Losing Myself in Early Parenthood by Amy Eckert

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Today's guest post is from Amy Eckert who blogs at Glass Confetti:

This isn’t something I’ve talked about much. And when I do talk about it, I try and gloss over the tough parts; try and paint happy little rainbows over the shadows and cobwebs. But this isn’t a time for half-truths and fuzzy bunnies; this is reality. And it’s only when you stop being polite and start being *real* (as they so aptly inform you on the intro to Real World) that you can move forward.

I was 19 years old, a sophomore in college, when I got pregnant. I was not ready to be a mom -- any more than any other 19-year-old sophomore is ready to be a mom. I had had one -- possibly two -- real boyfriends in my life, and I was pretty uncertain about the boy I had recently been “hanging around." What I was absolutely certain of, however, was that we just broke up two days earlier, I was suddenly pregnant and my life felt like a train careening quickly off track.

Now, looking back, I think getting pregnant saved me. It didn’t feel like it at the time, and it took a long time for me to realize this, but pregnancy, and subsequently motherhood, forced me to snap into reality, forced me on the fast track to self-discovery. It made me realize that the boy I was unsure of was the person who was meant to my husband and father to my children. It made me discover that maybe there's a bigger meaning in the universe.

But it was also hard. And I don’t mean for this to be a woe-is-me-boo-hoo fest. I am fully aware that I “did this to myself." I got into this “mess” and I had no one else to “blame.” But even when I realized and came to terms with that, it wasn't like some light switched on in my brain and I suddenly became selfless and willing to give up everything I was to become someone's mom. It also didn’t mean I had to become selfless or give up who I was to become a "good" mom, but I didn’t learn this until much later. In fact I’m still learning it.

Being a first-time mom, it’s easy to get caught up in appearances. In trying your damnedest to please all the right people. Being a 20-year-old mom means everyone has an expectation of you. And most of them are not good. Consequently, I lost myself in trying to disprove the naysayers. I went from a confident, outspoken – brash, even – young adult, to a shadow of myself. I was so embarrassed of my “condition,” of the thoughts I was sure were running through strangers' heads, that I could barely function. I didn’t want to go out in public, I didn’t want to talk to people, I didn’t want to do anything but hide.

This is no way to bring a baby into the world. It wasn’t Henry’s fault, but I was young and a part of me blamed him – because I didn’t want to blame myself and I didn’t know who else to blame. (Unfortunately, having a baby does not give you the green light to emotional maturity.)

But at some point I started to grow up. I started to realize what was important in my life. I started to realize what I wanted to accomplish, and how these barriers of shame and embarrassment and blame-placing were standing in my way. I began to take stock of the awesomeness that was my life and realize how lucky I was. When I thought of where we were at, how bad it could have been, and also how far we had come, how could I be anything but completely and utterly grateful?

I’m getting better, but I wouldn’t say I’m totally there yet. I now have a lot of guilt for the feelings I had when Henry was first born. I often wonder if he felt the incredible love and connection that I had for him, which was buried deep beneath my stupid preoccupations. It breaks my heart to think he might have wondered even for a second if I was proud of him; if I loved him with my whole heart.

I’m pregnant again, and it took me a long time to get comfortable with the fact that I could tell people, and I could be happy about it. This was not some horrible secret to be kept hidden as long as possible. This was Life – both a new baby’s and mine – and I should be happy about it. Joyful even…

 

Thank you Amy for sharing your story. If anyone else has a story to share, email me at michelle@earlymama.com.

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