Other Than A Mother

When I got pregnant, I think it is fair to admit that I was a little shocked. That sounds as though the whole event was unplanned, which is actually the opposite of the truth. Dave and I talked it out and timed out the months that would be best for us to create a new human. But nonetheless, when I got a positive test I was kind of unsure of how to react. Unsure of what to do next. Unsure of what this exactly meant. Unsure of how to show joy, excitement, fear,  and nervousness in one action. Surprise would be the best way to describe the look on my face while standing in the bathroom holding a stick of plastic that I had just peed on. Surprised, in a way, that the whole sperm-meets-egg system actually works. Just like they said it would in health class. Nearly halfway through, I still find that a bit hard to believe.

The next few weeks gave me some time to let this information sink in, since the opening weeks of pregnancy are kind of tentative. But even as the time passed, as we told our families and eventually our friends, I never quite got over that hump of trepidation, and I could feel it like a lump in my throat every time I uttered the words ‘I’m pregnant.’ Which wasn’t as often as I thought it would be, because I actually found it difficult to say.

Everyone told me, continues to tell me, that being unsure is a natural condition associated with motherhood. And I believe that. But this was something more, and I knew it. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. Until the mystery revealed itself, as most mysteries do, during a chat about life with girlfriends.

I am not, I realized, afraid of having a baby. I know it will be difficult, at times, but worth it, at all the other times. I know there will be new challenges and stress and adjustments. But I am going into that with open eyes to the evolving nature of life, open arms to our growing family, open ears for advice and words of comfort.

What I am afraid of is losing myself in this whole experience. A uniquely selfish fear for those with the luxury to contemplate it, I realize, but my biggest fear nonetheless. The last few years have been an obstacle course for my personal identity, something I always nurtured and explored and held very dear. After obsessively following my own desires for, well, all of my life, I began to follow Dave and his dreams. And along this ride, keeping a grip on what was me, what was him, what is us, hasn’t always been easy. Without a career, home, close group of friends always in physical proximity, I used my energy to devote to dogs, writing, yoga, and developing new and sometimes temporary friendships wherever we would be. And it’s worked, for the most part, to make me feel comfortable in the balance between him, us and me.

But upon becoming pregnant, and being smart enough to realize the profundity in our decision to have a baby, the difficulty of remaining ‘me’ began nearly immediately upon releasing the news to the public. A pregnancy and the subsequent baby the results from said pregnancy is amazing to mostly everyone, exciting to those who love you, and consuming to their questions about you. I find myself diverting conversations to other topics just to ensure that I can, in fact, still discuss other matters.

Having admitted to you that my biggest fear about motherhood resolves mostly around me me me, I should add that I am, of course, thrilled to be going through this adventure at all. I realize it is no small feat, I love the baby, want the baby, can’t wait to see him or her and go through all this with Dave. My fear of becoming known only as a mother, of my name being changed to mom, of my blog being seen as a mommyblog, is all just a small sidenote to my excitement over the adventure of it all. So why mention it at all?

I mention it mostly because, although I know many amazing mothers, nearly none of them have ever mentioned this quandary to me in our conversations about their lives. And I know I am not the first strong, independent and complex individual to contemplate the meaning of her identity among this maelstrom of emotions and changes. Crazy, socially constructed ideas of what makes a woman maternal tell us that questioning your role as a mother makes you a bad one, that wanting your own life and dreaming of showing your child that the world does not, in fact, literally revolve around them makes you neglectful. And I actually believe the opposite is true. I think that by adapting our family to welcome a baby is much more healthy than creating a universe in which the baby is the sun and the moon. I think that by agonizing over my future role as mother, wife, and most importantly what it means to be ME, I am doing my child a favor. The favor of providing an example of someone who believes our role in a family is only strengthened by our clarity of our sense of self. An example that reminds our future child, as my parents oh so gently did themselves, that while we would do anything for it and even as we love it more than could ever have been imagined, we existed, lived and loved before it came along. A beautiful, humbling and life-changing revelation that I had as an adult, as a cumulative result of those lessons my parents were subliminally teaching by making themselves and their relationship a priority alongside their children.

