On Motherhood: Chasing Lightness, Preserving Sanity and Our Best Laid Plans

Health & Wellness

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 an extended bedrest stay.
I didn’t plan for multiple trips to the hospital.
I didn’t plan for a NICU stay and 11 nights in a hospital chair.
I didn’t plan for our nanny to give notice two weeks before maternity leave ended.
I didn’t plan for food and environmental allergies to come calling for both kids.
I didn’t plan for all the trips to doctors and specialists.
I didn’t plan to be away from the office for nearly four months.
I didn’t plan to find it so hard to put these words to paper.

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

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I can’t imagine what motherhood would be like, but I don’t doubt that it’s a battle everything. Stay strong, Kate, you can do it! 🙂

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

April 4, 2018 10:10 am

“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.” This got me, Kate. Your honesty and willingness to be real with your readers is just one of the many things I love about coming to Wit and Delight.
P.S. When you write, “I’m learning to behave less like a tornado and more like water,” it reminded me of your post about being a tornado and where your journey has taken you so far.

April 4, 2018 2:23 pm

Thanks as always for sharing Kate. I’m a firm believer in only putting your energy into things you want to focus on. Instead of 24 hour days, I think of my energy like a big pie chart. When one piece increases, something else has to give. So it’s up to us to maximize what works and minimize what doesn’t.

All the best.

April 4, 2018 3:47 pm

You’ve only taken 4 months!! Goodness. That’s not long at all. Go easy on yourself, seriously. Wishing you fortitude to shore up the patience, and feeling to really help with the screaming and clarity.

April 4, 2018 5:07 pm

“I’m learning to behave less like a tornado and more like water.” Oh Mama, these words are landing right where my heart is! I’m right in the middle of the new parent/newborn haze of sleep deprivation and terror that I’m just not doing this mothering thing right. As yours did, so too did my best laid plans fall by the wayside because they needed to and my son was more important than the vision I had of what was “supposed” to be. Thank you so much for sharing! I hope I too can learn to behave more as water and… Read more »

April 4, 2018 6:08 pm

What I appreciate most about this piece is that I am an unmarried, childless male who doesn’t own a business and I still found this relatable. Great writing!

April 4, 2018 7:07 pm

What pen / marker do you use?

April 5, 2018 7:15 am

Great entry, I love coming back here, you always inspire me.

April 8, 2018 12:36 am

Our son is 18 months now and we continue to refresh our priorities. I try to always remember the idea: when you say yes to something you say no to something else.
I will never regret putting him on top!

April 8, 2018 10:13 pm

First of all, that sketch. LOVE. Second, the grace you are extending to yourself is inspiring. Also this: “What you give up in control you get back in soul-crushing, heartbreaking love.” Yes, yes, and amen. xo

April 21, 2018 4:31 am

Motherhood is certainly eye-opening. I once read somewhere that instead of wanting to be that old version of ourselves, why not just embrace the new us. I’m making it sound all too simple but the essence of that statement really gave me strength to move forward. I never thought that motherhood could be that all-consuming but it is. It’s the hardest job i’ve ever done but we are so privileged i must say to be given the opportunity to nurture and grow a precious life.

September 5, 2018 4:07 pm

[…] Image courtesy of Kate Arends via Wit & Delight. […]

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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.

Hi, I'm Kate. Welcome to my happy place.











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