17 January 2009

Navel gazing and good intentions

We live in an apartment in the sky. We’re on the 21st floor, looking out over one of North America’s largest urban parks. We have amazing 300 degree views of mountains, beaches, bridges, and our city’s downtown core.

Today is a foggy day – not only metaphorically, as there was precious little sleep in our household last night (a subject of another post), but physically, atmospherically, and meteorologically, it’s a foggy day. The fog is so dense that I can barely see the near edge of a neighbouring building 20 feet away. The far edge of the same building is lost in insubstantial whiteness. Other than the periodical sounds of fog horns moaning in the harbour, it’s very quiet. You would never know I was in the heart of a city of a million people.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, this is what impending motherhood was like for me; looking out into the fog from the 21st floor. I knew in a vague way what was out there: vistas of endless possibility and potential, milestones and landmarks, astounding joy and desperate heartbreak, and a million people who’ve been there before. But it was all insubstantial. It was unclear and difficult to really visualize, no matter how much I read, and how many friends I talked to. There was the occasional fog horn, helping me to re-orient myself, and every now and then there would be a light breeze that would lift the fog just enough to let me see farther than I’d been able to before. Then the breeze would disappear, taking any certainty I felt with it.

Seven months later, it’s still like that in many ways.

I am an admitted control freak, so this is difficult for me. I like to know what’s coming. I read, I research, I ask questions, I arrange facts and figures in my brain to call on them when needed. I’m not very good at being a beginner. I was a successful career woman in my late 30s when my son was born. I had a role. I knew what was expected of me. I led, I made decisions, I was an expert in my field. There were very few foggy days.

Becoming a mom changed all that.

Here I am: a beginner.

Despite having read my own body weight in books about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, nothing really prepared me for that moment when I became someone’s mom. And it’s not just one moment – for me it’s been ongoing. Every day I’m a beginner again, because my son grows and changes so fast. The fog of uncertainty never quite clears. But I’m learning to be okay with that, which is a huge thing for me.

So I guess what I’m hoping to do with this blog is to be a sort of metaphorical fog horn or light breeze for other women going through some of this same uncertainty. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But I’m enjoying learning the answers that work for me, and sharing what I’ve learned with the one or two people that might stumble upon this blog.

And I promise not to take myself too seriously, despite the earnestness of the preceding paragraph!

I received some very good advice years ago. I was at a very low point in my life, going through the last painful death rattles of a very bad relationship. I was in the ladies’ room at a friend’s wedding and having a lighthearted conversation with a woman I had worked with briefly and knew only slightly. Maybe she could sense that all was not well in my world, or maybe she made the comment in an offhand way, never realizing the impact it would have on me in that moment and for the rest of my life. She said this:

Just remember, when you’re going through a difficult time, that trouble is like a fog bank. Fighting it is pointless. All you have to do is just stand still and strong and it will roll through and past you and be gone.

Those words have come back to me often since I became a mother. Motherhood is many wonderful (so wonderful!) things, but it can also be difficult. Exhaustion, the helpless feeling of not-knowing, frustration – all can contribute to a sense of being lost in the fog. In the dead of night, when my son won’t go to sleep no matter what I try, when I’m just SO tired, when I’m angry at my husband for no rational reason, when a million things seem to conspire to make me want to give up, those words have reminded me to just stand still and strong. Morning comes, the fog lifts just a little bit in the form of my son’s happy grin, and I peer out the window trying to see what the new day will bring.

It’s been a hell of a ride so far.

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