Even before I was pregnant with Waverley, I feared the change motherhood would inevitably cause my life and personality. I witnessed firsthand the apparent lobotomy that took place after others gave birth and I was terrified of suffering the same fate. I feared conversations being taken over with talk of babies (what a bore!). I loathed when I asked mothers their opinion on an upcoming election and they had no idea who was running (how uninformed!). I felt the daily trials of motherhood were inconsequential compared to my days caring for horribly sick people (so noble!). Essentially, I was afraid of becoming uninteresting to people without kids.
And then, nearly two and half years later, I woke up. The change motherhood ensues is deep, unavoidable, and to the core. To me, it didn’t happen overnight or the instant Waverley was born. It evolved over the first two+ years of her life and I’ve just now realized what it entails, yet I am certain when I approach her teenage years I’ll be completely uprooted again. The change that has occurred since I became a mother is less of a change to my personality: I’m still me! I still love the same things and activities I did before. But rather, it is more a paradigm shift in my perception of the world. It is the weight of a human life dependent upon me.
“Self-actualization and goal achievement do not end with motherhood. But rather, they begin.”
It is the responsibility of putting someone else’s needs before or parallel to my own. It is saying no to things I desperately want to do. It is sacrificing myself for a few years for the betterment of my family. It is understanding how miraculous life truly is as it grows inside of me. It is teaching basic human fundamentals to a tiny human, who understands minimal logic and reasoning. It is projecting kindness and empathy in my deepest, darkest moments to teach the importance of kindness and empathy. It is months of morning sickness, a body left scarred and unrecognizable, and a painful delivery to bring another human into the world. It is the inability to blow-off life in a self-indulgent day hungover in bed. It is being in the throes of potty training and wearing a pee-soaked sweatshirt for three hours before realizing I need to change. It is messy, it is all-consuming, it is deep, it is inconvenient.
It is bigger than me.
As you know, soon after Waverley was born we moved from Maryland to Alaska which meant I had to leave my beloved job at Kennedy Krieger Institute. I traded in full-time clinical work for part-time academic work, pursuing my dream of writing, and being a full-time mother. I still meet people who see me as “just” a stay-at-home mom. I used to grow so hot and bothered by their prejudice and felt it necessary to spout off my professional accomplishments. But then, like I said, I woke up. My perception of motherhood shifted and in that mentality adjustment came the realization that motherhood has changed me, to my core…for the better. I wish I could talk to my former self, the childless career-driven woman who feared change of any sort. I would tell her, “Yes, you will change. It is inevitable. You will become stronger, selfless, more resourceful, more grateful, and happier and sadder than ever before. You will be different. But those women who didn’t pay attention to elections because they had kids? They wouldn’t pay attention even if they didn’t. Those women who use motherhood as an excuse? They’d find another excuse. You’ll be you. But you’ll be better.”
“It is projecting kindness and empathy in my deepest, darkest moments to teach the importance of kindness and empathy.”
I no longer pity the version of me they see. Instead, I hope their perception changes one day too whether it is with or without children, and they’ll realize what it means to have to give up yourself while simultaneously trying to become the person you always wanted to be. You see, self-actualization and goal achievement do not end with motherhood. But rather, they begin.
Now, I see myself as a mother and a different person yet entirely the same. Motherhood changed me, and I am grateful for the opportunity.