Facing the Dark/Missing Me
If I try to sum up what motherhood meant for me at the beginning, I would say that it amounted to what felt like a total and complete loss of my sense of self; basically, I was sure that I'd lost my hard fought for and won identity. I assume this happens to all women who go from being a singular human to mutating into two people, one of whom is a cuter, younger, more squishy version of the other (and I'm not going to say which is which).
When Aya was a few months old, my husband and I were attempting to watch that Inside Out cartoon and I made him turn it off when the quirky part of the little girl's brain went dark, mostly because I was certain that that had happened to me and I thought I would never again figure out how to turn back on the light. I remember saying to him, I am not who I was and I'll never be again. And I meant it.
Turns out, I am pretty similar to who I was before, but also fundamentally, completely altered. It is both difficult and empowering to write these words because I know that I am both a better version of myself while at the same time desperately missing that naive, child-free person I, not that long ago, was. Grieving your former self is a pretty f*cked up way to begin a motherhood journey but, whatevs, welcome to my life.
A good friend of mine told me that three days after her son was born, she sat at her kitchen table, trying to eat a hot meal, and thought that she had made the biggest mistake of her life. I was too paralyzed with fear to have really clear thoughts three days after my daughter's birth, but I think what was crossing my mind was something akin to " life as I knew it is over and I have no idea what I'm going to do now." Maybe it's because I waited well into my thirties. Maybe it's because I had a massive hormone drop after her birth. Maybe it's because all mothers/parents think this (anecdotally, I can say this is true). But maybe also, having a child is a life altering event that some transition into easier than others. I have no idea. I'm not that kind of doctor.
I have had to face the notion that I am not a "natural mother" whatever the f that means. I mean, does a serious psychological meltdown upon the birth of your child mean that you weren't psychologically prepared? I'm not sure. But I am sure that someone someone recently said to me that when motherhood doesn't come "naturally," women (presumably like me) tend to feel inadequate, I wanted to throat punch her. And I'm not sure if it's because I know she's right, or because I think she's wrong.
Facing my darkness has been a process of trying to accept myself as a mother - something, quite frankly, I was never sure I'd be. I was telling a friend yesterday that I resent women who have always known they wanted to be mothers because I feel like they have an easier time, and I told her that I even resented her for having a "less troubled" time than I did at the beginning. Full disclosure/Warning: Having this blog makes me feel like I can say anything now so WATCH OUT! I'm comin' for ya!
I guess I'm full of resentment, and that's also part of the darkness.
I guess the dark has to have some light so that I know that the dark itself exists. And the light is, I suppose, the fact that I've found my own way of being a mother that I am really proud of. It's this mixture of bravado and vulnerability, oversharing and boundary-less openness, that makes me feel like I have some control over what my life looks like now and what course I can chart for my relationship I have to and with my daughter. She is so unexpectedly magical, and so completely unlike the child I thought I would have, that I feel regularly like she saves me from myself. She is so much more than I could have imagined and she makes me more proud than I ever thought possible (by laughing at her own farts and sticking her finger into my bellybutton). And she is mine is this way that is so intimate and deeply personal that I feel like the best I can do for her is to always, in every way, allow her to be herself so that she need never struggle with her identity in the way that I have.
She is the fiercest creature I have ever met and the one thing in my life that reminds me not just who I was, but also what I have the capacity to be.