March 04, 2009

Identity Crisis

6 weeks ago today, my son was born and I became a mother. I entered whole new world and I have been trying to map the terrain ever since.

I knew motherhood would present challenges to my identity. I assumed my fierce independence would be confronted. I assumed my reluctance to define myself would become even more murky. I braced myself for a full-on identity crisis like I experienced when I was first married.

And I do feel strange and out of sorts and like a new baby (thanks for the metaphor, Selena) just trying to find out who I am in this new world of mine. But it isn't quite as hard or as scary as I thought it would be. At least not all the time.

In fact, sometimes it feels like a call into becoming. Becoming someone I have not yet met but know I am meant to be.

There are dozens of moments throughout the day when I get a glimpse of her. When Zane looks at me with utter adoration, when I can comfort him with just the scent of my skin, when I feed him with my own body, when I wake in the middle of the night completely exhausted and still find a smile for him, when I am able to make the choice to be there for him to be present with him even when I would rather check out for awhile - these moments and so many more give me a taste of the woman and mother I am becoming. She is loving, she is strong, she is honest, she is wise, and she is hot! Seriously. In those moments I feel like a total rockstar superhero. When my son looks up at me and smiles I imagine I am glowing with beauty and light.

And then? I look in the mirror. And yeah. Not so much.

Most days I look rather less than a glowing image of motherly light. And far short of a superhero. I look in the mirror - my hair needs serious attention, and though I have pretty much lost my pregnancy weight I am still heavier (and flabbier) than I would like to be, and there are dark circles under my eyes to remind me that in six weeks I have yet to sleep more than four hours or so at a time. And often I am still in my pajamas at 11am. Not hot. But real. This is me. Right now.

Right now.

But I believe that other woman is in me too, just waiting to become. Ok. So maybe I won't morph into some super-hot superhero with a halo of light shining all around me - that's a bit much. But I do believe I am on my way to someone pretty cool. And this revelation is completely shocking to me.

Despite my intense longing to become a mom, despite my desire to meet my child - I had (and still have) a lot of the same fears about taking on that role that I did about taking on the role of "wife". I wondered if I would still be me, if my identity, my life thus far, who I am - would be swallowed up by this role, by this other person. I feared my voice, my heart, my mind would become irrelevant. I worried I would have to squeeze myself into some box labeled "Mommy" that society dictated I would now belong in. I feared I would not find my way to my own definition, my own carving out of motherhood, that instead a new identity would be hoisted upon me with all its expectations and rules.

So I expected some inner turmoil - and to be honest, there is some. I have spent the last week challenging my spouse completely unnecessarily, to test him - to be sure he saw and valued my contributions as a Mom staying at home as much as his contributions as a Dad who works outside of the home, to be sure we were still partners in this. Like I said, completely unnecessary - but all about my fear of being forgotten and abandon and dismissed because I am now a "Mom".

Right beside that fear though, and perhaps stronger than it, is the notion that being a mother could actually bring me closer to who I am deep inside and who I am meant to be. This was my hope but I had no idea if it would be met. I still don't. But I do know that when I get those peeks at a future me - a strong, powerful, empowered woman and mother who is filled up and giving from her fullness - that is so enticing and exciting to me.

So, for now, I will give out of my exhaustion and my deep deep love and devotion and I will trust that the road to her will become apparent as I listen to my heart. I believe the greatest gift I can give my son, my husband, and myself is to listen and to follow this road to becoming.

In the meantime, I have two incredible partners in this journey - all of us trying to find our way.


Secret Pop Star said...

You were a superhero the day you gave birth to Zane....who goes through 24 hours of labor and then an emergancy c-section? Only superheroes! Now you need to design your super hero outfit....I can't wait for the details! Maybe you could incorporate the belly cast?

The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

I'm glad this has been so much easier and more joyful than you feared! Though I very much wish I had had the emotional experience you're having, it's good to read your post and remember also often feeling like you do--seeing this gorgeous, loving, full powerful woman emerging even in the exhaustion and challenge of it all. I still experience that constantly. I love that motherhood can be so healing even as it's challenging and even when experiences like infertility or ppd make the journey difficult (even if totally worth it!). Love the picture too! Beautiful.

annacyclopedia said...

I have no doubt that the road will become clearer and clearer every day. And someday soon you will open your sleepy eyes to sunlight streaming through the windows, and realize that you've become the woman you knew you were meant to be, without noticing.

Much love to you Spicy, and thank you for continuing to write your story.

poppy.f.seed said...

I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post. Thanks!

mary elizabeth said...

have i mentioned that you are a fabulous writer!?? you are!!

i had to laugh though about the lack of sleep. that STILL occurs in our household at various times. when you become parents nothing remains the same.
beautiful photo of mr. spicy and the z man. we've gotta get some of you guys with the baby soon!
i love your posts!

Phoebe said...

You're not a superhero to me. You are an Uber-hero!

Meg said...

This is one of the many reasons why I think a crisis is such a necessary part of who we are, bridging who were were and who we are becoming. The fact that you write it all down will be an amazing thing to return to.....