horizon. As we grind through sleepless nights and never ending days wearing puke stained yoga pants and a messy topknot to hide the fact we haven’t showered in days, it feels nearly impossible to believe something vital has not been lost.
And perhaps you are right. You will never be the same. But there is something preposterous about the butterfly mourning the loss of her caterpillar self. Great things are in store for you and that little baby. Its whole life is in your hands. There is the promise of a future nestled in your arms. And not just that baby’s future, but yours too. You are not defined by your birth plan. You are not defined by your ability to exclusively breastfeed for the first year of that baby’s life. You are not defined by that child’s successes or failures. You are not even defined by your role as a mother. You are still you; just evolved, expanded, whole.
You define what kind of woman you are going to be. Will you fly? I hope so. While you’re sitting in your mesh undies in a hospital bed, or at home with a toddler screaming at your feet, just remember you are standing at the edge of a precipice. This is not an end. You can choose to be a woman who is defined by motherhood or a mother who refuses to be defined. I choose the later. I launch myself off that edge into a new unfamiliar landscape.
Right now the days are so long and there are times that it feels nearly impossible to find any space for myself. Little hands clinging to my skirts hindering my flight. But that’s okay. I like to smell the flowers. I will not be slowed forever. There will be a day when those little hands will be gone and I will be left with only myself.
These experiences, this slowing of time, are a honing of myself. I am revealing all sorts of hidden discoveries that would have otherwise been left unearthed. Some are pretty. Some are not. At times I find myself grasping for composure as what I once thought of as a never ending supply of patience has run dry. Sometimes I am so very unkind to these two little beings who have taken my days hostage. But my kids have taught me the value of humbling myself when I am wrong. Their ability to forgive is so foreign in my adult landscape. I’m trying it on for size. I have learned there are times when watches are a hindrance. My toddler has given me the ability to view the world through his unadulterated lenses. While there are times I feel so restless all I can think of is shedding this skin and running free. I know there is a lesson here; a tuning of my spirit. Motherhood has not bridled me. Seeing chains is a lie we tell ourselves.
I choose to define myself beyond my ability to mother my children and by doing so I find a peace during the difficult parts of my day. I find definition in my job, in my role as wife, in my love of nature, books, and cookies. I take small moments for myself so that I can nurture that little hidden place where the essence that is fundamentally just me can still whispers dreams in my ear. I believe it makes me a fuller person for my children, my husband, and myself. By not denying that I am still an individual beyond my role to my family, I am able to share that vital light. The birth of my children is not the climax of my life. Birth was just the beginning and now I’m prepared to fly.