Earlier today, the words that could not stop swirling were about the curly-haired baby I had just now snuggled to sleep. One phrase over and over again came to my mind as I went throughout my day living Motherhood to its fullest--washing and feeding, holding and wiping, teaching and correcting, smiling and sighing :
I used to be afraid of her.
The first time this thought came, it shocked me, and I tried to reject it. No I didn't, I argued. How could I think that? What does that even mean?
Last year when I had gone back to group therapy, I learned more about myself--outer layers were peeled away yet again to reveal self-discovery and insight. One thing I learned that was so fulfilling in a way I'm not sure how to describe, is that I am a Sorter. Meaning, someone who needs time to sort through thoughts and emotions. I put a lot of pressure on myself to immediately know things--either the right thing to say, or the way I'm supposed to feel, and in the past I have lived untrue to myself because of it. This is why small talk with strangers can be anxiety-provoking, or public speaking makes me want to run away and hide and my insecurities flare up in a very real way. This is also why writing is so good for me, why it brings so much peace. Writing helps me sort. It's a way I take care of my emotions and needs, and can let go and just be.
The point is this: today that thought of being afraid of Claire came, and even though I wanted to reject it, I felt instead that I needed to sit with it, giving myself time to sort.
So I dragged laundry baskets full of dirty clothes close to the washer, and sifted through lights and darks as I let the thought settle.
Afraid of her? Of that extremely easy-going, happy, chunky baby?
I turned on the washer, watching the water fall over the clothes. I filled the plastic cup with the liquid deep-blue soap and slowly poured it into the gushing water.
And then the realization came: Because I was terrified of being needed by another human being.
I was already so overwhelmed with the needs of 3 children and a husband in grad school and full-time work, my own part-time job, relationships with family members, friends, time-consuming church callings, etc. I felt stretched thin, barely making life work as it was and was terrified that another child would take away my ability to be the mother/wife/friend/sister/daughter/church member that I wanted to be. I didn't know how to give more than I already was, how to let go more than I already had.
Last January, I had made a silent promise to myself for the year of 2014. I promised myself it would be the year for Me. That may sound selfish, but I knew this was not a selfish promise. I have lived the majority of my life for others--taking care of their needs and emotions before I would take care of, or even before I could recognize, my own. Though I actually really like this care-taking side I was born with, I have known for a long time that it's out of balance. This was the year I wanted to really push and work on that.
Going back to therapy was the first step, something I had been wanting to do for over a year and had held back so that Ben could go. I had learned so much and had loved therapy the first time, I felt ready for more. (I wrote about it here.) I was ready to jump in and eager to work again. Once I knew we could financially afford it, I signed myself back up, this time with a new therapist I had wanted to work with for years. She is gifted and a pusher, and I knew I was ready, for the challenge and desire to learn more. To stretch myself emotionally in new ways and become even more vulnerable and insightful.
Physically I was also putting my body and health in the forefront of 2014. I had been working on a lifelong sugar addiction, as well as emotional eating, and it was showing. I was exercising for no other reason than the intention of showing my body love and care. I was also working on a huge issue I have regarding Body Shame and had set some pretty scary, but life-altering goals for myself.
Spiritually I was in a more real place with God, and there were moments in the months before my pregnancy that I felt I had been given the ability to see and feel things that created peace inside of my religion where before I had been unsettled. I also was beginning to see not just who I am with God, but the potential I have as a human being. Because of my emotional and physical work, spiritually I was starting to truly get a glimpse of what my purpose might be. Doesn't that sound big? It felt big. Not boast-y though, in fact it felt the opposite. It felt humbling and overwhelming and amazing.
When I found out in early March that I was pregnant, I had been digging in to all of this, and was excited to see what was going to come from this work, and where I would be at the end of 2014. The positive pregnancy test sent me reeling.
I don't consider myself an angry person, in fact, anger is an emotion I struggle to allow myself to feel. But I can say that for around 9 weeks, the only emotion I could focus on when it came to this pregnancy was anger. I was angry that I was being shown that yet again, I was not in control of when or if I choose to have more children, no matter how much I try to prevent it and be in control of it. I was angry that I was pregnant when I didn't want to be, but was close with several who want to be, and who could not be. I was angry that I was so sick. I was angry that I was so tired. I was angry that I could no longer give emotionally or physically what I had been to my life. I was angry that my goals for the year were derailed. I was angry that my body and my emotions were not my normal, and would not be for at least another 18 months.
And I was angry that I felt angry.
After about 9 weeks, I decided I had enough of the anger, reminding myself that I had choices--I always do. Keeping my pregnancy is a choice, and one I was making, so I needed to accept the choice and stop wallowing in anger. Also I knew that anger is a secondary emotion, meaning one that masks the real emotion underneath, and one people can become easily stuck in. Anger is falsely empowering, and easily victim-creating. I needed now to let go of it so I could become un-stuck and figure out what was underneath it. I talked about it with Ben, and in therapy, and with a couple of people close to me. Through talking it out and sorting the emotions, I realized I was actually very scared.
Which brings me to today, watching the suds and bubbles of the laundry soap rise as the water continued to fall, thinking back to the time before having four children was my new normal. Before Claire was the baby I now adore and can't believe I'm lucky enough to get to be her mother.
Yes, I was afraid of her. Not her, but the idea of her. I worried I wouldn't be able to be the mom I wanted to be to my other kids with a fourth child to care for. I worried my marriage would again take a backseat to a miserable pregnancy and the newborn stage of life. And I worried about the goals I had set, to prioritize myself in a way I had never before would disappear. I was scared I was going to revert backwards from the progress I had been making.
But the truth is this. I was starting this pregnancy in a better emotional, physical and spiritual place than I had been in any of my previous pregnancies. I think God was prepping me for what was to come, and the blessings that would be given to us during that time and when we were on the other side of the trials that year.
That pregnancy rocked my world--and not in a good way. My body literally shut down on me, making the smallest daily task feel insurmountable. Our life was chaos last year. Job loss, another move, external family issues, time-consuming church callings, Ben finishing his last classes then scrambling to finish his dissertation, then both Ben and I working two jobs each to try to cover financial strain, along with his traveling the last two months of the year.....
The goals I had set for myself in 2014 were not accomplished the way I had imagined or hoped them to be, but that doesn't mean I didn't accomplish anything. I can look back now and see the way I was molded and pushed and stretched-- physically, emotionally, spiritually--just not in the ways I had anticipated. Far more than my limited perspective could have ever planned.
I closed the lid of the washing machine and heard the swishing of the water and the clothes as I shut the laundry room door and wondered to myself,
Maybe the work I really needed to do was to allow God's will over my own, yet again?
I walked over to where Claire had been sitting in her swing, contently sucking on her fingers and picked her up and kissed her soft,edible cheeks. As I talked to her and told her how much I love her, a thought came:
She is God's work, in me.
And with that realization, I kissed her once more, and took a picture.