When I had my baby almost three years ago, I felt trapped, scared, and alone. The forty-one years prior to my child’s birth had been all about me: my schooling, my jobs, my love life, my friends, my travel. I was a busy woman and I liked it that way. I came and went as I pleased. I enjoyed the world and a myriad of activities. I ate and slept when I wanted. Flexibility in my day was mine, and I LOVED it that way!
But then came a day when that all changed. It was the day my little, tiny, needy, crying baby girl was born.
On some level, when this precious soul entered the world, the previous version of me packed up her suitcase and left. Or perhaps, part of me simply moved over and made room for her little soul to join mine to create a new and better version of myself. Either way, this 7 pound, larger-than-life being had taken my life over like an alien in Star Trek forcing me, a forty-one year old, seasoned woman to completely change my life.
The fact that the person I had known as myself was gone scared me immensely: “Who is this screaming child robbing me of my sleep and my life?” and “Who am I and what is to become of me now?”
It felt as if everything I had known was gone and would never return.
My mother gave me some sage advice that kept me going. “It won’t be like this forever, Christina. She’s an infant. In a few years, she’ll be less dependent on you and you’ll get back some of what you feel you have lost. Those things are not gone forever.” I held onto the hope and belief that someday I would be me again.
The past three years since her birth have been spent assessing my life and who I thought I was. What do I keep of my former self? What do I let go of? What do I gain in its place? How do I mother while maintaining my identity as an independent woman?
Compartmentalize & Focus
I was so used to multitasking that it was extremely frustrating to be so incapacitated while caring for my infant. She was also a difficult-to-soothe, colicky baby that did not like to sleep at night. This is all exacerbated by the fact that I was doing all of the nighttime care because I’m an NMSM (Never Married Single Mother).
To cope, I learned to compartmentalize my thinking. In these early months, I realized that in order to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, I would had to give myself over to parenting during those precious hours that I was with her. So, when I got home from work, I would make a radical mental shift and clearly accept that the next twelve hours would be baby time. I would repeat to myself over and over, “This is baby time . . . This is baby time,” as I walked down the sidewalk towards our townhouse.
There was no use wishing that I could parent an infant and continue to do the things I used to do. I realized that I had to be present for my baby and wholeheartedly accept my role as a mother–no matter how difficult those hours might be. At the same time, I had to temporarily leave my transforming identity in the car until the next time I went off on my own.
When I did leave the house it was ‘me time’, and I rejoiced in that. Granted I was working, and most of the time I wanted to put my head on my desk and take a nap, but there were those intermittent times when I felt like my old self again. I would deliberately seize those few minutes to just relax and enjoy life. This came in the form of stopping by the YMCA for a soak in the hot tub for fifteen minutes or taking a bike ride around the block for ten minutes before the babysitter had to leave.
The New Me
Now that she is almost three, things have gotten much better, just like my momma said they would. I have not reclaimed myself completely, and I’m not sure that I ever will or even want to do so. In short, I simply don’t see the world the same way I once did.
For instance, I recently signed up for a pottery class and claimed it as a delicately carved out period of time that I could spend doing something just for me. It was meant to be a visceral, creative, non-stressful endeavor where I could explore myself through art. What more could I ask for?
Lo and behold, what did I do in my ceramics class for the first three weeks? I’ll tell you what. I threw little tiny baby pots on the potting wheel so my little girl would have a miniature clay tea set that she could call her own. One day she could say her momma lovingly and solely made them for her.
The old me would’ve thrown five bowls all for myself. But now, as a mommy with a little two year old living in my heart, I am thinking of tiny hands and small smiles.
There is a new and better version of me that is still evolving, one which I am daily discovering, developing and nurturing. Every day I strive to find out what parts of me remain, what parts are only meant for my daughter, and what parts are some combination of the two of us. There was a former Christina and she may be gone forever. But in her place is a person defined by both me and my little girl, the little girl who brings out the momma in me.
I was thrilled that “The Power of Moms: A Gathering Place for Deliberate Mothers” published a guest piece that I wrote.
I hope you enjoyed it. And thank you, my little girl, for the opportunity to recreate myself, as difficult as that may be at times.