For a long time, I fumbled through the dark, searching for her. It terrified me when I couldn't find her. There were times when I would accidentally stumble upon her, brushing past her in the darkness and I would think: this is it she's coming back, the light will be turned on and I'll see her bathed in sunlight; we will reach and embrace...lost love. This isn't how change works. We work our way through the darkness and as our eyes adjust, we see something else; something we couldn't see before when blinded by our own desperate search for something that has long gone.
At first it's hard to make out, we rub our eyes and blink and see the speckles of something, and it's peaceful, that moment. That small moment when you forget to search for the person you thought you lost and instead stare in wonder at the thing you can see. Is she really there? You wonder. Who is she? It develops oh so slowly and only in small glimmers and only in those moments of stillness. It's a sunrise, a new day and a new you, not the day that was once gone, not the you once known. She's different, you don't recognize her at first and you don't know her. But you will soon and you will see that change has done her good.
I’ve never been good with change, as far back as I can remember I resisted it. I found comfort in what I knew, predictability of the past and fear of environments that felt unknown and unfamiliar. Each time I fought against the inevitable metamorphosis that comes when new environments are thrust upon us. I hadn’t yet learnt the art of standing still for long enough to allow change to wash over me; long enough to grow an attachment to my new surroundings, to allow the water to wash gently over my feet and watch them sink into the soft sand.
Motherhood was like one mighty wave that dunked me unexpectedly. I thought I would dive into this new change and swim gracefully through the water like I was born into it. I had always wanted to have children and thought I was “made” for the role of mother and nurturer. Instead the wave crashed hard into the sand and it churned up so much rubbish, I came out shocked and spluttering.
Perhaps it began with the first night when we couldn’t calm our sweet girls gasping cries, when we first began that long journey of sleep depravation, resting a hand on her chest until it went numb, handing our hearts over to this new being. I was one of those people who said motherhood wouldn’t change me. I would still hold true to my passions and my friendships, my life would still be my main priority and my children would learn to come along for the ride. I would teach them patience and tolerance, to sit still and to sleep on their own. Besides from learning the obvious, that my baby was not a machine to be programmed, I started to drown in incredible insecurity that had me crippled in comparison, constantly asking if I was doing enough and was I good enough. I’ve heard people say a mother knows what’s best for her child, but first I had to find those instincts, trust them and have the strength to use them, even when other well-meaning people had advice to offer, to stand firm with what I thought was best for my child.
All the uncertainties that come with being a new parent only led me on a never-ending search for the person I was before she arrived, when I thought I was confident and most certainly in control. I forgot to rest in the stillness of time, waiting to settle into this new role and see the new version of myself emerge. I reverted to my panic of needing to search to find this missing being. But it doesn’t do you any good, like a dog chasing it’s tail you will come up empty. Running with no end.
You see, motherhood does change you, not only in the obvious, physical ways of our bodies being stretched with the permanent markings of growing a human. It’s the shift in priorities. It’s the nights laid wide eyed in worry, not just worry over sickness, worry over her future, her happiness. No matter what I’ve achieved in life, her accomplishments will always give me a greater sense of pride. It’s the complexities of carrying the weight of a long exhausting day only to crave her cuddles once she’s asleep. It’s a love and a worry that knows no end. The person you thought you knew, measured by your dreams, your interests or your career, becomes fluid, perhaps it is my child who now defines me, this fresh-faced child learning about the world. I am fearless in my love for her and fearful of a life without her.
Where I stand now, change still washes over me, but I’ve swum past the breaks, I tread water in the depths and the waves of change lift me and move me, but I remain afloat, I sway with the movements. Change doesn’t always come from running, change also comes from standing still, letting it wash over you over and over again until the waves slowly cease and you emerge a little more refined (perhaps a little battered) but beautifully molded. Only in time after allowing the sand to settle and the waves to ease into their gentle rhythm do I start to see the beauty. The beauty in the unknown, in the tempers of the sea, the raging noise, the churning soapy, frothy waves and the soft glittering calm.
Journalist: Katy Andrews