I think the hardest realization that has come from my time as a parent has been discovering I’m not superwoman. When you spend your life having the world deem you as the fixer, or the problem solver, or the one with all of the answers, you spend every minute trying to exceed that expectation. It’s a thrilling feeling – to be needed, for people to look to you for answers. Being able to stand on a pedestal and let the world know that you’ll solve anything and that no problem is too small or too big is all that matters, until the day you crash. Suddenly, its obvious that you’re not invincible, that your strong exterior can’t deflect every hit, and that there are problems that you cannot solve. And the biggest downfall is that I’m the one who put myself up there. I’m the one who spent my life convincing myself that I needed to hold this title because it’s what made the most sense. A need to be needed is only valid if you, yourself, never need anything.
As a mom, I’ve felt the crash on more than one occasion and each time it still feels like the first time I ever fell. You never know when it’s going to hit. It could be when your husband finds you crying on the bathroom floor after the fourth failed pregnancy test. Or when your being wheeled into an operating room after your body failed to deliver your baby the way the world said you should. Or when you’re crying in the corner of the bedroom as your baby begs for food but your mental state will not allow you to keep breastfeeding. Or maybe it’s when your entire family is taken over by the stomach flu and while your baby girl just wants you to make her pain go away, you can’t because you, yourself, are trying to get the world to stop spinning. Or perhaps it’s when you find defeat when attempting to put your 20 month old into her crib but your body can no longer cooperate due to the bulging belly and lower back pain that seems to accompany pregnancy.
That last one, even though it was most recent, has been the hardest one to comprehend. My daughter is in a constant daddy phase, so when she allows me the opportunity to hold her, to cuddle her, or to be the lucky one to lead bedtime, I jump at the chance. But when it became apparent that bedtime routines may no longer be an option, I crashed, hard. I remember mentally crossing off the list of things I could no longer do as I progressed while pregnant with Abby – no more lifting heavy objects, no more sleeping on my stomach, no more long runs. And I guess, to a point, I knew this would happen again this time around, however, I thought I’d have more time. And I guess I thought I’d never actually end up as a mom who could no longer lift her toddler, even if my toddler is nearly 30 pounds. I assumed that I would be the mom who could go through this without having to change any routine, but now I’m slowly realizing that my list of no mores will soon include no more laying on the floor playing blocks, no more letting her sit on my lap as we read a bedtime story, no more jumping and dancing with my baby girl to her favorite songs. It’s hard to imagine that the next five will include missing out. I know once her brother is here, I’ll need to spend more time with him and less time with her, but I thought I’d have more time before I’d miss out.
I can’t blame anyone besides myself for assuming nothing would change when I became a mother. I remember hearing or seeing mothers struggle during parenthood and thinking, I’ll have it all sorted out, I’m a planner so I’ll be able to foresee any obstacle in my way. And then reality set in. But before I had Abby, I was naïve. Now, as a mother, I should know better now, but I still keep convincing myself after each downfall that I’m still a superhero. And that I need to be that superhero for my family – it is my title and my place in our lives. If I lost that title, then who am I? Where do I fit in our dynamic?
I just hope I’ll learn to compromise and find new ways to engage with my baby girl over the next few months before we officially welcome her baby brother home and we become a family of four. In the past, after I’ve crashed, I’ve learned to adjust and to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you need to fall, if only to teach yourself how to get back up. And through this, I’ve learned to trust even more in my husband. When I gave myself the impossible title of Superwoman, I was setting him up for failure because in order to do everything you have to assume no one else can do anything. I had to learn to be comfortable in trusting him and trusting in him. Allowing him to pick me up when I couldn’t bear the thought of going through another month of failing to become a mother, or putting my fears in his hands as I couldn’t push our baby girl into the world, or giving him the power to feed our baby formula so I could finally bond with my child. And perhaps soon it will be letting him take on the physical demands of a toddler when my pregnant body is unable to and understanding that neither of us are truly invisible and being a true superhero is asking for help instead of allowing yourself to feel defeated.