Moms who are reading this can save their breath with the mumbled ‘just you wait and see’ comments. I promise you I have no illusions about my cluelessness when it comes to what lies head. I know it’s big, I just can’t fathom how big. And you aren’t going to be able to explain it to me, either. I know our schedule will be a baby-based schedule, I know our decisions will be based around having a child to care for, I know that my definitions of sleep and fun and joy and worry will all change. And I am welcoming that. But what I can’t accept, won’t acquiesce, is that the force of all these changes has to sweep me under the rug. I am ready to grow, change, alter my perceptions, just as I was before I was making a human being. This is the nature of life. But I am not willing to accept a world where things like hobbies, friendships or interests that don’t involve the baby don’t exist. I’ll fight for the balance, and hopefully, eventually, achieve it for a brief second, inspiring me to fight on.

21 thoughts on “Other Than A Mother

  1. Lane, I think you are ahead of the game in the desire to maintain your “me”. It will be tough but I feel the women you make their “me” still a part of their lives have more to give and share with their family. One of the things I do at every shower I throw is to have everyone write down their advice to the new (fill in the blank, mom, wife, newly divorced) and I want to give you the advice from my mom Sue Manson…”leave them early and leave them often” much easier to do when in your home town but take advantage of those who offer where ever you may be, it gives the baby new experiences and shows that yes mom does come back and it lets you be Lane for a little while!!!
    Stephanie mom to a great 14 yr old boy!

  2. Thanks for this comment Stephanie! I think my mom and Sue are on the same page with that motto, and I think it’s a good one! Thanks for the encouragement! xo

  3. Reading this gives me loads of comfort. While I am far from the baby-making stage of my relationship, it is something that will eventually happen and even now, I have fears, concerns, and worries about losing myself in the process.

    I have a dear dear friend who has done just that…lost herself. Her two-year-old daughter allows no one, not even her father, to come near her, as my friend has not let the little one out of her sight since she was born. The thought of that life almost scared me to the point of not wanting kids. Besides her daughter not having any independence, which at two she should be starting to explore, my friend has lost hers as well. She defines herself solely by her child. She sees herself as nothing more then a mother. I, as a friend of almost 15 years, mourn the loss of the wonderfully independent woman she once was, along with our friendship that’s been greatly strained because of her lost self.

    I know I cannot even fathom the emotions a new mother feels for her child but I will do everything in my power to ensure that who I am does not get lost in the shuffle. I commend you for making the same choice. As my own mother tells me all the time, you have to look out for number one because no one else is. Call it selfish but it’s the truth. If you can’t love yourself first you will never have enough love to give to that wonderful new addition.

  4. Hmm don’t we hate when Oprah was right all along? First love your self, the rest follows. It’s not selfish, it’s selfless.

    PS -On a more neurotic note, should I be hording tapings of Oprah’s shows to play for my possible, but currently unborn children? How will our kids learn life lessons if not from Ms. O!? Need to get on that.

  5. What a great post Lane! You are going to be an unbelievable mother and role model for “Pat”, yet will remain an unbelievable person! I love following your blog!

  6. Since the apples rarely fall far the tree, you need only to look at your mother. She is a GDI (goll darn independent) when she feels the need but the mother extrordinaire, loving spouse, and certainly even your good friend when the situtations calls for a friend rather than a mom.

  7. Strange…Just yesterday on phone with my mother, I confessed my secret – I missed working and the social aspects of having a job. “Does that make me a bad Mother?” I asked her knowing full well her answer would be what I wanted her to say because she was a working mom herself. “No, in fact sometimes having a life outside your child makes you a better parent” she responded. I’m not back work just yet, but I do feel that my Grad School has kept me sane and feeling good about myself.

