Have I lost myself in becoming a mother?

(This is the second post in a series I initiated last week, and I have a few more to come.  These thoughts have been too heavy on my mind for too long…they won’t come out concisely in one post! So if you missed the last one, you can find it here.)

So, I dropped the question out there last week, and I got so many comments (especially via instagram and Facebook) from Mommas that obviously have either faced the question before, or at least grappled with the feelings.  Have I lost myself in becoming a mother?  I have been very busy in other aspects of life, since posting that question, so it has taken me a bit too long to return with more thoughts.  And boy, have I been thinking. Lord, help me, I have been thinking and over thinking. Don’t be tempted to look at how long this post is, or you may give up right here!

I have received such wisdom and encouragement from many of you! This is a tough topic, isn’t it? Here’s the scoop.  I have to break this down into a few posts, because it’s the only way I know to lay out what I started digging into. AND, if you have really been intrigued by this discussion, I have two friends who are also blogging about it TODAY, from their own perspectives. I will share their links in a moment. 

In my first blog on this subject, I shared that I had been approached by a friend who had told me that she and another friend had grown concerned that I had perhaps “lost some of myself” in becoming a mother.  That kind of touched off a firestorm of opinions, a few of which were in my defense, that it wasn’t really a good approach for a couple friends to take, and was probably pretty painful to hear.

I had been tempted to be upset at the conversation, but, truthfully, I have been so close with these friends over nearly two decades of friendship, I knew their hearts would never be to hurt me, gossip about me, or judge me. So, I knew that the intent of the conversation was not negative. And that’s why I went ahead and posted about it, simply because the question I had walked away from it with was poignant, and was ONE I HAD SEEN ECHOED ELSEWHERE, not only from them (not necessarily directly about myself, but about motherhood). So I wanted to share my thoughts and hear yours.

To be fair, the friend that had told me in person that she and our other friend had wondered if I had possibly lost some of myself, did have a more thorough conversation than that question alone.  But, you know how when you think about something for so long, it all boils down to one point that you remember more than the rest?  And you know how mommy’s have no functional memory and are constantly sleep deprived and exhausted? Well…I can’t even remember most of the conversation. I do remember that I was a little taken aback and wasn’t really in the state of mind to ask for more clarification. I didn’t feel judged. At the time, I was just faced with a question/observation that I felt might be valid and I wasn’t really sure. Had I lost myself?

Just a few weeks before our first baby arrived!

Just a few weeks before our first baby arrived!

Well…my dear friend contacted me and shared with me some very important things that brought light to the reasoning behind the question, and the conversation we have had has been very enlightening and encouraging.  The HEART behind the question was as I had assumed, and we have discussed if the WORDS that were presented were actually the right words to ask in the first place.  I will share some of their heart on my next post.

But back to the question. Some time later after that conversation, I read a blog that just dug the words deeper into my mind. Have I lost myself in becoming a mother?

Some days I don't even get this far....

Some days I don’t even get this far….

I read a blog post by a girl I follow on IG that is married, is incredibly talented and crafty. Has the perfectly decorated home, and posts about all these cute things she is making and doing. But she doesn’t have kids yet. (I always have to remind myself of this when I get discouraged about how much she can do in a day and how crafty she gets to be!) But her post that day was that she was scared to have kids…because she was afraid of LOSING HERSELF.

Boy. At that point, the words that I had already heard as a concern for me personally, by friends, now were words that began to concern me about perspectives we have about motherhood, about our personhood, and about what brings value in our lives. All of a sudden I’m seeing a giant red flag of negative perspective that women may have about their lives that they need to protect something that having children would DESTROY.

After several weeks (months) of dissecting it internally, and after the last week of discussing with my husband and friends, both in person and over social media…I feel like this is a MASSIVE lie from the enemy! More on that as we go.

Whatever we have lost...I think it's worth it.

Whatever we have lost…I think it’s worth it.

