I’m a stepmom of three years and bio-mom of 6-months, and I can safely say that I haven’t felt like a mom for a single moment of a single one of those days.
When Banks was born, I expected my purpose and identity to be personified into the shape of a little boy, but it wasn’t. Now, I’m 6-months into full time motherhood and these things seem further away than ever. To add to a feeling of purposelessness, I feel a distance in my marriage. Not in the “are we happy” or “are we in love” ways, but in a growing distance that is no fault of my sweet husband; it’s me, I’m holding back. Or how about when I’m running errands and strangers begin commenting and loving on my little boy. Here I respond forcing a fake kind of joy, in hopes it will sink in and become real. When I’m with the supportive women at my church MOPS group, I offer a muted version of myself and try to become someone I’m not… happy, at ease, confident.
It seems recently I’ve been keeping everyone at an arm’s distance, hoping it will help me figure out who the person attached to this arm actually is…
And as for writing, inspiration is sitting in the back, laughing at me as I wander around asking “Are you my mother?” All of this introspection makes me feel so ungrateful for my healthy boys, my loving marriage, and my supportive friendships, but all that does is make me feel guilty, in addition to purposeless.
I wrestled with these thoughts, walking around in a fog, when it hit me… “Oh hey, post-partum depression, fancy seeing you here.”
But I don’t want the discussion to end there, if this is the case, how do I call an emotional cease-fire when I’m still no closer to establishing my identity? I’m listless, a blank canvas.
As I write this, I feel like I’m beginning to skim the surface of what is going on and, as much as I hate to say it, maybe, just maybe, this is exactly where I am supposed to be to help me break out of the fog. Contemplating who I was and who I am now, while looking with hope toward who I’m becoming. Getting frustrated with my changed body and non-compliant hair. Questioning whether or not I’m using my intellect. Looking at my sons and wanting to be more for them, and for my sweet husband.
I remember working and being so good at what I did. Loving how I never faced a shortage of new things to learn or conquer. The feeling of being praised, as if I was truly making a difference as a social worker. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was the heart’s work and the cry of my soul was answered every day in making even a small difference. Or at least that’s how I remember it when I look back, but is it true? Because the reality is, somewhere along the line of being underpaid and overworked, I got lost. I started self-medicating with pills and alcohol, eventually numbing out what was a very well-established identity of ‘working woman, difference maker.’ I fought to get sober and somehow the Creator of the Universe decided that I was to get clean, married, and pregnant all within the span of a year. So I guess it makes sense that my identity isn’t solidified. I’m still a blank canvas because I’ve always been. One that desperately wants to be painted with such beauty and be worthy of viewing by these sweet men entrusted to my care.
I figure this is something that resonates with new moms, new stay-at-home moms, and even established moms. This riff between who we were, who we are, and who we’re going to be as we’re surrounded by the constant changes in our children and lives.
There’s a large part of me right now that wants to launch into how much I recognize the beauty in this canvas of mine, especially because of my history. The addictions and my fluid identity adding a variance of color, but the truth is, today I don’t see it. I feel blank and it’s okay. Maybe tomorrow, in brief glimpses into my son’s sweet blue eyes as he smiles, or when my husband looks at me the same way he did at the end of the aisle, even as I stumble out pantless to feed our son, I will. I will feel proud of my layers and weird body, even my lack of identity, because when I forget and I’m downtrodden, lost, and frustrated, I have these bricks to shape my fluid identity around like mortar. It’s all rough bits mixed together until I lean on these boys and remember that by leaning on them, I’m actually holding them together and maybe that’s just where I’m supposed to be.
So today I may not feel as if my identity is defined by mother, wife, friend, or Christian, especially as my emotions have me blindly feeling around for words like wanderer, vagabond, sojourner, and writer. But I am. I’m all of these things, and so much more.