    Which makes me also want to share that I hate the term “working Mother”. Why does no one say “Working Father”? Yes, I will be working and a mother but I don’t see why I need that label. Why can’t I be “Nell, a teacher, parent and spouse”

    Love you for posting this.

  8. Great post Lane. A happy, physically and mentally healthy mother makes for a good mother and you get that way by taking care of yourself, still nurturing your hobbies, interests, and friendships and carving out some time for you. By getting a little time away, you can be more present, joyful, and engaged in all the time you spend with your baby. It’s great you have already figured this out before you even begin – so many moms need to crash and bottom out before they come to that realization!

    Also, by leaving your child with Dad (or another caring adult sometimes) it nurtures that bond and gives Dad a chance to really get confidence, capability, and his own style (without you hovering and offering advice) when it comes to looking after the baby which is a gift to baby and your husband too. I know this from experience – because I was going to yoga and boot camp for an hour three nights a week, Lila got so that she preferred Malcolm to put her down to bed – freedom for me (YAY) and wonderful bonding for the two of them after Mal had been away from her at work all day. I felt better about myself as I lost my baby weight and gained strength to lug L around, got to hang out with other women and discuss topics other than baby and just got out of the house, and Malcolm got that one on one time that I’m lucky enough to have all day with L. It was win-win for everyone!

    P.S. Jess I 100% agree that life is going to be a little harder to maneuver without the Oprah show to go to for advice!

  9. As I was reading the intro to your post, I found myself caught back in the same moment…home alone with a literal “holy shit” face in front of the bathroom mirror while holding that little stick, putting it down, picking it up again (repeat about 20 times). We also had discussed it and in fear that it might take longer than we had hoped, lied to all of our friends and families that we weren’t even trying anytime in the near future. So, when it happened very quickly, I was in honest shock – complete disbelief. I had gone through the motions of going to the store, picking up the test, and peeing on the stick as if it was a completely normal progression but when it came back positive it suddenly seemed as if I had been living in another world, just outside the surface, looking in at myself and the idea of starting a family and reality had come knocking in a mere instant. I stood in our bedroom completely confused as to if I should be crying or dancing. I wish that Blake had been there but at the same time I think it was cleansing to get that instant out for myself. As to the rest – I’m not sure if its determination or denial – but Blake and I have both promised ourselves that as this lil’ man joins our clan, we will do everything in our power to go about our lives as we always have. While in reality that may be completely impossible to have everything stay the same, because you are so aware of these concerns it will be equally impossible for you to lose yourself. I have been trying to think of it as not a subtraction in any way, but just another part of who I am. Think of it as a hefty contribution to being a multi-faceted woman.

  10. I love the stick stories. I took mine while living in Germany. Casually picked it up at a pharmacy because that is literally the only place you can by them and trotted home to pee on it. After my little egg timer when “ding”, I stared at a blank screen. “What does that mean?” I thought and jokingly stated to Kevin that I thought it meant we were going to be Octo-Gardners. We went back to the pharmacy where I asked for the directions to be translated since I obviously screwed up. The polite and politically correct woman explained and then said “I hope….it is…the result…in which you wish for” OH Germans! She also stressed “Do not watch the stick, it may change back and forth, wait until the time is up.” Yeah right, lady. Like two first born, type A’s will wait. We watched that stick go from a clear screen to 2 solid lines in 2 seconds flat and never change back. An explicative were the next words uddered, followed by tears, hugs and anxiety. Can you believe we are all going to be or are parents? From Kindergarten to being parents…what an adventure!

  11. So interesting to read everyone’s “stick story.” Ours was SOOO different as we had tried for three years and been through fertility medications, acupuncture, and tons of negative pregnancy tests and tears.

    When I finally got a plus sign on the stick I was absolutely shocked and then when it started to set in I broke down and sobbed with relief “FINALLY.” There was not one bit of apprehension or mixed feelings for us…no baby was every more wished for, hoped for, prayed for, waited for and loved instantly.

