The Birth of a Mother
It was Tuesday night. I was cooking dinner when Chris walked in the kitchen from putting Grace down, and he asked me how I was doing. The words just popped out of my mouth...
"Chris, am I still the same person I was before I became a mom?"
(Poor guy. I guess four and a half years into marriage, and about 50% of the time, he knows to expect an out-of-left-field response.) It's something I've been wresting with since the day we brought Grace home... am I still Brittany? How much of me is the same as before? How much of "Brittany, before" carries over into this new life?
I have always wanted to be a mother. Growing up, my day-dreaming consisted of building a family – a husband, kids, a house. Love pouring out of every door and window. Serving and giving every part of myself, every part of my heart, all of my creativity, into my family unit. God has been sweet to re-work a lot of this for me as I grew and matured – mostly showing me how much I've idolized this. It's funny. If you had asked me a few years ago how I was doing with this, I would tell you I was in a really good place. Chris and I were recently married, quickly learning that marriage is seriously refining, and with endless possibilities lying ahead. But we were on the same page. Chris wanted a job that he enjoyed, but mostly one that allowed him to be a present figure in our family life. We talked about him working a more demanding job for a few years after law school to pay off our debts and then buying a house and starting a family when he moved to a less-demanding workplace.
How God chuckled at our plans. Not that they weren't good... but that they weren't what He had in mind for us.
Right before law school ended, that yearning deep within me grew to start our family. It felt like such a surprise to me. After years of feeling content with waiting to have a baby, this longing suddenly popped up, and not just as a whisper, but as a dull roar that ate away at me. I kept it hidden for months, asking God to make it go away. When I finally told Chris, I was embarrassed. I told him there was no pressure.
Looking back, I see that this was my response to those surprising years of clerkships we had just signed up for. They weren't part of the plan. And I wanted to get back on track. I was surprised at how easily my heart could surpass my head... having a baby wasn't something that was on my mind. But it was certainly on my heart. And my heart would not be easily quieted.
So when we brought our girl home from the hospital that rainy New Year's Eve in Mississippi, I felt like I was staring at a blank page. I should be happy now, right? I should be bursting with color and life, right? As we walked through those first sleepless, painful weeks of learning how to keep a newborn alive and fed, I questioned myself. I remembered what it was like when my siblings were born. I've taken care of so many babies and kids. I knew it would be hard. I knew what to expect. But I didn't expect not to feel fulfilled by it.
So I asked Chris this week, "Am I still Brittany? Or is 'mom Brittany' a new person? I feel so different. I don't have the capacity to be who I once was." I miss things from my "former life," like having a creative business, training for half marathons, filling my time with friend dates and meeting people and pursuing. I miss having a wardrobe that felt 100% like "Brittany." I miss looking in the mirror and seeing myself instead of a tired, (let's be honest) saggy, no-makeup (not in an carefree-all-natural kind of way), dirty hair, acne-prone, hormonal mess. I joke sometimes that Grace took away my youth. But truly – I look at pictures pre-Grace and I see Brittany. I look in the mirror now and I don't know who that woman is. I have a tiny bit of capacity now to take care of myself, and I keep asking God, "What do I put there?"
Chris said something revolutionary to me over dinner that night. He said, "The sweet Brittany that I know and love is still there at your core." I asked him how do I get her out? Have a creative outlet? Sign up to run a half marathon again? What do I DO? He said, “She took coffee and donuts to her friend this morning who just had her first baby. She texted another friend this morning to tell her happy birthday and made her cry happy tears. She gave a third friend a book for her birthday this week that was exactly what she needed. My sweet Brittany is still here and she is beautiful.”
(He also told me to take one Saturday morning a month to go to a coffee shop and write, and that I need to schedule it in our shared calendar so that we can be intentional about making it happen. So, here I sit.)
I didn't expect not to feel fulfilled by my new role as a mother... what a gift it is, that God would give me a baby (an amazing easy and wonderful one, at that). He knows my idols and where my heart has been in this my entire life, and yet, He still gave me Grace. (The sweet irony of writing her name in these sentences is not lost on me.) The shame from that is heavy. And if I go looking to pursue some of the pieces of my life from before, I feel like I'm shunning my role as a mother. I've created a circle of shame for myself. BUT, GOD. He knew all along where I would be, He DESIGNED me and the desires of my heart, and He made me to be NEEDY for Him.
Something sweet that I read this morning was this...
"Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths."
– Psalms 25:4
There is peace in His presence, peace I've been hungering for for so long. He invites me to walk with Him, along His paths, in His peaceful presence. So often, I question which path is "best," which "fits me," which one most quickly gets me to where I want to go or who I want to be. And God, more often than not, invites me to the longer route. To slow down, to walk where it doesn't look as certain, to see that the destination is not a place on this earth, but my true home in Heaven.
And it's there that I see that the long, meandering path that He is inviting me to walk with Him, is the most scenic route... it boasts more beauty than I could've ever imagined. How could I ask for more?