We Are Mothers

Episode 13 Essay

 

Embracing the new normal
BY simone north

The summer my partner Sheldon and I started dating, we were serious partners in crime. We used to host huge theme parties and dance all night long. We were always ready to drop everything and party hard. I was a burlesque performer and he was always working on lighting projects for parties and events. When we teamed up, that’s when we really started to thrive on each others fun-loving attitudes. Life was pretty wild for the three years that we were together before we got pregnant.

One Christmas, I surprised Sheldon by booking a week-long vacation in New Orleans. We planned to drink, dance, listen to live music, and basically just go wild. We found out we were pregnant the day before our flight.  we spent the entire week in bed in an AirBnB watching reruns of The Office because my morning sickness was so awful. This was an omen for the way that our lives were about to change. And yet, we had no idea.

During my pregnancy, Sheldon and I believed that when we had our baby, our lives would stay the same, for the most part. Our plans would now include a baby, but our lifestyle wouldn’t change significantly. We optimistically bought baby-sized earmuffs so we could take our infant to concerts and made postpartum plans that involved late nights in dive bars and long road trips. Not one single person ever had the heart to break the news to us that we were out of our minds.

Our first few months with our baby could only be described as chaotic. I developed an illness which caused me to throw up aggressively throughout the day for about three months and we lost our apartment due to a bed bug infestation in our building. We found ourselves with not only a newborn, but also facing a host of challenges that were unbearable to tolerate on a lack of sleep and an influx of brand new hormones.

All of a sudden, our free-spirited lifestyle vanished and the friends we had always had around us were gone. We had become incredibly sleep-deprived introverts, and our former life together seemed like a distant memory. I tried desperately to keep a hold of my pre- motherhood social life, but I was constantly making plans that were out of my reach. Inevitably, I would always have to cancel at the last minute when I admitted to myself that I would actually rather be home with my baby.

One night, a friend’s band was playing a show at a bar near our house. My sister came over to babysit and Sheldon and I committed to going out just for an hour or two. I put on makeup for the first time in six months, ditched my leggings, and prepared to head out. . But when the time finally came for us to leave, I just couldn’t do it. The thought of my baby waking up and needing me terrified me. I was stuck between feeling like I was letting Sheldon and my friends down and guilt about leaving my baby. I sat on my bedroom floor and cried for half an hour, ruining my makeup, and totally working myself up into a panic.

That night, I realized that my old life just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. It didn't mean that I would never want it again, but I just didn't want it now. I had started to love being cuddled up in bed with my little girl sleeping in my armpit. I felt more like myself than I had ever really felt before when I was at home with my daughter.

I can distinctly recall a beautiful evening in the summer just before my daughter turned one. My partner and I were sitting outside getting deep into conversations about life. I looked up at the night sky and all of a sudden I felt so deeply happy. I immediately ran into the house to grab my journal and I scribbled down a paragraph or two about finally feeling, after a year of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, that I had grown to love our new normal.

As my daughter now approaches her second birthday, I have begun to truly embrace the normalcy of complete dedication to another person. Loving weekends without plans, spending my days waiting for my daughter to nap (and then spending her nap time looking at pictures of her), and unapologetically saying no to 75 percent of all plans that are past 7 pm is now all normal. Before I had my daughter, I never imagined my life changing in these ways. But completely surrendering to my own version of motherhood, I found an incredible and empowering new way of life.