  12. oh laner! i love your post=) as i read i laughed so hard wishing i could write as good as you! and also laughing at how many (close to non exsistent) friends with kids i have. you know my struggles have been getting over what people think because i still have a life!! i just got invited to a playdate with a bunch of stay at home moms…..im still trying to decide if i dare step into the lions den. yikes!

    anyways you will do a great of job of keeping the happy medium..it can be done:)

    love you

    and the baby will just do yoga with you!

  13. Lane – I loved this post. I too, so worried about how our lives would change, how I would change in particular. I remember early in my pregnancy telling Mike, “no matter HOW big I get, you need to force me to go out! I don’t want to be that pregnant girl who never goes out!!”

    OMG.

    And then Raines came. And I changed. Quite a bit. And life changed. Quite a bit. And you know what? We (both Mike and I) couldn’t care less. In fact, we’ve never been happier, never been so fulfilled.

    But I think two things are key:
    1. Be open-minded. How you view the world, in all likelihood, will change. And you will change. Who cares? Give yourself permission to change. It’s not failure on your part. And on the flip-side…if things change LESS than you expected…again, who cares? Again, not failure. It’s just you and Dave. It’s your STYLE. And it’s OK.
    2. Remember that everything is a stage, and stages pass. Anne-Margaret’s comment made me laugh out loud – I guarantee that I have (childless) friends saying the same thing about me. Kids go through phases. Some are easy, some are not. Some are downright horrifying. But…(and A-M, here’s the good news)….they all grow out of it. And so will your friend’s 2 year old. I promise that your friend is doing nothing “wrong”. She’s probably coping, as best she can, with a tough phase, and with “losing” her baby as they all grow up so fast. But they will both come out of it. The happiest moms I know are the ones that listen to themselves, and keep a healthy perspective on phases. You really just cope the best you can. And when it’s yours, you won’t mind a bit. 🙂

    Lane & Amanda….I think you will both be surprised by what good mothers you will be. By how much you love your child. By how your sense of self will change, but remain strong. I couldn’t be more excited for you both.
    xoxox
    S

  14. Don’t know you. Ended up here via Ain’t No Mom Jeans. So I have no idea why I’m chiming in or why you’d listen to me. But I just wanted to reassure you that what you’re feeling is totally normal. Things are gonna morph and change in your life when that baby arrives. I believe there is a way to make sure not to lose yourself in mommyhood, but at the same time recognize that you are going to change due to the impact of this child on your life, so it won’t be the same “you” that you are seeking not to lose, if that makes any sense. Also, don’t worry if it takes a while to get in a groove. There is no rush about it. You may (or may not) need to lose yourself temporarily and then rediscover yourself over time. How long probably varies from person to person. Weeks? Or years? Best of luck to you.

  15. Wow, Kate. REALLY well said. Really, really well said. We all do seem to find our way, though. Such an individual process.

  16. I loved this. It captures exactly how I felt both times I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait for the baby, but would gladly have waited for just about damn EVER to start battling to be seen as anything other than a baby snack bar on legs. I wasn’t worried about ME losing track of me, but about others doing that, and there were/are some people who inevitably did/do. For me it has been a question of admitting that I didn’t know what to do or how to carry on being me when I was going to change and ‘confessing’ this to other people. We are out here, and we are rooting for you and for the small person you are in the process of making.

  17. As someone who’s struggled to find things for just myself since moving abroad, now it’s even more difficult as the Mommy me. Not because of my son, but just because there just isn’t the time and I’d rather spend time with him.

    It’s difficult and I often feel like things would be so much easier if I were back in the States, but you do what you have to do for your family. I don’t think I’ve lost myself, I just don’t get to do much alone.

  18. Hi Lane,
    I found you through Ain’t No Mom Jeans, and just wanted to say ‘I like you.’ 🙂 my (1st) daughter was born in November of last year too, and I can completely relate to this post (I was terrified at times about what becoming a mother would do to my identity), and I loved what you had to say in “Please don’t ruin this for me.” I’m subscribing and just want to say thanks! 🙂

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