My first year of motherhood was all about change: watching my daughter wriggle and crawl from baby stage to baby stage and feeling myself make the mind shift required to move from the intimacy of the-two-of-us to the much more complex family that is born the moment baby makes three. It was no longer me and him: it was me and him and me and her and her and him: three times as many relationship combos to maintain in the same small space. No wonder the house suddenly felt so much more crowded. The house wasn't simply overflowing with piles upon piles of baby stuff, piles that grew by the day as new parcels arrived by mail, courier, or baby-obsessed neighbor. The house was fully charged with the high voltage energy of new relationship possibilities, possibilities that were both brilliant and dark at the same time.
I remember feeling this strange mix of anxiety and joy: being simultaneous head-over-heels in love with my daughter and freaked out about how much my own life was changing, particularly my relationship with my husband. I couldn't believe that a person could be so happy and so sad at the same time. Were he and I destined to drift apart at the same time that we had the best reason in the world to want to stay together? If we couldn't even carry on a conversation without arguing about something,would we ever come out of this dark place as a couple?
I've been thinking back to this time a lot lately, because I've emerged from another year of growth and introspection. At first everything seemed scary and uncertain in the wake of my youngest son's Aspergers diagnosis, but now my husband and I have found our way back to something resembling the new normal again. In the early days, weeks, months, I remember feeling like a new mom again; realizing that I didn't even know what questions to ask in order to figure out what I needed to know.
For the longest time, I felt like I was walking around in a daze that was eerily reminiscent of the isolating fog of new motherhood: unable to concentrate and yet thinking all the time. My husband felt much the same way, and yet we were each in our own, separate fogs. This time, with the benefit of knowledge gained over 20 years of parenting, we groped through the fog until we found one another. We knew we needed to remind ourselves that we were on the same team, not at war with one another; that we needed to support one another while we were supporting our son.
When I signed up for this motherhood gig 20 years ago, I thought that being a mother was all about raising children. I had no idea that my children would also be raising me – providing me with opportunities to learn and grow more than I ever thought possible, particularly during those times when I was challenged to the max as a mother.
Don't get me wrong. I certainly wasn't grateful for those soul-wrenchingly painful parent development opportunities while I was living through them, but, looking back, I know now that I wouldn't have developed the ability to care deeply for parents and children in all kinds of circumstances nor would I have evolved into the person I am today if I hadn't been given the opportunity to experience so many different types of highs and lows myself. If I'd set up parenting digs at 123 Easy Street, I might easily have assumed that all parents and kids live on streets like that street. I would have been terribly wrong.
Because our family has spent time on Infertility Crescent and Stillbirth Street and Learning Disabilities Lane and Eating Disorders Drive and Depression Drive and Aspergers Syndrome Street and at other assorted addresses, I know that Easy Street is a very tiny street; and that some of the families who have houses there are living in a state of self-delusion. They aren't really living the picture-perfect existence they think they are living. At any time, the foundations of their houses and their lives could come tumbling down.
Parents who've lived on the streets that spiral off from Easy Street know what it's like to feel as emotionally downtrodden as a partially stepped on or totally flattened caterpillar -- the kind of feeling you get when your something worrying or terrible is happening or has happened to your child. At first you think you're going to stay in flattened caterpillar mode forever. And then you decide that what has happened to your child will not be in vain: you will find a way to make something positive come from this experience. And so you start to inject life back into your squished caterpillar body even though, at first, your body says, "What's the point?" At some point, you find the courage to wriggle out of the what's-the-point cocoon you retreated into when you were at your most vulnerable. You reach out to the only ones who can truly understand (a group of formerly squished caterpillars who have somehow morphed into butterflies). You work hard to heal yourself and the rest of your family and to recreate your life in a new way. Then you watch yourself soar above the worries of the day, knowing you have what it takes to help yourself and your family weather the next storm.
I've just given my personal blog -- The Mother of All Blogs -- a major revamp. I've moved it over to TypePad and added links to hundreds (there may be over a thousand) of links to parenting resources and articles (with many more to come). If you're used to linking to http://www.motherofallblogs.com, you don't have to do a thing. You've moved with the blog. If you used to link to the blogspot address, you need to change your link for my blog over to the new address.