Shortly after the birth of my son, I was surprised by how much of an identity crisis I had. When I was expecting the kid, my brother, neighbors, strangers told me, “No matter what, you won’t be ready!” And yeah, they were right. But the metaphysical punch to the side of the head was still more shocking than I expected.
For instance, I understood that I might not get sleep. But the effects of long-term sleep deprivation? I had no clue. I didn’t understand that for months I would desperately long for an uninterrupted three-hour stretch of sleep. That, in the depths of tiredness, I would find myself wailing and lying on the living room floor and asking my husband to bring me something to eat, because I was too tired to get it myself. Then,when he brought me apple slices, I would cry even harder. Apple slices were so crunchy, and I was too tired to chew.
And I figured that my time would be taken up by caring for the baby, but I didn’t know that every square inch of mental space would be taken up, too. I thought that fitting a kid into my life would be inserting a slice into the pizza-pie-chart of my mental space– I’d just cut a little off of the surrounding slices. Problem was, the “kid” piece of the pizza pie was deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, whereas my mental pie had been thin crust. And it wasn’t a slice, it was a whole, entire pie with all of the toppings. And I somehow had to fit that whole thing into my head.
You see, I was tough and capable once. I had really liked that tough and capable person. And the sobbing, mush-minded zombie I had become was not familiar to me and was not someone I was happy to be. I felt thrown completely off center. My tough, capable, happy center.
While I was thrown off by the time and space changes that did happen, there were also some changes that I was expecting to happen that didn’t. I thought my desire for $300.00 handmade leather boots would dissipate, and in its place would pop up a practical and money-saving desire to own and wear clogs. I thought I would suddenly be granted a brand new, deep, full well of patience (maybe the new set of hormones included a “Patience” booster pack?) And I thought I would be one of those people like my old neighbor who said, “Oh, you just don’t know true, unconditional love until you’ve had a child! It’s the best thing in the wooooooorrrrrlllld!!”
Well, handcrafted leather boots still call my name, and I’ll probably never wear clogs*. If the new hormones came with a “Patience” booster pack, mine never fully loaded (however, the “Unbridled Rage” pack sure did!) And “The best thing in the wooooooorrrrrlllld!!” is still either lying on a tropical beach, riding my bike downhill, or a fresh piece of chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. (Although, sharing any of those things with my kid is pretty good, too.)
Thankfully, I’ve gotten a little perspective at this point. My kid is a toddler now, and to me, at least, “Toddlers Rule, Babies Drool!” (I’ll take tantrums over getting barfed on any day!) I’m now sleeping at least seven hours a night and I have enough alone time to process my deep-dish pizza mental reconfiguration. I’ve had a chance to settle into parenthood and understand who I am as a mom. And I’m starting to really enjoy my life again.
That isn’t to say that the path to understanding who I was as a mom was an easy one. My path involved, among other things, the support of close friends, therapy, vitamins, medication, making new fellow-parent friends, finding reliable childcare, a new understanding of the importance of “down time,” about ten months’ time, and reading a lot of writing by women who have (and haven’t) been moms before me.
What all of that writing reminded me was that the worst and hardest parts of life sometimes turn into the best and funniest stories. Of course. If I could just shift my perspective and remember that, I could let some sunshine back into my life, little by little.
So far, it’s working. However, I know I’m often one overtired and flailing diaper change away from crying on the floor all over again.
So my intention here is to share the little bits of sunshine that sometimes come from my own drearier parenting moments. Because really, there are too many funny and gross things happening not to write about them. I mean, I thought farts were funny before, but having a one-year-old fart on my arm and then proudly look into my eyes and say, “Toot!?” Farts are not just funny, they are endearing now, too.
That brings us here. Please read, enjoy, comment, and share your own wonderful, off-center stories.
*If I ever do decide to wear clogs, something like these would be pretty sweet.
Originally posted on babyoffcenter.wordpress.com on June 10, 2015