******* A new post by our own Julie Endress. Hopefully the first of many! *******
I came to parenthood through a moment of deep knowing that I would be a parent. Little did I know what the journey would then entail to actually reach the day when I would shout, “We did it!” as our son was birthed from my body. Many of us either know couples or individuals or ARE those couples or individuals who struggle to conceive and/or face the tragedy of prenatal or infant loss. It is not a road for those who aren’t sure they want to parent. In fact, I would imagine it is part of what puts us so in touch with our deep yearning to care for a little one that is our family, our son or daughter. Although each story is unique, ours is similar to too many others AND fortunately ours resulted in the birth of our two sons who we are so blessed to have in our lives.
Although all parents face a fundamental shift once their children are here, those who put forth more struggle, more resources, and more time in reaching that destination are poised and determined to appreciate every single dirty diaper, every nighttime waking, every scream and squeal of joy. The reality is that becoming a parent is such a significant transformation of our lives that it is impossible to anticipate all that we might experience in the process of integrating our new family member and coming to terms with the life we are now living.
The trap that we can find ourselves in is one of having a narrow set of “acceptable” emotions related to parenting and others that are “off-limits” because we fought so hard to get here. It is completely outside our game plan to be in the midst of caring for our little one and feel irritable or annoyed or sucked in by a sense of wanting to make them happy even when the action may not be in our long-term best interest. To a certain extent, maturity is called for, and telling ourselves to “get over it” has a place since parenting is after all about meeting the child’s needs first and then our own. BUT, there is also a time for honoring our own experience even when it isn’t wanted, yummy or well-received by others. These feelings arise in our own experience—why wouldn’t they when caring for a child? We may try ignoring them, pretending they aren’t there, downplaying their importance, talking ourselves out of it, many strategies to push it away. As you can guess, this seldom works since emotions that go unexpressed find a way to surface or manifest somehow in our bodies. In fact, as we parent, we see that children are transparent and their feelings are quite evident—no matter what it is.
How well practiced are we at acknowledging and giving some space to a full range of emotions for ourselves, let alone our children?
The truth of the matter is, like most of this development stuff, allowing a full range of emotions starts with ourselves, and it is the only way to experience life fully. Once we try to put the kibosh on some feelings but not others, we end up dampening and stifling the whole lot of them. Our hearts are no longer open—we cannot be deeply touched by the quiet moments that are the gift of life itself.
And then where would you be on those precious mornings when your much-wanted child awakes before dawn, you curl up on the comfy chair with him and, in the darkness, as he softly spreads his hands over your body, he says “my mommy, my mommy, my mommy…”?