Reclaiming All My Pieces, Motherhood Included

 

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There was the time I tried to exit motherhood, so hell bent on finishing it up, distancing myself from who I’d become as the bearer of children. I was immersed in diapers and shit and dribble, inundated with milestones and firsts and the hot tears of frustration and exhaustion and a joy so intense it sliced through my fingers when I tried to hold on to it, leaving me bleeding and raw and open. Too open. I’m afraid of that, of openness, of vulnerability and the whole truth, nothing but the truth. What if my truth is too much for me? What if it swallows me up, like Jonah’s whale and I have to live in it? Who will buy the milk? Who will drive the girls to soccer? Who will memorize their medical record numbers and get them in for shots on time? Who will kiss them behind their fuzzy ears and stroke their downy arms just because? Who will lay with them at night, making themselves small and slim to make room for their beating hearts, their silky breath in and out?

There is no exit, no way out because motherhood never ends, it just shifts shape. It tightens and tapers. It goes slack then winds itself back up. You cannot turn your back and leave it sitting at the kitchen counter with a bowl of cereal while you go blowdry your hair. You cannot leave it sleeping in the car while you saunter up to the bar and order a G+T, extra lime. There are no exit signs in the theater of motherhood. Even writing that makes me seize up a little – even now when I know I don’t want to go anywhere without my motherhood anymore.

Just when I’d thought I’d found my way beyond motherhood, I tripped right back in, face down on the stage, everyone waiting for me to deliver my lines. A surprise baby, a blessing, an unfulfilled desire finally realized but also startling. Euphoria and fear did a little jig in my heart. Would I resent being cast in that role one more time? Would I resent not having a choice? Yes, and I did. Until…until I realized I could choose. I could own motherhood this time, embrace the unexpected, swallow it up and let it live inside me, be a part of me, instead of taunting me offstage.

Now, in the fifth year of my third child, I am not looking for an out. I am wandering within, following the path of dropped Goldfish from the kitchen to the family room, tripping over left out Legos, wondering where Barbie’s other purple plastic shoe could be. I am rediscovering the perfection of angles as I scan geometry proofs with my 8th grader. I am blanketing my middle girl with hugs and as much understanding as I can muster as she navigates the limbo between tween and teen. I am sending each of my girls out into their world with love and tightly laced sneakers, spinning them out into their own orbits but still within the pull of my gravity. I am spinning out too, locating myself between the trips to Trader Joe’s, the carpools, the homework, the sibling squabbles, the growing pains.

Motherhood shattered me. I know this sounds violent and in some ways it is, especially in the first few weeks and months, even years. It is a realignment, sometimes so sudden and drastic that it feels more of a loss than a gain. In other ways it is a slow breaking down of ambition and perspective, of ferocity and priority. At times I have felt so lost, so unfamiliar to myself. Then there are moments when I am so entirely present in the light of my children, in the comforting weight of motherhood, of knowing. For so long, though, I have not been able to reconcile these states of being, create a space where they can exist side-by-side without chafing. It has taken me almost 14 years to gather up my scattered parts, to begin the work of reemerging whole – different, yes, but whole. It’s not about leaving motherhood behind. It’s about reclaiming all of my pieces – motherhood included – respecting the new, sifting through the old and honoring this next installment of me.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “I thought that by this time in life, I’d…” and is hosted by the brilliant Kristi of Finding Ninee.

34 thoughts on “Reclaiming All My Pieces, Motherhood Included

  1. Oh wow, I love this. My son is almost 4, but I relate. ‘It is a realignment, sometimes so sudden and drastic that it feels more of a loss than a gain. In other ways it is a slow breaking down of ambition and perspective, of ferocity and priority. At times I have felt so lost, so unfamiliar to myself. Then there are moments when I am so entirely present in the light of my children, in the comforting weight of motherhood, of knowing.” YES! Picking up the pieces, especially during nap time/quiet time.

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    1. Thank you so much! I think that the breaking apart happens so suddenly at first and then there’s more crumbling as time goes by as well as new additions to who we are. A rearranging of sorts.

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  2. I just saw this on Facebook and am so glad I did. Lisa you are so gifted. For some reason, the image of you helping your daughter find Barbie’s other purple plastic shoe really got to me. There’s so much of motherhood inside that tiny detail, the letting her know that you will look out for it, that you share her concerns for the whereabouts of that shoe. But the poetry in all of this. Motherhood shattered me, too. Quite something isn’t it.

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    1. It really is an epic journey and I find that it keeps on happening in waves as each phase of childhood and motherhood comes upon me. The breaking down and the building back up are ongoing. I think looking for the Barbie shoe is me keeping it together in any one mothering moment. Thank you so much for your kind words Julie and for connecting here ❤

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  3. So I had read this and somehow my daughter (ahem- there’s motherhood, right?) exited out of all my tabs on my computer that day and I couldn’t for the LIFE of me remember your blog name! I’m sooo glad I found it again, through FTSF!

    Oh Lisa… I could read your words all day long. You have such a GIFT with them! THIS right here… all of it, yes yes yes. Exactly. I am in that same place now- I get it. I have to share this everywhere… ❤

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  4. Once again you have helped me understand my own questions. This was my experience too – being shattered and broken open, looking for a way in and a way out at the same time. I am writing in the middle of the night after being up with a sick kiddo and your words are perfect. Thank you. There is no better work. (And also, if we didn’t report for duty, who would buy the milk?)

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    1. Thanks so much Pamela ❤ I hope everyone's better over there. The shattering is huge, but I'm learning that means there's also a chance for rebuilding. Meanwhile, I'm still reporting for duty…!

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  5. Lisa, as always your words leave me feeling more connected to life, to caring, to myself. I am not a mother and yet still in here you express the see-saw, the push-pull of accepting our place within the lives we create and finally finding the joy of not loosing ourselves within them but instead finding ourselves wholly there. What a gift your thoughts and intimate, beautiful wisdom. Thank you!

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  6. You write so honestly and capture so much of the way I’ve felt about my own experience. I do wish I had the 3rd kid and the Lego’s still scattered!

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  7. Oh, yeah. Motherhood shattered me, too. But I love the way you write about reclaiming it, alongside your non-mother self. It reminds me of the word surrender. How it may seem at first glance to be a giving up, it’s really a giving in. If we give in, we stop fighting against. We can find our way within our motherhood role, which like you write with such beauty here, never ends, but tapers and widens.

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  8. Lisa – this is gorgeous and honest and I agree with Lizzi when it comes to loving your words. The path of the goldfish and embracing motherhood and letting it in. Truly lovely imagery. I’m so so glad that you linked up this week with this gem. Truly. xo

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  9. Ohhh Lisa, I do love your words, and the way you shape your tales with such beautiful imagery. I’m glad you write, I’m glad you’ve reassembled yourself and realised you prefer to be the version of you with all the pieces, altered and changed, but not lessened by motherhood, included. I’m sad to know it was such a harrowing process at times, and so frightening, but I’m glad you’ve come through to the other side, rather than finding an exit.

    Mostly I love reading about the love, and I have confidence that as long as you keep orbiting, your girls won’t spin out too far 🙂

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      1. I had a conversation with my Person lately, while I was in America, and she was asked (as part of a game) “Would you rather never feel pain, or never feel sadness again” and she replied that she’d rather never feel pain again, because we all need to feel sadness, because it’s important.

        I found that incredibly insightful, and very wise. So…you’re right. And I guess it’s something we all need to keep learning 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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