I’m interrupting R’s gorgeous daily photo challenge to publish a blog post that I’ve been writing in my head since June. This is long and rambly, but it’s a reflection (of sorts) on the ways that parenthood has shaped me so far.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the crossroads between expectation and reality. I am a person who holds myself to a high (sometimes impossibly high) standard, and, in turn, I struggle with detaching from expectations (of myself and others). I am striving for a life wherein I find peace in the present, a life where I can find strength in vulnerability and imperfection. I have been gradually moving toward this center balance in recent years, but parenthood has really accelerated the pace of this work in my life. I have high ideals of my parenting, of our son, of our future family dynamic. Still, the reality of parenting is very much rooted in the daily. My future is shaped by the small choices moment by moment. That is the only real path to the overarching vision I desire. Attachment parenting has been an excellent canvas on which to learn the subtle, balanced brushstrokes of parenting. It requires of me a dynamic presence in my own reality. What works for our family may change from moment to moment and may look radically different from another family practicing a.p. with their own children.
My young adult life was very much spent in “assume crash position.” I was desperately afraid of vulnerability, of intimacy, and of success. As such, I white knuckled my way through early recovery, failed relationships, and shaky academic and career prospects. It didn’t happen all at once, but eventually, gradually, I came into myself. I really met myself where I was and I began to heal and grow. Through this process, the world around me opened up. I became less angry, less fearful, and I was able to experience love and trust and pleasure on a whole new plane. In losing Emmett Ever, I found my desire to control come rushing back in. My beautiful, conscientiously cultivated life was reeling with the devastation of pregnancy loss. I felt upended. My already deeply broken faith in a higher power was irrevocably shattered. This is the mindset with which I went into our pregnancy with B. I felt so much fear that he, too, would be taken from us. And I felt it my mission to keep that from happening, despite my logical understanding of my powerlessness over such an event.
Still, like a phoenix, the fear with which I went into pregnancy with has had a transformative effect over me. Like a fire that ate through my body, I have been so humbly transformed. I work to revel in my vulnerability now. It’s a new skill, awkward at first, but it’s mine to own and develop. And, as an unexpected consequence of preparing for pregnancy, birth, and parenting, I found a career path in birth work that is so well-suited to my passion and advocacy for women and families.
In birthing B, and subsequently feeding him from my body, I have had the privilege of making peace with my female-(em)bodied self for the first time in my entire life. This has been a double-edged sword, as I know my physical experience (which was difficult for me to embrace initially) is something that R wanted to experience for herself. Parenthood has been a dance of surrender within our marriage. We have had to take down so many barriers that we weren’t even aware of as we’ve learned to trust ourselves and each other with these new heights of love and responsibility.
Quickly responding to B’s needs and desires has, in a sense, given me permission to meet my own needs and desires. And while they can’t always be handled on the same swift timetable that B’s needs are met, they are important and precious in their own right. Same goes for R’s needs and for the needs of our friends, family, and community. Other aspects of a.p. like babywearing and co-sleeping have helped to reshape boundaries around autonomy, sleep, and touch. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of days where Bram goes to bed for the night and I can’t even stand the weight of a cat in my lap, so desperately am I craving physical space, but, for the most part, I just want R and B close to me.
Perhaps the biggest paradigm shift that I have gained from practicing a.p. is the impact of positive discipline and work-life balance on my own head space. My unrelenting desire for control manifested in a number of unhealthy coping mechanisms: compulsive over-scheduling, isolation, rage. And with hard work, I’ve been making in-roads to ridding myself of these influences in my life. Through B (and through our shared care of B) I can see the futility of this wasted time, this misused energy. And I value my time and my happiness too much for these behaviors to continue unchecked. My hope is that our children grow up without ever worrying for my contentment in the world. A big ask, maybe, but I believe it’s possible.
I’m not sure how to close, other than to say that parenting my child has allowed me to grow closer to the sense of self that I enjoy carrying with me into the world. I hope that with each of our children, this better self thrives…