Self: Walking From Singular to Plural
As a new mother, one of the biggest challenges has been my struggle with identity. After giving birth to my son I'd look for HER in the baking cupboards, eager to dust countertops with flour and cold butter. It was dyer that I chop fresh fruits and veggies and roll out my own dough for a quiche and pie. My urgency to get back into the kitchen was coming from an impulse to feel nourished and satisfied again, as nursing often felt like an Olympic event trying to care for the both of us. Since I've always been a picky eater, finding my own rhythm and control in the kitchen was essential to my well being, but suddenly my energy level was low and naps were short, the dishes were piled high and time was stacked against me.
With a toddler I rarely have a hands-free moment to sit and write, and before motherhood writing was largely how I identified myself. Over the past year I have been forced to come to terms with the sleep-deprived version of myself, the half showered, barely conditioned or rinsed, and everyday v-neck and jeans version of myself. On the hardest days I held myself up to an unreasonable and almost-extinct expectation of self. I look in the mirror and try to will HER back again, I mouth no worries, I ignore stretch marks and newly formed wrinkles, and remind myself my crummy eye-sight is simply a temporary symptom of nursing.
It’s been a long and trying first year. I’ve had to accept my life in the form of half completed projects and foggy commitments. I sport food-stained clothing and wear dark swollen bags like pillows under my eyes. There will never be enough coffee or make-up to get me through the day because I’m knee-deep in a state of mourning HER, as I loose sight of the woman I once was, and take the time to become anew.
Surprisingly, what revived me was walking. The prep-work was minimal, and the gear required was next to nothing. I could feel accomplished, nourished and well maintained after a good long walk with my family. We walked with no specific route or destination in mind. In fact, most often we walked in circles through town, we dug figure eight’s into trails and gravel, followed the river, or inched alongside a fence on a trail parallel with the turnpike. Our tracks were only predetermined by the baby’s mood and/or mode of transportation. We needed the sidewalk for our @orbitbaby, but we could go almost anywhere on foot with our @ergobaby or @sollybabywrap. My feet slapped pavement and dusty pebble tracked roads. My son, our dog and I, strolled in and out of town for 365 days straight. Every day. Sun or snow.
Walking saved me from postpartum depression, I'm 180% sure of that. Some days we walked for upwards of three hours a day. Everyone was better for it. My headspace was crowded and often over stimulated, so taking the time to unplug was essential. Walking it out made me a better writer, woman, and mother. I was calm and more flexible after walking. It taught me to trust process, as the ebbs and flows of creativity and motherhood are often synonymous with that of the day, the season, or weather.
We become what we surround ourselves with, and I’m grateful motherhood has given me the space to honor that.
Despite all efforts, I’ve become many versions of the mothers I never thought I’d be. I'm an earthy alternative that wears heels during the week and moccasins on the weekends. I have a strong love for yoga, but I loathe the hype and gear our culture is obsessed with. I may carry my child, but I encourage independent play. I am a mud pie of mothers. I'm a co sleeping, breastfeeding, baby carrying mama, and reading that on paper breaks a part of me, but living it feels right. I've struggled a lot with finding a balance between who I thought I’d be, who I want to be, and who I am. I imagine I’m not alone in this struggle. As mothers, the ever-beating heart outside of the self compels us to. We have no choice. Even after a year my brain and my heart are still trying to come to terms with who I've evolved into. My body is a sift shaking out the loose ends of motherhood, what falls through the cracks today will filter itself differently tomorrow.
I know them now. I can accept that, and I am grateful motherhood has given me the space to honor that.
I’ve learned quickly I’ll never be the mother that has a circle of girlfriends to spontaneously vacation with. I’ll never be the mother who makes money off her blog or product sponsors. I won’t be the mother who can afford to stay home with my babies. I won’t be voted most popular. I am not the woman holding the colorful fruity cocktail you can’t pronounce. I’m the mother correcting your punctuation. I’d give a lung to publish my book. I’m fascinated with group culture but I’ll never be one of many. But I value me. I value the work I’ve done on myself before becoming a mother - according to my timeline - not yours, or hers, or his, or theirs. I’m strong-willed and sensitive. I believe in always saying thank you, because a gift is a willing intention. I value the woman I’ve become despite circumstance, despite the dysfunctional and blended family titles. I accept my cup of crazy, and I chose to be imperfect.
I was a woman before I was a mother.
But I’m a better woman now because I’m a mother.
I am always becoming, and I’m grateful motherhood has given me the space to honor that.
Sara Consolati, The Village Journalist