You guys, hi. It’s been a while and a half since I’ve been “here” to just… talk. I had this very meticulous plan for how I’d gracefully enter maternity leave and then reemerge three months later with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement to get back to work. I wanted to journal, to find solace in the words that expressed my highs and lows. I imagined this documentation would be a beautiful way to preserve my experience and serve as a way to share those tender days and nights with my daughter when she was ready to have a baby of her own. (SOB!)
Let me just say, that didn’t happen. Finding words to match what I was feeling felt like trying to swim through quicksand. My daily journal sits empty. Her baby book has one page filled in and a couple sonogram photos smashed between the pages, edges curled and crinkled from rolling around in the bottom of my purse for a week. One extra special piece of paper sits in an envelope– a letter from her dad when she was 31-weeks + 5-days old in utero and threatening to come into the world a little too soon. (Sobs again.)
In fact, nothing about the past four months has gone as planned.
I didn’t plan for it to be so hard to REALLY say hello to you all again.
As I type all the things that didn’t go my way, they sound much less traumatic than when I was experiencing them IRL. Perhaps this is because what COULD happen is often scarier than what does happen. And when something bad happens, it justifies every worry you’ve had. Even when we plan for the worst case scenario, it rarely presents itself. Now that I’m done feeling sorry for myself for not having the picture perfect (and possibly last) pregnancy, I’m ready to let go of the weightiness of what could have been and look to the future with fresh optimism. Not because I have a renewed sense of energy or sense of purpose in life, but because I’m literally too tired to worry. I seem to be healthiest when hovering between cautiousness and optimism.
After all, parenthood is when most of us really GET that we’re not in control of much aside from your outlook. What you give up in control you get back in soul-crushing, heartbreaking love. There isn’t room for much else when a love like this presents itself.
When your life becomes more complicated, as it does when you build a family, I’ve realized part of surviving is learning to conserve your energy, especially the kind that is fueled by anger, resentment, and shaming oneself. I still have the energy to throw my middle fingers in the air or yell into my pillow, but then it’s time to just let it go. In short, I’m learning to behave less like a tornado and more like water. Instead of ripping up best-laid plans and building a new one through the destruction, I’m learning to ripple upon impact and return to a steady state once all its force was absorbed.
These rules apply to work, too. We all have 24 hours in the day, and depending on your stage in life, you may just have fewer hours to work with. When I got back to work, I looked at the aspects of my job that felt heavy. Aside from the general uneasiness that makes up running your own business, I realized that designing gave me energy and just thinking about writing made me EXHAUSTED. I sat on every word, wondering if it was worth putting into the world, consumed by its collective value. While the process is still uncomfortable…having less energy to devote to worry has shown me that work can become lighter if we can shift its value. The act of writing had to become a passion again in order for there to be the energy to do my job.
I’m going to chase that feeling and write in a way that fills me up instead of writing in a way that weighs me down.
There is still time to preserve my early days of motherhood. It only has to start with a few words. And even if they don’t come each day, I will have enjoyed the space I made to devote to the act itself. The feeling of the pads of my fingers, click-clicking in the soft morning light, the wafting scent of coffee dancing towards the sky. For this morning at least, the writing felt good.
I can say goodbye feeling lighter than when I said hello.
Illustration from a sketchbook Kate filled during her hospitalization, bed rest, and maternity leave. The late-night snapshot inspired the illustration.
BY Kate Arends - April 4, 2018
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.