One of the biggest chapters of self-discovery (I hate that term) in my life was college. There’s something about living in a tiny apartment with four other females (love you, ladies), five hours away from home, being fueled daily by high expectations and very little sleep that really makes you get to know your inner-self. I value how far away from home I was and would encourage anyone to live away from their hometown safety net at some point in their lives. I was also in a long distance relationship with my now-husband. For four and a half long years. But that’s another post. I treasure my college experience, who I grew into in those years. I surely learned more than I ever could from more than just books. It shaped me into the person, the wife, the teacher, the friend, the daughter, and the mother I am today. I count it heavily within my story and testimony as getting to know myself, meeting who I was and who I was to become even more so in the future, now.
Also on the topic of high expectation and very little sleep…my next and most recent chapter of self-discovery is easily motherhood; specifically early motherhood. Truthfully? At first I think I lost quite a bit of myself. And not in a poetic and pretty way. But a messier, uglier, chaotic sense of the term. I feel I often refer to my ‘early motherhood’ chapter as chaotic. I feel that it’s not referred to as that enough of the time. Skewed perceptions and all that. I don’t pen that to be ominous or dark. Or mean to scare off the new moms or the women swollen with pregnancy in their ninth month. Surely not everyone’s early journey is that way. And for that, I am happy. But it felt like chaos to me.
I have always, always been one of those little girls, who, when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up swiftly said “a mom.” I have worked with kids, babysat from the time I was twelve, gotten a degree involving kids, and been heavily in charge of other people’s kids before I had any of my own. Easy, I loved every minute of it. So then motherhood for me, when it happened, should have been nothing short of rainbows and butterflies, right? Throughout the Bible God references growth through pain. Sometimes it’s merely discomfort, sometimes it’s agonizing pain. Growth happens when a part of something dies off, not short of some form of discomfort. Dying to self, breaking down, flourishing, learning. Fluid growth.
That’s how I look at my journey to motherhood, then and now.
With all the love and hopes and dreams of becoming a mom before I actually became a mom, I was let down when I felt so disconnected to my pregnancy. It took me a while to not be ashamed of that feeling. Afterall, so many women can’t have this, so I’m supposed to clap and shout hallelujah the whole time. Right? It felt odd that we had hoped and prayed and planned for this, but then I didn’t feel sunshine and birds singing each time I felt her kick. I felt so guilty. I was extremely blessed with a normal pregnancy. I felt nauseous, but wasn’t regularly puking. So that was a plus. I was healthy and happy (despite the stress of our house flooding upon entering the second trimester). My journey to motherhood was planned and expected, prayed for with intention. But the first real chapter within it was filled with chaos.
Those first ten months were hard. She cried a lot. I cried a lot. My mind did strange things. It felt like a battle; a blurry battle. No one talks about that. It wasn’t what it was supposed to be, or at least what I was told it would be. For a while I chose bitterness. Guilt. Detachment. Numbness. I battled with my lack of connection to my pregnancy. How it didn’t solely bring me the blissful newborn chapter I was hoping for. How screwed up and depriving my expectations were. I battled a lot with myself and my mind, angry at it and colic for robbing me of the sweet fresh baby moments I was promised. Those happened, but looking back, I can’t seem to remember most of them. I still haven’t made peace with that. I battled with my heart, with relationships. In the way that only unbalanced chemicals in your mind can distort perceptions, love, and expectations.
I’m finding myself again.
Or should I say, meeting who I am as a person; as a wife, a friend, as a mother. That season of chaos has brought about new growth. For that, I am extraordinarily thankful. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. Talking, healing, seeking encouragement, coping mechanisms. Fueled by self-discovery (did I mention I hated that term?) and purposeful intention. Life feels less like a battle these days and more like a victory; a sweet redemptive victory. I’m getting to know this new skin, this new heart, this redemptive mind. My daughter is an amazing, happy, curious, strong-willed, beautiful, little soul. She rarely cries. She’s smart. She loves food and running with the dog. She’s tough as nails, and sweet as pie. She smothers us in hugs and kisses.
Our home is filled with a different type of chaos these days.
Truthfully, in those blurry, battle-filled days I never ever would’ve expected them to bring this type of grace and healing. That’s where expectations cripple you, I guess. Maybe in a good way? When the old season has passed and the chaos has lifted, beautiful and resilient things can grow. I promise you that. In the thick of it, in the war zone of a difficult postpartum, in the ugliness of depression and anxiety, in the fear and unnaturally imbalanced entrance into motherhood, in the forceful bending and shifting of a marriage learning how to parent, of a newborn screaming bloody murder for four plus straight hours every day; I never could’ve told you I would be here. During all the battles and growing pain no one bothers to talk about. I never thought we’d get here, finally.
Here in the days of healing, riddled with battle scars, dwelling in their grace-filled victories and peace from the chaos.
Here to meeting myself, once again.