Another sunrise. Another struggle.
“I have stood beside the ocean and felt the humbling” ~Alison Malee
In my life before motherhood, I was always struck by the limitlessness of nature; I hungrily sought out mountain ranges, crashing coastlines, open skies and starry nights, yearning for adventure. Nothing ever made my chest feel like it was going to crack open, threatening to spill my soul out in abject wonder quite like the wild glory of nature did. The itching need to go hummed in the background of my days, right up until I held my son for the first time. I immediately felt that I was holding the weight of the universe the moment he was earthside, and once he became a tangible weight in my arms, I knew that my adventurer’s heart would be forever tethered to wherever he was. I was stilled. And in that stillness, I knew that I no longer belonged to myself; I was permanently, irrevocably, forever his, and it is a sacrifice I willingly and wholeheartedly made, but it is a sacrifice nonetheless.
It has been a distinct loss of self to transition from a me to a mother. It is a role I am still learning how to fold myself into in a way that feels comfortable and true while I try to balance the tension, the joy, and the terror. Motherhood has admittedly brought unanticipated struggles for me as I have sunk to the lowest depths of depression that I have seen in years. In the darkest moments of post-partum depression, I have grappled with persistent fears that I hesitate to even give voice to out of anxiety that I will forever be branded a “bad mother,” not only by my own internal judgments, but by the judgments of others. I have felt incredibly deep shame for being consumed by fear and resentment instead of the blissful satisfaction and joy that mothers-to-be are sold as the norm for new moms. I was warned about “weepiness” and the “baby blues.” I was cautioned about lack of sleep and loss of independence. But I was promised by everyone that it was “all worth it,” and other vague platitudes about the joys of motherhood.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the anxiety, the rage, the absolute inability to navigate a normal day anymore. What even constitutes “normal” in the early days of a child’s life? This is hard. Parenthood is achingly hard and it takes a well of patience and determination that I was unprepared for. I feel that a huge disservice is done to those of us trudging through the trenches of new parenthood by not openly addressing how bone deep the weariness will settle in during those first weeks home. There is sweetness, yes, and I can see how it will all be worth it in the end, but in these early days the end seems impossibly far away.
So, for now, I am redefining my adventures as a temporarily settled wanderer where the longest trek I make in a day may be from my couch to my coffee maker.
I will satisfy myself with exploring the inky depths of his quiet eyes, allowing them to still my breath the same way a sunrise over the Tetons used to.
I will compare the strength of waves crashing on the rocks of Lake Superior to the strength of his tiny piano player fingers gripping mine in the quiet moments before he falls asleep.
The winding roads of adventure I’d traveled before he made his arrival are replaced by the roadmap of pale blue veins I can trace from the soft curve of his shoulders to the tips of his tiny, perfectly formed toes.
My son carries all the wonder of the adventures I had sought before in his tiny body; he is breathlessness and fear and faith and tears housed in 21 impossible inches.
So today I will drink my coffee, I will take my pills, and I will listen to my son as he leads the way along the path of today’s uncharted journey.
About the author...
Kelsey is a Wisconsin expatriate who found her happy in Duluth 5 years ago. Life brought her to the North Shore, and love is keeping her here. She enjoys exploring the outdoors, lazy conversations over long cups of coffee, taking advantage of sunrises, teasing smiles out of her son, cooking complicated meals, and craft beer.