You know what is really cool about starting a family? I had no idea that when I was pregnant I would fundamentally feel differently about myself and the world around me. It took a while, but once I started “showing,” strangers would suddenly see me. They would talk to me about themselves: How many kids they have, how many grandchildren, where the families live, etc. I loved hearing all about them. Women (and men!) would talk to me about pregnancy symptoms, long or short labors, and they would take a stab at which gender my baby was.
I spent my early twenties not really feeling rooted down. Like many people my age, I was working and I saw friends and family. The day-to-day monotony led me to believe that I didn’t really matter. I was just a widget. Actually, I got the feeling that I was flailing. I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t life supposed to be more valuable?” I love my family, and I am grateful they held on to me when I was going through that time.
So I started rooting myself in communities. Instead of looking at co-workers as people who happened to walk the same square feet as me, I saw them as friends that could have a real impact on me and my life. I started engaging at work in a new way. I started to create a world in which I hoped people would be impacted by me in a positive way. The biggest change, though, was deciding to get married.
Jay and I knew we wanted to get married only a few weeks after we met. Actually, I should say, that’s when we started talking about it. (It probably entered our minds within the first week of knowing one another.) When we were engaged, we started to see a change in ourselves and the world around us. We were planting our roots. We were learning about our identities in a different way. In fact, I was changing mine as an act of love for my husband. And so it continued…
We had a baby and more roots dug in. But something sort of funny happened there. After our girl was born, I began to feel detached from the world rather suddenly. I was at home for 12 weeks in a little house on a little road in a big city where I felt that I was all alone with my baby. Friends and family offered help, but that’s not what I needed. I felt as though motherhood, or that period right after birth, is a lonely place for a mother in our society. You are learning your child, you are learning your new role, and you are detaching from who you used to be, very suddenly. It hurt. I didn’t see Jay going through it. And I knew that other women had told me about it, but I hadn’t really realized what they meant.
But then time passed, and grace entered my heart. I realized how big this world is! I read articles by other women or read their blogs, I saw Facebook posts from moms who were also awake at 2:17 am. And I was so grateful. Now I look around, and I see all of these women, and men, and children, and it all feels so connected. That’s what love is. My family taught me how to love differently, and to love more.
I take this love, and attach it to the world at large. When we travel, we bring our daughter with. Anouk “creates” community on a plane when people cannot help but talk to us about their grandchildren, about their kids, about how long it had been since they held a baby. It has become something I love, passing her along to let strangers hold and love. It has even become difficult to remember the times when I would navigate my way through the world without any real engagement at all, when I was just me, just wandering, just waiting for something to happen…I had it all wrong, but I am so grateful that my family makes me better, and makes this whole world look so beautiful!