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Monday, June 4, 2012

This Journey of Motherhood

Machu Pichu, Peru 2007
It's commonly said, usually with negative implications, that motherhood changes your identity. I strongly believed this before I had my son, and it was one of the reasons that I wanted to wait until I was 30 before becoming a parent. I figured that I would live my life in my 20s, traveling and finding out who I was, earn my Ph.D. and then settle down to parenthood and promptly lose that self that I had spent so long finding/establishing. I waved out my youth by taking an amazing 40-day trip through four South American countries with a great group of college kids, and then stoically faced what I perceived to be the inevitable decline into middle-age and becoming no longer me, but rather just "_________'s mom".

Of course, I quickly learned that motherhood did not take away who I am. Rather, it enriched who I was, as any significant love will do. I still have the same interests, which I can now share with my children, and it didn't even stop us from traveling. Before he was two years old, Essie had been as far as the Portlands on both coasts and down to Kansas, as well as Puerto Rico, Spain, and Argentina. Motherhood clearly did not slow me down after all.

El desierto de Atacama, Bolivia 2007
Three months pregnant with Belalu in Puerto Rico 2011
When Belalu was born and spent the first 10 days in the NICU, it all felt so surreal. Neither of us have had significant health problems in our family, the pregnancy went fine... we just kept wondering how we ended up there. And as we've spent the past 9 months trying to figure out what is wrong with her, if there's anything wrong with her and are now facing the likelihood that she has dwarfism, I have once again had my perception of who I am challenged.

Before, I imagined that parents of special needs children were somehow more saintly and more patient than the rest of us. I am by no means either of these things. And yet, here we are. On a journey we never expected to take.  Emily Perl Kingsley wrote a wonderful metaphor that describes well the experience of coming to accept your role as a parent of a special needs child, called  Welcome to Holland.

I am grateful to both of my children for helping me become a more wise, loving, tolerant, and patient person. I've still got a long way to go, but motherhood is shaping me into a better person than I ever could have been without them.
Amsterdam, Holland 2006: One of my favorite cities I've visited

1 comment:

  1. i think you've transitioned to your arrival in Holland a bit more gracefully than i have. i wish that i didn't have issues with depression and questioning my identity in all of this. but, i do. and as much as i hate the saying, it is what it is. i may not take it all in stride, but i still keep moving.

    in my (brief) experience of being the parent of a special needs child is that you don't take things for granted. when H says "i love you" unprompted, when he grabs Ben's pants to go play in the sandbox, when he makes a choice for what he wants to eat--these are huge for us. for you the markers will be different, but you'll savor them all the same.