We’re going to put you up for adoption to find someone who wants a baby…because that someone is not me. The words felt ugly and untrue as soon as I’d uttered them. But it approached midnight after I’d woken at 3:30 a.m. to a five hour stretch of Finn not falling back to sleep and then closing out the day with an eight hour stretch of him awake and desperately overtired. I could feel myself losing it, all the patience and maternal grace I try to maintain each day. I plopped Finn on the bed next to Stephen, slammed the door, and sat in the darkness, too exhausted to cry.
While I’ve made it through the hormonal crash of the baby blues, I realized last night I’m not finished mourning my former life, the one without a newborn. Finn is one month old today, but it hasn’t really sunk in. Futile as it might be, I’m still clinging to a life that no longer exists. When I imagine next month or a year from now, it’s not this. Each time I nurse or sit glued to the couch holding Finn while he naps, I feel like I’m losing myself, my future, my freedom, my simple pleasures.
With rare exceptions (like last night), I’m a really good mom, but it’s effortful and hard. I’m not one of those who adore motherhood, who enjoy being around children, who naturally feel called to raise kids. Despite my deep love for my sons, each day requires a conscientious striving to be a model mother. It’s an uncomfortable trade-off– their well-being and loving attachment in exchange for my coffee hours journaling, leisurely Sundays reading books, date nights, uninterrupted sleep, and hours perusing books at the bookstore.
I rail against the gradual loss, the unfairness of acute awareness of it happening but feeling powerless to change it. Why does it seem like motherhood means a forsaking of self for the child? Why can’t we find more time, more balance, more support from others to retain a semblance of our independent selves? Why must it be non-stop devotion or guilt?
It’s no wonder we have so many women who struggle with depression, anxiety, and quiet addictions. It’s no wonder we sip wine and eat pints of ice cream to self-soothe. It’s no wonder we die young, our health deteriorating because we’re too busy worrying about everyone else to take enough time to care for ourselves. In our pursuit of others’ happiness, we sacrifice our own. We leave ourselves little to no time to remember what brings us joy and what makes us feel like our whole, best selves.
I want my sons to know an unconditional and unwavering love from me, but I also want them to know the authentic, complicated, and tangled bits of me. They’ll never see that and understand if I’ve sacrificed it all away.