Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Motherhood Musings: Guest Post!

Today on our blog, we have a new guest, Sara Marchessault, sharing her thoughts on the transformation of becoming a mother and some of her journey through self discovery. Sara is a life coach and helps individuals find joy in their lives through her business Joyful By Design

Thanks Sara for your insight!

Motherhood Musings
By Sara J. Marchessault

If you’ve ever welcomed a new person into the world, which of the following rings true for your?

Becoming a Mommy = a miracle, a time of wonder and change, joy and expectation.

Becoming a Mommy = a miracle, a time of fear and anxiety, heartburn and nausea.

The one that sounds closest to what you’ve experience likely depends on the kind of day you’ve had before you read these lines! Or you can relate with a little bit of both, right?

Any way you slice it, becoming a mother is one of the most challenging rites of passage we face as women. I don’t think it makes any difference whether you carry your children or adopt, when it’s time to take on the mantle of motherhood, things happen to us, both expected and unexpected.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way here: the expected isn’t by any means easy, but it is, well, expected! The books tell us about setting up the room, washing the clothes, planning the feedings, how often we bath the baby, suggestions for daily schedules, etc. We can all find resources for those aspects of motherhood. Even if you never read a book or an article, you likely have people in your life that are available for you to talk to about your daily routine challenges. These are the conversations that come naturally to new mothers and also the things that the people in your life will inquire about. “Are you sleeping?” becomes a common question for new parents to be asked.

Not so common topics of open discussion are the changes that occur at a deeper, personal level. Becoming a mother is the adoption of a new role. Similar to getting married and taking on the role of “wife” or “partner,” when we become mothers we learn things about ourselves that we didn’t know before.  I think the journey and the learning is different for everyone, but I believe it happens for everyone. My own experience included reexamining my ideas about mortality, finding new ways to celebrate life, and turning into my mother (gulp)!

What came before this? What comes after this? When my first child was born I seriously slowed down for the perhaps the first time in my adult life. Wait a minute, what? Don’t babies keep you up all night and require 110% of your attention all the time? Not if you follow the advice in all those books and articles that you read. I worked VERY HARD to get my daughter on a schedule, mostly because I worked part time from home and needed designated chunks of the day that I could be productive.

What I quickly noticed was that some of the tasks I had to do with the baby allowed me to let my mind wander. Nursing was the biggest opportunity for this to happen. For morning nursing I would often read, but during the afternoon and nighttime feedings my mind would wander to places I wasn’t used to it going.

For most of my life I’ve believed that some part of me existed before this life, I’m here now, and I’ll move back to this space when it’s time to move on from this body. With my new role of motherhood, I found myself thinking a lot more about what happens in the before and after times. Where had my daughter just come from? Where will I go when it’s time to leave her? What will she do without me? What if I have to leave before she’s ready for me too?

I started asking other moms if they thought about these things and the responses I received were a resounding, “Yes!” One good friend with a son on the autism spectrum said she thinks about it all the time: “Who will take care of him if something happens to me?”

I told you the changes can be deep and personal, right?

As I processed these big questions, I realized that I was really getting to know myself in a new way. I was processing my own feelings about life and death and accepting with a newfound level of maturity that this life experience will not last forever. Around Ayla’s first birthday, I had made my peace with this and stopped panicking about it. Coincidence that I also stopped nursing around that time? Probably not, at least from a hormonal point of view.

Oh and one more thing; for some reason I am having to go through all this again with baby number two.

Here comes baby – there go my old habits. As a mother I think we become more physically grounded. We are focused on the need for food, clean bottoms, sleep, etc. The things that we used to do on a regular basis, maybe things that helped us to celebrate life, are sort of pushed to the outskirts of our everyday routine. I used be able to say “I’m a runner.” Now I can say “I used to run…then I had kids.”  Journal writing, walking in the woods, listening to beautiful music for hours, getting lost in a good story, all of the things I used to do that were examples of life celebrations changed. I needed new things to celebrate.

I didn’t have to look far. I had an amazing baby girl, and now that I’ve added a bouncing baby boy to the mix, I have double the fun! And I am grateful for my healthy, beautiful children. They have changed my life so that instead of a relaxing evening with my husband, a bottle of wine, and Norah Jones crooning in the background we now prepare healthy meals for the family, wash between fingers and toes, plan for naked time for the baby, and talk about whether or not our daughter pooped in the potty. The wine is still there, in smaller quantities and typically after 8pm.

We celebrate our time as a family. We pick and choose the pieces of our old life that we aren’t willing to give up and work as a team to make sure we are each getting enough of what we need to feel human. If this means my husband heads to the golf course once or twice a month and I plop down at Panera to write or work on a fun project, that’s what we do for each other. We give the gift of time.

Let’s not forget that time together is just as important. My time alone with my spouse has decreased with the arrival of the kids, no ifs ands or buts about it. I try to remind myself that ten years from now, when they kids can use the bathroom, make their own lunches, and set their own alarm clocks on their own, I still want to know who is sleeping next to me. Our kids came to us and will be here for a time, then one day they will leave and live their own life. My partner is the mate I’ve chosen presumable for life; I have to remember to live my life with my partner, not in a parallel relationship that never crosses paths. In honest reflection, I took for granted the time I had with him before the kids arrived, and perhaps that was for the best. We had fun and didn’t worry about much. I’ve since learned to be grateful for all that time we spent just the two of us, and look forward to having it again some day.

Who is that in the mirror? Remember when you were a kid and your mother was absolutely the most mortifying, embarrassing excuse for a human being on the face of the Earth? I remember my mother striding through the airport to pick up her sister for a visit to Tallahassee. My mother was brandishing an umbrella and calling out loudly “My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die.”

Please put a paper bag over my head so people will not know that I am with her. The hallway was not wide or long enough to get away. The best part of this story is that when we met my Aunt at the gate (pre 9/11), she walked off the plane dressed as Harry Potter. My teenage brain wondered if my teenage body would fit underneath one of those teeny tiny airport chairs.

Much less showy but potentially just as embarrassing for a kid is when your Mom brags about how great you are to your friend’s parents, or worse, directly to your friends. I will never be like that, right?

Wrong! What I know about myself since becoming a mother is this new role is the ultimate confidence builder. I used to shy away from asking directions, accepting help, or clearly articulating what I needed from other people. All of that has gone out the window. I no longer suffer qualms about inconveniencing people. I take the offers to bring my groceries to the car. I ask the Disney contact I have for free tickets. I call for assistance from a friend or family member when it feels like the world is falling to pieces. And I say what I think about ridiculous situations.  My husband thinks my inner censor broke during my first pregnancy. I have to restrain myself from saying things that I know for sure will hurt another person’s feelings.

Guess who else is like this?

You got it, my mother.

Now that I have my own kids, I think I’m okay with this. We all grow thinking we won’t be like our mothers and in extreme cases, it’s good to break the cycle. My case wasn’t extreme and since I began raising my own children, I now realize that being like my mom isn’t such a bad thing.

You probably won’t find that in many pregnancy books either. I learned that my mom is actually really funny and pretty cool. Even more to the point, since I’ve become a mother, I’ve learned that my mom was in the same boat I am now. Just living it one day at a time, doing the best she could, and loving her kids.

Sara Marchessault is an Assistant Professor at Tallahassee Community College, a writer, life coach, and mother of two. When she isn’t penning missives about life she can be found playing with, baking for, and taking long walks with her husband and children. Sara may be reached at sara@joyfulbydesign.com.

Jen Starks, Owner www.ecologicalbabies.com ecologicalbabies@gmail.com 574.275.1235

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