It made me second guess my own esteem and personality, and anything I had been able to do before babies, that, at least during this season of them being this little, I am no longer able to maintain. But it also irritated me…like, this CAN’T be a healthy perspective. Not at all. It certainly can’t be the Lord’s perspective…other than actually that losing ourselves is a pretty sanctifying experience, when it is in giving ourselves to these precious souls He has entrusted to us to care for.

But, to even discuss this, I realize the phrase can take on so many semantic connotations.  What my friends had inquired about was more about my emotional state of being, and needing to connect to see if I was doing ok, and still Angie. But what this blogger was asking was if she could be confident to have children because she would still be able to be herself.

This was a day I was utterly exhausted...but I put on my pearls to feel a little more awake!

This was a day I was utterly exhausted…but I put on my pearls to feel a little more awake!

And truthfully…no. You won’t be the same. It is a LIFE CHANGING experience, and you question everything you ever did before, and everything you thought was holy about yourself!  And you DON’T have time to craft all hours of the day and night. And you don’t have a perfect house all the time, unless you spend all your time cleaning and letting your kids watch t.v. rather than playing with them and teaching them. (Not that t.v. is the devil…..holy cow. My kids would be brain dead already if it were totally evil…they need to watch less, though.)  ANYWAY…it does still bear discussion.  Because as a mom, you may FEEL like you’ve “lost yourself”, and not in a good way.  And we must prepare our friends with no kids to not be blindsided with the challenges coming with child bearing…but not to be afraid of it, either. Losing our junky self is GOOD. Sacrificing our flesh is GOOD. Being hurting and lonely is NOT GOOD. But if we can identify what is really happening, we can bring it before the Lord and find His answers.

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It’s easy to feel a little lost when you are juggling two upset and needy babies at once, and have become a human jungle gym and milk machine…

 

It may be important to think about who is asking the question. One of the first observations I recognized was that no one who has kids has asked this question of me…at least in those words. Worth noting, but it doesn’t invalidate the question.

I do believe personal experiences can paint the concerns and opinions we have of another’s situations

I could easily say that an opinion or question like that is an easy thing to say/ask when you aren’t married or don’t have kids. What we haven’t experienced can certainly affect the observations we make, and the conclusions we can make in our minds about what we assume it’s like on the other side of the experience.

But as a person who has had to wait long periods of time for various things in life, including marriage and children, I despised the assumptions that either I thought I knew it all or that I didn’t know anything, about the things I had not yet experienced.  And I know the longings of my friends’ hearts and the many hurts and struggles they have faced in the waiting, and I would never dream of saying anything condescending or ignorant of that fact.  And even the concerns of a total stranger on the internet…I can’t dismiss outright, because she is a daughter of the King, and she is sincerely asking before going through it herself,  IS IT TRUE?

I think there may be things that those who don’t have kids yet may be the only ones thinking to ask. I hope that is a positive perspective, and not a back handed comment. That’s just what I would prefer to believe, rather than tritely say that it’s a perspective that only someone that doesn’t have kids would have, and dismiss it as a judgment.  In a way, there is no such thing as a dumb question, if you think of it like that.  What if i NEED someone to ask if I’m still me after having kids, or because I’ve kind of fallen off the planet. But what if no one that is going through the same situation is thinking or ABLE to ask those questions of me…because maybe they need the same intervention?

That, my friends, is the beauty of being the body of Christ. I need my single friends. I need my friends without kids. I need my friends with kids. I need my divorced friends. I need my widow friends. I need my older friends. I need my family. I need my pastors. I need my neighbors. I need the little ones in my life. We all have different experiences and testimonies to share…and perspectives that lead us to look after each other and LOVE each other.

That said, I DO feel there are women out there who are selfish about “themselves”, and they fear that they will lose themselves by becoming a mother or who gripe at and resent their kids and husbands when they have felt they have lost themselves. And maybe it’s some very different experiences and life situations…and heart conditions and sin…that have led to that perspective. I’ll have to share my husband’s opinion on that subject sometime.

What are we truly asking when we ask, “have we lost ourselves?”

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One think I KNOW I have lost is sleep….

