The tears come easily these days. One could chalk this up to the pregnancy hormones raging through my bloodstream, or the fact that I come from a emotionally expressive gene pool. Though these elements certainly play a role in producing the thick droplets that fill my eyes at a moment’s notice, there’s more at play.
My relationship with concept of motherhood has always been a tenuous one. No, I don’t have “mother issues,” at least the typical kind. In fact, my childhood and adult relationship with my mom is one of the best I know of. However, for years I was nervous — even scared– about what motherhood would mean for me. As a “striver” who has always wanted more and pushed myself in nearly every aspect of my life, I’ve always been wary of what motherhood would cause me to give up.
When I was deeply entrenched in academia, I would often think about how, though I desired it, I really didn’t see motherhood as something that would fit into my life as I envisioned it at age 25. This tension manifested in several articles I published on motherhood and maternal symbolism in Francophone literature, not to mention in my daily interactions with those closest to me.
Even after I left the traditional academic rat race, started teaching, created my own business and committed to spending my life with an incredible partner, the thought of pregnancy and motherhood still sent chills down my spine. It wasn’t that I doubted my ability to carry a child or be a good mother. In fact, I’ve always harbored the totally unfounded assumption that I’d be a great mother. The fear came from the fact that I couldn’t reconcile the image I had of myself as a professional, a writer, an adventurer with the image of “Mama Jen.” I envisioned myself trading what could be an incredible future for a minivan, PTA meetings and Facebook statuses about lack of sleep. It scared me. I couldn’t get beyond it. So, I put it off.
Then it happened: The Shift. Biology started giving me the “it’s now or never” nudge (as many women in their 30s experience). More importantly, I began noticing models of motherhood that appealed to me— those based on reciprocity and reward vs. loss of self and total sacrifice. I don’t know why it took me so long to notice these models, after all, I grew up in one. I learned that having a child didn’t mean the end of my travels or the death of my autonomous, creative self. It represented a shift, to be sure, but not a loss or disavowal.
When it came to motherhood, I had confined myself to a discourse of “giving up” rather than “adding to.” I had trained myself to think of it as an all or nothing proposition, not a natural extension to the life that I love. In reality, adding another person to this adventure, giving him or her the opportunity to experience the things I hold dear, to know the incredible people I know, will be extremely gratifying. Discovering what this person can teach me will change me in ways I cannot even begin to fathom. It will be difficult, it will be heartbreaking, it will be satisfying, it will force me to grow in unimaginable ways….and I can’t wait.