Can we just all agree that last week was a rough one? I don’t know what it was exactly, but it felt as if there was just something in the air, looming above us all. Ever since the rain this last weekend, it is almost as if things are clearing up and we are gearing up for a better week, baby girl has been much happier.
I came to some realizations about myself last week and wanted to share. It has been super enlightening for my personal growth and I feel like it can benefit others in their own personal journey. Any mother that is going through the infamous “postpartum battle” can attest that it is extremely difficult to bounce back to the woman before the baby. In fact, I argue that it is impossible to bounce back to that woman because that woman really doesn’t exist anymore. That can be a hard pill to swallow for some women, me included. Like I said earlier, motherhood came faster than I thought and after Clair was born I felt like I was grieving the death of Sarah while trying to rejoice in the birth of Clair. I can honestly say that before having a baby I was pretty okay with my body, along with who I was becoming as an individual. Both of those things changed after birth and suddenly I was embarrassed of both my body and my individualism. I truly believe there is something to becoming a mom that makes you feel like you are suddenly categorized into one lump and type of people. It’s almost as if people are saying to you:
You are no longer individual. You no longer have hopes, dreams and ambitions, you’re a mom for crying out loud! You have to sacrifice everything you once wanted for your child. Your child is your life. You shouldn’t be focusing on anything else. They need your undivided attention or they will grow up feeling neglected.
You get the picture. But really all of this is false.
False. False. False.
As mothers, we are individuals. We shouldn’t be lumped together as one. We shouldn’t feel like our dreams, hopes and aspirations should be swept under the rug. In fact, I would argue that doing so actually hinders us as mothers. I just don’t believe it is healthy to throw away who we are and what we desire for our children. I think it’s more healthy and inspiring for children to grow up with a mother who is following her dreams, who is working hard for what she wants to accomplish in life, who is working hard to keep her individualism. Children will learn that they too are individuals and they too have hopes and dreams, and they too can work hard for what they want to accomplish in life. Of course sacrifice is required as a mother, that’s a no brainer, but I don’t think sacrifice of complete self is required. I think that is something that somehow we’ve grown to believe is heroic. Rather, I see juggling hobbies, education, careers, or whatever it may be, along with motherhood, is true heroism.
The Struggle is Real, People.
Now, with that said, I wish to address the issue of self and individualism in becoming a mother. Something that I found after having Clair was that I wasn’t quite sure who I was anymore. I would look in the mirror and see that I was still me (besides some new bodily features), but I didn’t feel like me anymore. My perspective on life had changed, along with a lot of goals, motivations and opinions. Quite frankly, it scared me how much I had changed and I was (and still am) embarrassed to let people see the real me. In fact, all of my life I have struggled to let people see the real me, and becoming a mother somehow heightened that struggle. Maybe it is because I now feel like I have to defend my mothering decisions to others, or that I feel more observed and judged. Maybe it’s because of social media comparison. Regardless, the struggle is real in letting myself be content with who I really am.
I think this struggle has been so hard because I started believing I was someone I wasn’t a long time ago. I remember when I was around 11 I started feeling insecure about my strawberry hair color. People would sometimes call me a ginger and I didn’t even know what that meant, but the way it was said made me feel labeled, and not in a good way. When I was old enough to bleach my hair I begged my mom to let me bleach all of the red streaks out of my hair. I remember looking in the mirror after bleaching my hair and had the distinct thought, “Hmm..I don’t like it. It isn’t me.” I immediately replaced that thought with, “I don’t want people to see the real me. They will make fun of me.” From then on it was as if I believed I had to be somebody else to be pretty and accepted. I just wanted to avoid any comment on my hair at all costs. Silly, right? But this experience has had a ripple effect on me for the rest of my life thus far. Emotionally I feel like I have to hide the real me.
In C.S Lewis’ allegorical story The Great Divorce, there are a bunch of people that have essentially died, referred to as “Ghosts” being lead into heaven by “Spirits.” Spirits are previous Ghosts that have let go of all self-absorption to experience a fullness of love, joy and peace. There is one particular Ghost’s experience that shed a lot of light on this subject for me. This Ghost, a woman, who in her life on earth was consumed with her appearance and how she appeared to look to other people. She was terrified of being “outshone” by others and was constantly comparing her appearance to other people. When her Spirit guide attempts to help her into heaven she is embarrassed to go with the guide because she notices how bright the other spirits shine in comparison to her…
The Spirit then invites her to fix her mind on something other than herself, but that only makes it plainer to her that the Spirit cannot understand the embarrassment she feels. “But they’ll see me,” she protests. “What does it matter if they do?” the Spirit asks. “I’d rather die” is her response, not realizing that what she really needs to do is die, which is to say, to give up the fictional self she has always portrayed herself to be.
–Bonds That Make Us Free, C. Terry Warner
If we look closer, C.S. Lewis’ story is not really about the afterlife at all, but is about the potential that each of us have to peace, happiness and joy in this life if we would simply give up our self absorption and just see ourselves and others as we truly are.
How does this relate to my struggle as a new mom? I am so terrified to let others see me as I really am, that I am giving up my chance at peace, happiness and joy in this life. I am sometimes so absorbed in trying to cover up who I really am, to paint this false image of my life so that others wont see my reality. I think all women, to some degree, do this. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t be doing this. It robbing our peace and happiness as women and as mothers. If having Clair has taught me one thing, it is that heaven is on earth. I see heaven in the way Clair smiles at me, in her bright beautiful blue eyes. I see it in the way Levi talks to Clair and cuddles her. I felt it in myself as I delivered Clair and held her in my arms for the first time.
As we learn to let go of absorption, or self awareness and just be okay with being seen for who we really are, we will see and feel heaven in our lives. We will feel love for ourselves, which is something that I have struggled with my entire life. We will be ok with our dreams, aspiration, hobbies, career ambitions because there won’t be embarrassment or guilt. We won’t care what other people think of us, we won’t care about being judged. We won’t care how we appear to other mothers, or how we look on social media. We just be ourselves, and we will be okay with that.
We will be individuals.
I’m no where near perfect in loving myself and being ok with who I am. I struggle with feeling that I am beautiful in my postpartum body, just like every other mother. I struggle with letting go of facades and being myself and honestly this struggle will probably be an ongoing battle. But there are little victories that make the struggle worth it. Little victories like going one day without worrying about how I appear to look to other people, sharing my opinions with family, signing up for fall semester classes because I want to finish school, going after my creative passions, etc. I’m not sure if we can fully overcome the struggle, but I’m telling you, those victories are sweet and they are worth it. They are truly heaven on earth.
Photo Cred: Sarah http://www.toadventureblog.com/