It’s been a while since I wrote something and I don’t have a great reason for it except that I haven’t wanted to. I don’t have anything exciting to share. Postpartum running has been really challenging. I am nearly 14 months postpartum and I still pee my pants every time I run–I have seen a pelvic floor PT, consulted my doctor, and tried to alter my stride. The nurse at my doctor’s office told me that it should improve when I stop breastfeeding, and to that there is no end in sight. I had a terrible SI joint injury [from pregnancy] last March and I could not walk without pain for 6 weeks. If I push myself during a run I can feel my lower abdominal muscles tense up and tug internally from the extra incisions the doctor made on my stomach muscles during my c-section. The skin around my scar still swells sometimes, and if I wear anything too tight it irritates the scar and makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I hate that scar. I didn’t want to have a c-section and I wasn’t supposed to have a c-section. The entire pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience were a complete nightmare and it has forever changed me. I’d love to find consistency in running again and train for a marathon. The last few weeks have been going well, I just don’t want to get ahead of myself and make any rigid long term plans until I have a solid base of miles behind me. Mentally I am ready to set a goal and move forward but physically it isn’t realistic yet. Maybe in a few more months.
Recently, being home with Noelle has been fun and exciting. She walks around exploring, loves reading, plays with Ninja Kitty Cat, tries her hardest to be friendly toward Junior Kitty Cat but pulling his fur is sometimes too tempting, she is interested in the kitchen, likes to go to the grocery store and Target, enjoys playing with her friends, doesn’t mind being left with a babysitter if I have to go to an appointment or run an errand, and we are making progress toward not throwing food and eating meals politely.
Since I stopped working I’ve struggled with being home all the time. Initially, I wanted to go back to work and I was working very part time when I first had Noelle. Sometimes she would come to work with me. That arrangement worked until it didn’t. I’ve had a difficult time separating from Noelle probably because I thought I was going to lose her for half of my pregnancy and during her health issues. I am still traumatized from that experience and it led me to the realization that at this moment in my life I will not be working a full time office job. Putting her in a daycare or hiring a private babysitter is an uncomfortable challenge for me right now. Being away from her causes so much anxiety and my mind spirals out of control. I am working on this. I have terrible thoughts that something horrific is going to happen and it becomes debilitating. Within the last week I left her in the care of a friend two separate times. Both times she was with friends I trust for a short stint of time. I felt good about it. Starting small with people I trust is a great way for me to overcome the fear and anxiety I have about leaving her. I am working on it. Regardless of my choice to stay home with her and work through these issues, it is very challenging to be home ALL the time. I like productivity. I like to feel a sense of worth and fulfillment and I do not get that from being a parent. People say that I should. People tell me that being a stay-at-home parent is a job and that I should feel like I am doing important work. People telling me this doesn’t change how I feel. I feel lonely. I feel misunderstood. I feel invisible. I also feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to stay home with my daughter. I love that I have been here for every milestone. I enjoy taking her for walks around town and reading her books. I like the freedom and flexibility we have in our day, I just don’t like feeling like I have no identity outside of being a mother. I know I cannot be the only person who feels this way.
The reality is that before a person becomes a parent, more specifically, before a woman becomes a mother she was so many other things. Motherhood seems to overshadow all of those other things in an aggressive way. All mothers were and still are a multidimensional human being with dreams, goals, interests, and a unique personality that make them valuable and meaningful humans. Before a woman has a child she had hobbies, a job, books she liked to read, career aspirations, an education, and more than likely she had the ability to practice daily personal hygiene habits. Being a stay at home parent, even if it is a choice, severely alters a person’s identity and ability to see their worth. I feel worthless when I can’t even comb the knots out of my hair and this is the smallest of tasks…….when I realize I make no money, have no goals, or no hobbies that I can participate in in an uncomplicated way that feeling is magnified.
Sometimes I feel lost and invisible and I don’t think that is fair. Before I had a child I was more than a mother. I ran competitively for years. I ran 4 marathons. I have 10 years of coaching experience. I have 2 masters degrees. I wrote a thesis on the underrepresentation of women in coaching and I like to write. I write poetry sometimes. I like to bake chocolate chip cookies. I enjoy organization and efficiency. I like sending letters and cards in the mail and wish people did it more often. Despite my best efforts to deny it, I am good at business management. I am a strategic thinker and I am good at problem solving. I tend to drink more coffee than I should. I love cats. I like to read and learn. I like lifting weights and working out. I can climb a rope. I like to hike. I like to shop at LL Bean and I think it’s really great that the 90s fashion trends are returning. The problem is, if you didn’t know me before I became Noelle’s mom you don’t know me at all, and if you haven’t asked me about myself in the last 14 months you don’t know me anymore. Almost every new person I meet, and even some people I have known for years, have erased my previous identity because they see my daughter and don’t see me. I am the woman standing behind her or carrying her boldly through the world and yet I am invisible.
Life is strange right now and I feel like I am Noelle’s mom and everything else has been erased. A mother isn’t only a mother. Asking a mother about her kids is very well intended and often something she loves, but maybe every once in a while we should ask a mother about herself and who she is. Do this. Ask a mother about herself–don’t allow a mother to feel erased. I know if I am going to succeed at being Noelle’s mom I can’t be erased. The pieces of herself that get erased are often the same pieces of herself that made her chose to become a mother in the first place. I challenge you to help mothers remember who they are.
A mother is more than a vessel to deliver life into this world and more than a person to care for young children. The road a mother has walked in becoming a mother is very rarely uncomplicated. Do not judge mothers. When you see a mother out in the wild with her child think more critically about what a mother does and who she is, and if you have the opportunity learn more about a mother so that she doesn’t feel invisible and her identity doesn’t get erased.