I waffled a long time before typing in the title. I kept typing parent, erasing, and keying in mother. Eventually, mother won out because this is just my experience and it is tied to being a mother than a parent.
What’s the difference you ask? I define the difference in terms of the load I carried prior to becoming a mother and the mental load I carry now.
In the years prefacing my time as a mother, I was filled with an ache, a need so deep that it ruled my every waking thought. I viewed the world through that lens. This week, when child after child came to my door in adorable costumes, I was taken back to one Halloween in 2004.
We had just moved into our then new home, our very first home as a couple. Motherhood was certainly on my mind, not yet an all-consuming ache that subsumed everything in its path. I had candy ready and watched through our bay windows for children to knock on our door. The porch lights were on as were the foyer lights so children would know not to miss us. The only ones who stopped by were kids we knew. Our neighbors had triplets who were yet to turn one. They showed up in animal-themed onesies. I remember my father-in-law taking a picture of the cute little kids and urging them to take more candy. I vividly remember closing the door on them to feel a wave of want wash over me.
It was probably the first time I knew this visceral want, a pull from deep inside that called out to be a mother. Not a parent, but a mother, to grow life, to nurture a baby inside. The days since were colored by that want. I would watch children play in parks, be pushed around in their strollers, and come to recognize that feeling that had me pause, take a deep breath and continue.
Over the years that followed, that need swelled so much that I couldn’t contain it inside. I stayed home, avoided people, and locked myself in my words and the online world.
I don’t think I realized what I was experiencing was a kind of grief and depression until now. This year, as a child after child knocked on my door, I enjoyed the evening with a lightness that felt alien. I didn’t yet understand what was niggling at the back of my head.
Today, as I walked around the house picking up candy wrappers and the bowls of skittles and sour patch kids, it hit me like a ton. This identity of a mother that I carry has a long, storied history. It hides behind it, scary feelings. It camouflages years of grief, self-loathing, and misery I cannot yet bring myself to name. It buries in it burning envy for that which I could not have. All the shadow qualities of the yearning hit me full force today. I am still coming to terms with it.
There is no point to this post other than to serve as a note to self.