The Baby Made Me Do It: Finding Freedom in Motherhood
Every night, after 6:30 p.m., I am effectively a prisoner in my own house. I have a four-month-old baby who lays his little self down in my arms and closes his eyes at exactly 6:30 p.m. There are no more spontaneous trips out to see a band or late-night runs to the grocery store. My husband works late, so it’s just me and my sleeping baby boy in the house most nights. The little man and I have found a rhythm, and as the fog of new motherhood has lifted, I have discovered something I never could have anticipated. I found my freedom.
I always figured becoming a mother would be a horror show. Everything would come to a screeching halt, and I would live out my days a slave to the needs of my child. I would be fat and frustrated, resentful of my husband and forever saddened by the loss of a life that could have been. It is true that I cannot leave the house without paying another adult to sit in my place, but on all other fronts, my experience of becoming a mother has been the opposite of what I expected.
I have lost every ounce of apathetic procrastination that I had in me. I have never been so driven and interested in revitalizing my own life. I am filled with an urgent desire to step out of my comfort zone and live bigger, to stop postponing my goals and move with purpose towards the woman I want to be — physically, professionally, and personally.
As I watch my son “age” through these first few months of life, I am more deeply aware of my own youth and the value I should be placing on it. I’m aware of the passage of time in a whole new way. I will not be a young woman forever, just as he will not be a baby for long. We are going to age together, and, thanks to him, I understand in a whole new way the value of my days on this planet.
Losing the weight tomorrow isn’t good enough any more. Calling up my new friend to come over for a bottle of wine cannot wait another week. Not speaking my mind in my writing isn’t going to cut it. And putting off the tattoo that I’ve been dreaming of for over a decade is unacceptable. The time is now. So often these things get shelved for fear of failure and judgment, fear of breaking free of the good opinion of others.
I am no longer primarily a daughter and a girlfriend. I am a mother and a wife. It’s my show now. I never expected those grown-up labels to carry such power, but, happily, they do. After turning 35 and giving birth, I think I can officially claim my adulthood.
I want my motherhood and my life to be openly, gleefully messy. I want my son to understand that I will not be trying to squeeze him into a predetermined box. I am not interested in defining who he is. I hope he will be kind, compassionate, joyful, and excited about whatever he decides to pursue, but I can only set the best example I know how and watch as he becomes his own man.
He is so small and vulnerable, hilarious and full of life. He challenges me every day to crack my heart open just a little bit wider, to be calmer, and to love living a little bit more. I may be chained to the house more often, but with my physical loss of freedom has come a powerful psychological freedom. I may not be able to jet out to try a new yoga class at a moment’s notice anymore, but I am challenged to discover parts of myself I never even knew were missing. Through my exhaustion after 4 a.m. feedings and endless hours of rocking and singing, I feel younger than ever. I have a fire to get out into the world and take advantage of this body and mind while they are still in their prime.
I’m sure my little man has much more to teach me over the years, and I have a thing or two to share with him. In the meantime, my job is to make sure he has a mom who is healthy and loving, who knows who she is and is always open to new adventures. With his wide eyes smiling at me every morning, I don’t think it will be too hard to stay motivated. I have to keep up. Game on.
“I was putting up my Christmas tree when I got the phone call,” says Teri Johnson-Hiett, referring to the moment she found out she had breast cancer. It was right around Thanksgiving in 2005, eight short months after losing her mother at age 51 to the same disease. Teri was only 29.
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