With the cracking open of a brand new date book and 2015 receding into the gloppiness of an increasingly distant past…I am renewed. I have trudged through the bloodstained battlefields of early motherhood and I have survived, goddammit! I am stepping into the light of a glorious new existence, enwrapped in the translucent armor of post-postpartum strength and sanity.
I was completely clueless going into this. If I had known what the first two years would be like, I might not have signed up–knowing that the only exit clause was giving my daughter up for adoption, or abandoning her on a doorstep. And that, of course, was unthinkable. No matter how excruciating the sleep deprivation and loss of autonomy and freedom got, I was in it for life. And the more consecutive days without adequate rest I made it through, the more invincible I became in my mind. And that’s the key really: that it’s all in our minds to begin with. Our perception of reality determines how our lives will take shape. We create our own realities from day to day, and it’s a constant choice, how we choose to view the world. That piece of knowledge is both liberating and scary as hell. It gives us complete responsibility for our existence. No more blaming our mothers or our daughters or our inner critics even for sabotaging our selfhood.
Speaking of the inner critic…oooh boy, have I ever gotten to know her. I even gave her a name recently, and drew a picture of her: Skragoola. Such a haggard, tortured, crazy-haired creature is she. And, before she consistently got free reign to rear her ugly head so forcefully during my bouts of postpartum anxiety, she was but a constant buzz in the background. But she was there, sending messages to reel myself in, stay calm and controlled, small and safe. To disappear, essentially. I realized that I’ve lived most of my life wanting to blend in to the complacent, numbly nodding crowds.
There’s no fun in that. Inara turns two on Saturday, and my own inner tantrumy toddler is kicking and screaming her way back to life. The defiant wild-eyed girl who shouts “no!!” in the face of authority, just for the sake of defying authority. Yes, her. She’s back…and I’m choosing to put a leash on her. Not to hold her back, but to let her undiluted, pure force take me for a ride. She’s taking me back to that inner questioning of why rules exist, what’s the sense in propriety, what if all the beliefs we’ve been living by are a crock of shit. What if, on some very basic level, we’ve had it all wrong since we could first form thoughts? What if the messages we’ve received since we were infants were intrinsically f-‘ed up?
Then that shatters the mirror we’ve created as reality, and we’re stripped to the core. We’re naked and crawling again, looking for guidance and something to identify with for our sense of self. So this is where the exciting part comes in. In becoming parents, we are given an opportunity to completely reshape our reality, and ourselves. The struggles of the first years of parenthood–being in survival mode for so long, learning to completely reorganize and reprioritize our lives, learning to put self-care first while putting ourselves aside to care for our children (how is this possible?)–make us reevaluate what’s important, what’s vital to our being, and what has to go the f*** away. All the baggage, the inner demons, the hurting parts, the misconstrued identities, the programming from our childhoods…anything that doesn’t fit with who we are now, the brightest, most essential version of our selves, anything that gets in the way of our being the best parents we can be…just must go.
But it’s not always that simple. Like what about the inner two year old who was taught to stifle her self-expression? These bits and pieces that come up for healing need our love. We’re given this chance to remother ourselves. Whatever we lacked as children, we can now give back to ourselves. How? First of all, I’ve stopped turning my back on and running away from what’s hurting. I’m sitting down with it, embracing it, holding it tenderly as I would my own crying daughter. I am accepting her not as shameful and invalid, but as important and deserving of attention.
This is the blessing. And I anticipate so it will follow as Inara grows. I’ll have a chance to heal all the different wounds from my various stages in life that coincide with Inara’s development. I will keep unfolding out of and into myself. This gentle blossoming of my soul as I nurture all these different, delicate buds that never got to open. It’s big work. But it’s so damn worth it. For ourselves, for our children…for the world. We get to become whole again, so that we can do the work we’re here to do.