Standing in the dining room the other day, I looked down at myself and asked my husband, “What has become of me?”
I was wearing some dirty crew socks, droopy maternity shorts, and a red, long-underwear style shirt with no bra. Over the top of this classy ensemble was a hot pink fuzzy robe, worn wide open, Cousin-Eddie-style. And my hair…oh, the madness! I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror that morning and it was a cross between Grease Lightning and a nest made out of straw.
I’ve seen a lot of inspirational quotes and memes lately encouraging moms to take care of themselves. They recommend “radical self-care” and “refueling” and “do you, boo” because a car can’t run on fumes forever and neither can a mom. And this is so very true. In fact, I’m guilty of not even doing rudimentary self-care. Like, sometimes I even have to tell myself, Go poop now…don’t wait. Take care of yourself. Otherwise, several hours will pass and I’ll realize I’ve had to go since that morning. It’s that ridiculous.
Aside from needing to tend to my digestive health a little more carefully, most days, I’ve actually welcomed this new state of being. Mila doesn’t care a lick what I look like (yet) and it feels really nice to not worry about it. My makeup drawer has been nearly untouched for months and my yoga pants are wearing thin. Easy breezy. Not exactly a Cover Girl, but I hardly care.
Hardly. Until I slow down and catch a glimpse of myself. And then I have a momentary break down and cry out, “What has become of me?”
Almost six years ago, my dear friend Marguerite and I got together while I was visiting Michigan. I was twenty-six years old and preparing for my wedding that summer. Marguerite had just become a mother.
As we walked around her old neighborhood, Marguerite asked, “So, do you think you and Mike want to have kids someday?”
I explained my trendy, yet practical hesitation of over-population and shared honestly about feeling too selfish to be a parent. Marguerite said that she could see where I was coming from but she really hoped I would become a mother someday. She went on to explain that she never knew she could ever be so patient and that it brought out a beautiful part of her that she never knew was there. The notion that parenthood could yield growth in self-love was surprising to me.
Today, four months into this new role of mother, I see exactly what Marguerite meant. I’m surprised by how easy it is to put my cell phone down and be present. I never knew I had so much motivation in me to get outside and look closely at a leaf. And that patience Marguerite spoke of is there too. I can hold my baby close, while she screams in my ear, as long as it is needed, and not wish I was anywhere else. Motherhood has unearthed a version of myself that I really rather like.
I know I’m only in the first leg of this journey called parenting. I know the resentment of lost “me time” and the anger of peanut butter sandwiches shoved into the VCR (that problem is pretty much obsolete…) and the exasperation of grocery line tantrums are on their way. And I’m not saying that I didn’t chug a glass of wine last night after she woke for the third time in an hour. Parenthood does not make you fart rainbows, necessarily.
But I am really loving it. Even when I look like a deranged version of Maxine from the greeting cards. I see a heart of gold, tarnished by years of self-focus and simply growing up, getting its sheen back.
In the book mama, bare compiled by Kristen Hedges, a woman writes about her life before motherhood:
Even as I remember the girl who was before you, I can’t wrap my heart around a time when you weren’t with me, as though you were something always carried, somewhere in my girlhood and my singleness and our early marriage, something always waiting to come and break and mend everything, all at once.”
What has become of me? I have been broken and mended, all at once. I am disheveled and tired but patient and strong. I have become a mother.
© 2016 D. Willson