Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Slow Learner Mom

A few months back, my Dad said something to me that I just couldn't get out of my head.

"You know, you've really become comfortable in your role as a mother. In the beginning, I wasn't sure, but now I see how comfortable you are in that role."

I realize he meant this as a kind observation, but my analytical, negative mind just couldn't avoid noting the connotation that, in the beginning, he wasn't sure. So I asked my sister: what did she think? She said, "Well, you know, the beginning is hard for everyone..." Hmm. That sounds like an elusive way of saying I was a hot mess. I asked my husband, who said, "Well you always knew the baby-stage would be hard for you. I just think it was harder on you than on me. But now you're doing awesome."

Wait. What? So did everyone think I was a complete failure during the first months of my baby's life?

I think back on those first six weeks. To say they were "a blur" sounds cliche, but it's true. I don't remember what I thought, what I did, what I wore, what the baby wore, what the weather was was a blur. I had just had an extremely traumatic birth and then was struggling intensely with breastfeeding. I was in tears more often than not and was doing my best to suddenly be a mom. Was I doing the best job I could do? If I'm honest, no...not really. I was just getting through it. I was holding him. I was changing him. I was talking to him. I was nursing him through bleeding nipples. So, yeah, I kept him alive. And I loved him. I loved him because he was our baby and he was a miracle and his little eyes pierced into my soul. But was I doing the BEST JOB I could do? Was I cooing over him in amazement every second? Was I overwhelmed with happiness from everything that he did? Was I delighting in hold him every single second?

Deep breath. I'm going to be totally honest. The answer to these questions is No. In the first six weeks, I was just getting through. Getting through by the skin of my teeth. Nursing him with my teeth gritted in pain and then passing him off to sleep in his swing so I could...I don't know, breathe? Try to process what had just happened to my life? And typing these words makes me want to instantly delete them because doesn't that mean I'm not a Good Mother? But I'm not going to delete them. It's what I felt. I look back on his newborn pictures and I am amazed by him and I melt in love and adoration, but deep down, there is a guilty feeling because...I hardly remember those days. Like I said, it's a goddamn blur.

After the first six weeks, it got better. The pain of breastfeeding subsided. The trauma of the birth faded somewhat. And I fell more and more in love with him. Now I did cherish every second of holding of him. I stroked his head in amazement while he napped on my chest. All of that new-baby-stuff that for the first six weeks didn't happen as much as it should have in the first six weeks because I was a catatonic invalid.

But was I a Good Mother in the first six months? Well the truth is, back then, I was still resenting the role somewhat. I had decided to be a stay at home mom. I was lonely. I hated housecleaning. I hated not getting dressed in real clothes or not having the time to take a shower. I felt jealous of people who could have "time to themselves." So even though I was completely in love with my baby and I was giving him everything he needed and more, I still couldn't wear the Mother Role with ease.

After those first six months, the shoe fit. Now, a month away from one year, the shoe is like a second skin. So ask me now if I'm a Good Mother? The answer is HELL YES.

But in the beginning? Truth be told? I was just doing the goddamn best I could. I think what my family was gently trying to say is, the role didn't come as easily to me as it does to some. I wasn't able to jump in selflessly. Instead I blearily had to find my way around and then figure out how to be this new person without feeling angry about the things I was giving up. And don't get me wrong. I wasn't resenting my baby. I wasn't doing anything wrong and he wasn't lacking in any way. In fact, if you were watching from the outside, you would say I was doing it all right. But, that little elusive thing that my family all noticed was...I think I just had a bit of a slower learning curve than some.

So, to all you Slow Learner Mom's out there - It's ok. Do the best you can. Love your babies. Love yourself. Give them what they need. And ask for what you need too. Figure out how to be the Mom you are. And don't hate yourself if it doesn't come to you immediately.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Introducing the New to the Old

Out of the is a random post from me to you:

We went to Los Angeles last week and stayed the night. We stayed only a few blocks from our old house. We've been gone six months now and I was shaken by that brush with the Old Me. Before we moved to San Diego, I was still straddling two worlds. I was reeling from the shift to mommyhood and the introduction of this entirely new being into our world. BUT I was prepared to go back to work and try to integrate. Instead, we up and moved and I completely left the Old Me behind. When we drove into LA, I didn't expect to miss her so much.

