The Motherhood Identity Shift
Tonight's post is more raw than usual, but it's something that's been on my heart. As my brief pictures and posts of the last week show, I have undergone enormous changes in the last 3 months:
1) I got married (identity shift) 2) I became a mother immediately (wait...what? I didn't have time to make my other identity shift yet!)
Our wedding gifts were not even fully unwrapped on July 7, 3 weeks after our marriage, when the pregnancy test came back positive. We hadn't even gone on our honeymoon yet! And, due to the shock and to the pregnancy hormones that were already beginning to take hold, I found myself thinking things I never thought I would. I have always been, and will always be, 100% pro-life. I drool when I see a cute baby, I love my 6 younger siblings, and I have looked forward to motherhood for a long time. So it was a huge shock when, in the weeks following, I could only think "I'm not ready." There were a whole host of other excuses lined up too- inconsequential as they were in the big picture, they were so real to me at the time. Plus, getting slapped with nausea attacks and exhaustion every night that necessitate being a couch potato at 5pm every and continuing until bedtime, make you feel like you're not yourself anymore.
Let's say I didn't already believe that this little person was a human with a soul. Let's say I didn't have a loving, supportive husband and a family who were beyond excited to help me. Let's say I didn't have an understanding boss, or didn't already have time to be single and discern and enjoy my 20's the way people tell you you should, or any money saved...suddenly, all the reasons people use to justify abortion didn't feel silly to me. My feelings were based in emotion, not reason, and they were not noble- but they were human. I found myself suddenly sympathizing in a new way with women who were facing an unplanned pregnancy.
I understood how they could feel like "I'm not a mom. How can this test just say I'm a mom, and now I have to do all the things that moms do?"
I needed support, not judgement, for how I felt from those who "knew better." (Believe me, pregnancy hormones already make you feel bad enough about how you feel- no need to hear it aloud!) John has been amazing to hear me out patiently so many times. If I didn't have my moral convictions or support from good people, I would have found it easy to buy into the laws of our country and the Planned Parenthood jargon that say "It's okay to have an abortion. You'll feel better. Just do what you want." Well, in that moment, I DIDN'T want to be a mom! Not yet! Here's something interesting: I found out as early as reliably possible that I was pregnant. The very NEXT DAY after I found out, the baby's heart started beating. I didn't know it then, but in a different world if I were facing an unplanned pregnancy and decided based on my emotional distress to have an abortion, I would already have stopped a heartbeat. That gives me chills to think about.
My baby was already taking shape so quickly within me, before my emotions were ready to accept him or her.
And here's the silver lining: my emotions got better. Eventually they came into line with reason, where I knew both in my heart and in my head that this is totally in God's plan. (I like to think that God just couldn't wait to bring this little person into the world, so he made sure he/she got here as soon as possible!) By the time we went to Rome and I asked for Pope Francis's blessing in August, I was excited as heck to meet him or her. I see now how those negative emotions and shock were just passing through and underneath them there is a true excitement growing to meet this baby.
The identity shift is still in progress, and will continue to be.
I wish for every woman who is a mother and doesn't feel ready, that she will receive ONLY love and support from those around her. That is the only way to begin to feel like "I can do this."
And once you feel like you can do it, you begin to look forward to kissing those little toes, watching your baby grow, looking deep into their eyes, and hearing their little laughter. My challenge to anyone who cared to read this incredibly long post is to love those who are facing things that you may not have gone through yourself, and therefore don't fully understand. It could be pregnancy, or an illness, or the loss of a friendship, or infertility, or anything. See them in their struggle as Jesus would- understanding that they are not perfect, and encouraging them to do the right thing without holding morality over them like a judge.