I will never forget the way it felt to finally let a little me back into my life. It took almost a year from the time my first baby was born.
Quinn was an all-consuming baby, from newborn colic and nursing struggles to restless nights and teething drama. I was bone tired and had been in survival mode for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t making deliberate choices so much as putting one foot in front of the other.
Some days that included a shower. Most days it included a playdate with a friend and their own larger-than-life toddler, a visit with a neighbor, a glass of wine with dinner. There was joy, there was fun. I was starting to do tiny things for myself, but not consciously. Our routine, our environment, our entire existence, really, still rotated around Quinn and her needs.
One day, a friend told me that she liked to listen to NPR in the mornings. That stopped me in my tracks.
“You can do that with a baby?”
“Well why not?” she asked, laughing a little. My mama brain balked a little: Would it be detrimental to early language development? Would it overstimulate Quinn? Wouldn’t I be ignoring her? With great effort, I hushed my inner crazy mama. I needed something. Maybe this was it.
Why not, indeed.
The next day I tried it. I’m not sure if I was really listening to the stories so much as hearing the busy buzz of adulthood around me. Grown-ups having ideas and talking about them! My brain crackled to life. It was exhilarating and fun and it was totally for me.
Quinn sat bewildered for a bit, holding her block in mid-air above the tower she had been building. But she adjusted quickly. Just like I had for her.
It wasn’t about NPR. It was about me. That woman who had wandered off into the woods when my first contractions started and who I hadn’t seen since. She had been gone for a year but there she was, grinning at me like she was just back from a short walk.
The thing is, I love being a mom. I loved it from the first instant. But being a mom took over every square inch of my being. Everything I had valued before, everything– from the reporting career I worked to build, to the close relationships I treasured– turned to dust in the face of that tiny little squalling being. And I had let it happen. I really hadn’t put up a fight.
Yes, I mean quitting my job to be a full-time mom. But there was so much more than that. Going to bed when the baby did so I would have energy for her in the morning. Cutting out all social time that didn’t involve babies. Relegating my husband to the couch when I pulled the baby into bed with me. Spending every free second reading about childhood development or googling random health symptoms that worried me. So many little things everywhere had changed. I thought I didn’t really have a choice. But did I?
I felt so happy most of the time basking in the light of my baby. But every once in a while there would be something, a letter from a friend, a picture from my wedding, that would call up the way I used to feel in my skin, and I would try on being me for a moment. Then the hollow recognition would come: that wasn’t me anymore. It couldn’t be. I would tamp the melancholy down quickly, and get busy with the task at hand. And there was always a task at hand.
But that day with the radio, I was deliberately letting me in again. It took bravery to call her up because I knew it would hurt a little. It took effort to let her stay a while. To hold her and the baby. To figure out how I might make this work before she left again.
Not long after that I started writing again. A friend suggested starting a blog together and I jumped at the chance. Fingers at the keyboard, plumbing the depths, I found myself again. Even though I was in my pajamas and writing about motherhood. It felt just like me. A mother. But still me.
About the Author
Shawna Gamache is a former newspaper reporter and co-founder of the local blog Moms Alive. She is mama to Ruby, 3, Quinn, 5, and Nora, 6 months. In her quiet moments, Shawna loves writing, knitting and avoiding eye contact with her laundry pile.