The Old Me worked hard - 60+ hours a week - and loved it. She was a Psychologist. That was first and foremost in her identity. Followed closely by Wife. She lived mostly for herself, then husband, then family, then friends. That order. She was "put together." Each morning she would slide into her Range Rover, check her makeup, hair and outfit in the mirror, throw her expensive bag on the (clean!) seat beside her, flip on NPR, sip her coffee and take off for her hour commute to work. Once arrived at work, she would slide into her "Doctor" role and feel happy with where she was in life. On the evenings and weekends she would enjoy good wine and expensive restaurants. Peppered vacations and gorgeous hotels. But oh my god, it was a lot of work. Literally. Work, work, work, GASP for air, more work. FUN, fun, fun and then more work. I felt like I was waiting. I was always dreaming about what Life Would Be in the future. Planning and dreaming about something else.

I didn't expect to miss some of this. But I did. I missed feeling pretty and put together. I missed being a therapist/teacher/mentor/doctor. I miss helping my clients and their families. I missed long dinners and enjoying bottles of wine. Or hours spent talking with friends. I guess, to be honest, I missed life being about Me.

I also missed the excitement. The hoping and waiting and planning. I remember when we lived at our house in Venice that I spent most of the time there either being excited about my job or being excited about getting pregnant or being excited about Baby coming. Always living in the possibilities of the future. Planning my career. Planning how to become a mother. Planning the nursery. Planning, dreaming, waiting... It was exciting!

But now? The New Me is (obviously) different. The New Me lives for Baby, Husband, Me, family, and sometimes friends. The New Me slides into the same Range Rover that is covered now in a layer of dirt from the dusty roads we live on. I drop my new bag (anniversary gift) that is a slightly less expensive purse/diaper bag onto a seat littered with diapers, puffs, and old coffee lids. I am usually heading to a playdate, grocery store, or park. I have nowhere specific to be. I don't check myself in the mirror because...why would I? I am not a doctor/teacher/mentor to students, but I am a mommy/teacher/guide to my son. I have finally figured out how to wear this role with no awkwardness, resentment, or frustration. My sidekick comes with me in life and he keeps me grounded in the Now.

I don't plan anymore. I am living my dreams. Literally. We bought a house. A beautiful, Spanish-style home with dark floors, white walls, and Mexican tile touches. We have two acres of land, fencing for horses in my future, beautiful oak trees, a wonderful neighborhood and a beautiful pool surrounded by palm trees. We have our cat, a new German Shepherd Puppy, and another puppy on the way. We take our family for walks in the evening when the heat melts into warmth and I don't worry or stress. I just live this moment.

So yes. I am happy. I am settled. I am content. I am no longer living in a desperate race to work hard and get ahead and get to the next step. But that doesn't mean I don't miss it sometimes. That doesn't mean I don't miss having my hair styled and my eyebrows waxed and my toenails painted and....well, the Old Me. But I know that the Old Me was really just rushing to meet New Me. So, Hello New Me. Introduce yourself to the world.

And how do I know she's around to stay? Well because, as Owen approaches one year (Ahhh!), I am working to integrate in small bits of the Old Me that I miss. I have started horseback riding again and now know that I will own my own horses when the time is right. I have found a business partner, rented a space in a medical complex, and am going to open my own small therapy and assessment practice part time. They say that we shouldn't rush the return from postpartum. With all the pressure to "bounce back in six weeks," I think we forget that this is not just about a physical recovery or even an adjustment to motherhood. I believe it will take me a year to completely figure out who I want to be now. Who I can be within the realm of this new life. And also, it has taken me almost a year and a bit of retrospection to appreciate all that the New Me has to offer. I guess sometimes you need a brush with the Old just to say Hello.

And that's my update. Hope you all are well!