Sunday, January 8, 2012

Marriage and Motherhood

In some ways, I feel very different than I did this time last year. Last year, I was a girl, a student, a daughter primarily. Now I am a woman, a worker, a wife, and a mother. My person is the same, but I have stepped out of old roles and into new ones.

I haven't really talked about this transition, except with my husband and my mother, because while these new roles give me great joy they also made me feel awkward and shy, especially around around the young people I interact with. I don't feel that I've really entered the adult ranks, and yet I have most definitely left the general mass of youthdom behind.

As a wife, I've gained a great deal of love and respect for my husband that I could not have fathomed as a single person, even on the threshold of our wedding day. As a new bride, I did not know what to expect from my husband, well as I thought I knew him, and I discovered him to be a far better man than I had ever imagined he could be. His gentleness, compassion, spiritual leadership, intellectual vigor, and the strong emotional and physical support he continues to offer me are gifts I don't know how I ever managed without.

Being married is a huge positive in terms of my mental health. After we were married my stress level decreased by a subjective 80%. I have a strong feeling of security and identity that I (didn't realize that I) lacked before. Though marriage brings new responsibilities and stressors, the benefits compensate by far.

In the early months of our union, my husband and I often discussed how marriage did or did not match our expectations of what it would be like. One thing that pleasantly surprised us both is that much of the bliss of our relationship comes from mundane domestic life. In a way, marriage is not so much excitement as emotional and physical security and relaxation. It's a trust that we live in.

Now, we've got a baby to care for and look forward to. For me, this realization is another line that separates me from the child I used to be and the children with whom I used to keep company. Though we kept the secret for a while and enjoyed it between the two of us, eventually my husband and I had to make it public. With that public knowledge, I again feel shy and out of place. It as if I don't know what I am in the social circles I find myself in. At work, little has changed, and with my husband I know exactly how he regards me, but in the public eye, I am ill at ease. It's that subconscious, "Everyone is looking at me," feeling.

The physical changes in my body are no easier to share. How long does it take before people are tired of hearing me say I feel sick? How many naps are acceptable in a single day? How far can I make my wardrobe hide the gradual growth of my child?

From the time we first showed a positive test, both my husband and I have been very concerned about properly caring for this child. (Why else would I take that horrible prenatal vitamin every night). Until we had our first ultrasound at 10 weeks, it was always a question for us as to whether our child was still alive, had implanted, had developed a heartbeat, or would simply disappear in silence to our grief. When we saw our baby's heartbeat, saw him (or her) moving on the ultrasound, I couldn't help crying. I know my husband was relieved as well. We both talk to the baby, whether he can hear us yet or no, and pray for him daily.

On a spiritual level, I know that children in the womb can hear the word of God and have faith and I pray that God would grant faith to our child, and yet I will be so much more reassured when the child is baptized. Till then, I read the Bible, pray, attend church, and speculate to myself on whether the Eucharistic elements cross the placenta. (I think they do.)

This child also brings with him (or her) a new level of anxieties requiring a new level of trust in God. The baby makes me realize that with his advent I am not able to be as independent as I could be before. I need my husband more than ever, both for financial and physical support and for emotional support. If something were to happen to him, it would be difficult for me alone to raise this child in the way we plan to. I am not able anymore to control my body and it's reactions (especially to smells). I am more obviously dependent on God to make it through a work day and pray often during the shift that the nausea will not get worse or my emotions flip out in stressful patient situations. Just ignoring fatigue and finding time to eat the frequent small meals I've found helpful is a delicate balance at work.

And, as I mentioned above, I continue to be concerned about the baby's safety. I know too much, and while my womb is the safest available home for my child, it seems incredibly hostile considering everything that could go wrong. I have recurrent nightmares about miscarriage and other adverse events.

The realization that I am a mother is taking a while to really settle in, though. Apart from the ultrasound, the baby doesn't seem very real to me. I can't feel any movement yet, and my physical changes so far aren't really connected in my mind to a living human being within me. Nevertheless, I continue to hope, pray, and wait for the awkwardness of this transition to pass and for myself to find a place in the ranks of wives and mothers.

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

I found this a very beautiful post. You are in a lot of transitions and they are all beautiful. (((hugs)))