It was never my intention to lose myself, 4 years ago, when I became a mother. With the first baby, it was easy to hold on to the little bits: lying on the couch, devouring books while he slept in my lap; bundling him into a pack and going for long hikes; writing while he played quietly at my feet. But once the first began to walk, and the second came along, I felt those little pieces of me slip away. I didn't read any more, not for myself. The second would sleep in my lap but the first would be wide awake and demanding some precious undivided attention. I couldn't go for long hikes anymore, because I could only carry one on my back, and the other had to stop and examine every rock, stick, and dog turd. And writing? I had forgotten that I once called myself a writer. I felt like I had to do everything for the toddler and the baby, like I was the only one capable. Too scared or stubborn or proud to ask for help, trying desperately to balance those babies plus a marriage plus a minimal share of the house work...I was asleep every night by 8, wedged uncomfortably between warm little bodies, trying to make myself small.
Tara was all but erased. I was desperately trying, and failing, to be "Mama", to love and embrace a role I'd never imagined myself in. I felt--still sometimes feel--like I had to love the job all of the time, and there was something wrong with me if I didn't. Like I had to produce 3 homemade, whole food meals a day, grow all of our vegetables, cloth diaper even though we had no running water, entertain and nurture my kids with arts and crafts, spend more time outside than in, limit screen time, socialize them...and then still find time for myself, for self-care, for yoga or meditation, for my friends, for basic hygiene. I was deep in depression, holding myself to impossible standards, beating myself up and feeling like a failure. I was not sure at all who I was, who I used to be, who I was becoming.
I would disconnect on the internet, with social media, lost in blogs and other peoples' lives. I would, I still do, disconnect from my kids, my husband, myself. I guess I'm always searching for a common experience, someone else who has been through this dark place, and has left a detailed road map to lead me out. And of course that doesn't exist, not exactly, because the route is a little bit different for everyone, isn't it? My disconnecting would make things worse: I'd feel like even more of a failure for struggling where others were finding a way to balance "mother" and "self". The oldest would act out against the youngest in a last ditch effort to get some kind of attention from me. I would end up yelling, feeling guilty for yelling, spiralling deeper and deeper, further and further from myself.
And now, with a third baby imminent in our lives, I am finally trying to find myself again. Finally realizing that I'm doing no one any favours by letting my boys think I am nothing but "Mama", doing it all or not at all, often angry or sad or there only in body. I can't confidently answer the question: "who are you?" but I'm trying so hard to remember. To pick up a real book instead of endlessly refreshing my Facebook feed. To start my day writing morning pages while P gets the boys some breakfast. To blog, to write poetry, to let my mind run wild again. To let the boys see that I have other interests, and that while they are still a huge part of my world, they are not all of it, plus the sun and stars to boot. As I am about to become a mother of 3, I am also trying hard to become a whole person again, to become a priority in my own life again. To remember that I am a reader, a writer, a lover of hiking and bird watching and star gazing.
I must find myself for me, for them, and for this one not yet born.