Since my daughter, MaKayla, was born eight months ago, I’ve been two-faced. Not in the colloquial sense of the word; as in pretending to be and feel one way but acting another. Although I don’t know if I’m too far off from that. No, I mean two-faced as in there are two mes; two selves. The first one is the sister I’m trying so desperately not to forget. The woman who used to catch a train from Philly to Brooklyn for the latest writing conference or arts festival—just because the air smelled right when she woke up that morning. The lurker on Hotwire.com who, upon finding a great deal, used to snatch up Hubby for a quick getaway to the Jersey or Maryland or Virginia shores.
Key words: Used to.
So now there’s this new Tracey. The one who has to plan a simple trip to the grocery and still needs thirty minutes to get out the door. The mother who sometimes forgets to pack the wipes in her sugarplum’s diaper bag and has to come all the way home to get them lest there be some other kind of scents happening in the bread aisle.
I don’t think it’s too much to say that I sometimes feel like I’m in a never-ending episode of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. The fearless twenty-something who moved from Kentucky to Chicago with $300 in her pocket and a Budget rental van full of her grandmother’s old furniture has turned into the fearful baby nazi who, giggling baby aside, has horrifying imaginations of her little girl’s skull being cracked open every time her husband lifts her in the air during play time.
Who is this woman?
Truthfully, these two selves are often at odds with each other. Particularly the old me who is feeling the pinch of my life shift. The pre-pregnancy me screams for the attention that she’s losing. She wants to be the center of her husband’s (and mother’s and girlfriends’…) world. If I’m honest, this part of me resents the suffocation of my former, carefree and independent self even as my daughter grows more lovely and loving as each day passes. The other me sees this change and while not completely embracing it (hence, this blog), looks into those big, beautiful eyes of baby girl and realizes that she I have never known a love like this before. My daughter fills me to overflowing with love. I can’t stand it. No, really. On some days, I. Can’t. Stand. It. What does the carefree, independent writer chick do with all of this extra emotion? (Putting it in a book is so cliché) The love just comes out of nowhere. It can be sparked by little girl squeals of delight. It can turn me quickly into Momma Bear; ready to kill dead anyone or anything that even looks like they might hurt my baby.
Having two faces, two selves can create both a feeling of loss and a sense of being lost. I’m not being fully one or the other. I see pieces of the old me and I want to retain some of that even as I remain true to who I am becoming since being initiated into the Mommy club. I am not who I was and I’m not quite who I’m going to be. This is my reality. Yet, trying to carve out a new identity while still making my daughter the first priority is a challenge. Motherhood in general is a challenge, isn’t it?
(This is where the mommy vets nod their heads knowingly as if to say, “Duh!”)
It challenges the self-centeredness that we so carefully crafted in the years prior to giving birth. And if you are an older first time mom like me (35+), that’s a whole lot of years. Years that, if we allow ourselves to be consumed by the difficult transitions being a new mom can bring, will always seem like the “good ole days.”
It’s important, I think, to not romanticize the past and who you were before. I know full well there are many days I do not wish to re-live. And there are certainly good days ahead. Different days but good ones. The chick who danced the night away in New York City clubs now saves her Cabbage Patch (hey, I said I was an older mom!) for when her daughter eats all her food or has a good poo-poo. So what it may take me a little longer to finish a book or I may have to make difficult choices regarding childcare or schools or good influences vs. bad ones. But as I’m “becoming,” I also get the pure joy of watching my daughter “become.” At the end of the day, that makes it all worth it.
I think. 🙂
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.