 

What anyone may feel they have “lost” (or may lose) is so hard to define, and so many variables can affect our outlook and specifics in each situation, so in essence, the question can take so many different angles….maybe it’s not the right question to ask in the first place?  “Losing myself” is about as vague and cliche as “finding myself”.  My friend has acknowledged to me that the verbage has become a thorn digging at me, when that wasn’t really what they intended to imply.  But it’s possible it’s just because we don’t know a better way to ask. Or maybe it’s because we are living in a culture that is grossly focused on ME ME ME, and we have bought into it. So we attribute feelings that come from isolation, disappointment, change, loss of free schedules…loss of the freedom to go to the bathroom without kids beating down the door to find us….to us “losing ourselves.”

Perhaps the questions we need to be asking each other are: Are you ok? Are you needing the body of Christ right now?  Are you needing me to pray for you? Are you facing depression? Are you willing to admit it if you are? Are you having trouble getting time alone? How can I help you with that? Are you having trouble getting time with the Lord? How can I help you with that? Are you having trouble getting to church? Resting your mind?

And for those that are asking for the future, “will I lose myself if I become a mother?” Well, maybe not in the way you are fearing. But YES.

Massive change in life can definitely make you feel on uncertain ground and lead you down different paths than you were on before. I DO feel that I am a different person.I THINK, it may be most important to realize that major life changes CAN change us, or take us in and out of various things we used to do.

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At the moment, the only thing on my plate right now IS motherhood…but not only motherhood, but the very trenches of it. It takes up the whole plate! The first four years (I’m hoping) are the most exhausting, all-consuming, extremely stressful part of becoming a parent…and it’s exponentially harder when they come back to back like my two have. I have mothers of twins tell me they think it would be harder to have them 12-15 months apart like mine are. So, at the moment, I’m desperately trying to successfully brush my teeth every day, MAYBE get some time in the Word…more like at least once or twice a WEEK, get enough sleep to survive…oh, and actually start to raise men of God, not just keep them alive.  (And I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who have more than two under the age of four!)  For the last two years, especially, it has truly been survival mode. So I’m not really in the zone, so to speak, as far as putting forth any Angie-like wisdom out there, like I used to. Ha! I guess you have to have known me before kids to know that.  So, if you see me commenting or posting on facebook or instagram, it’s probably more about asking for childcare advice, or posting pictures of my day…which is ALL toddler.   If anything, I have found that Facebook is toxic for moms, so I have been largely avoiding it.   I post a TON about the boys when I do post, because at the moment, it is the season I’m in, and they ARE my calling.

I’m not parenting them on the side….it’s taking every fiber of my being right now to do this job, and I don’t have the mental or physical capacity to do much of anything else. I’m starting to get a little more rest, a few more nights a week, and they are starting to entertain themselves a little more, so I am starting to catch up more on the mundane household chores that I’ve been behind on, and starting to get a little spark to start reflecting on life and putting it out there, and therefore this blog.

But I don’t know what my callings and giftings will look like outside of the home from here on out. They may be very different. At the moment, I believe God has put me in the throes of early parenting, and they are the calling, and whatever is in my direct vicinity is my sphere of influence to target most, and the secondary and tertiary connections I pray to also be blessed by the Lord, through me, but I am not largely looking to seek them all out. I’m trying to focus on our neighbors more, and getting back involved in our church…which looks so different for me right now than it did before…and it’s not nearly as gratifying, but it is what it is. (Meaning I would rather be doing worship ministry more, and certainly I miss the speaking and teaching…but at the moment, I’m volunteering to teach in nursery, because it’s where my family is at, for the time being, and I want to support those that are supporting me and my kids during this current season.)

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As a parent, you do things that are not really fun, because you know your kid will LOVE it. Like riding a steamy hot train for thirty minutes after trucking through mud to get there…. So your dude can ride on THOMAS.

 

All this is not to say that I haven’t dealt with a significant amount of anxiety and probably depression over the last couple years. But I can’t even say that is directly related to parenting. Probably exacerbated by it, because I am alone all the time, up for hours at night (less of that now, thank goodness), chronically exhausted, not in church NEARLY as much as I need to be, and even when in church, not nearly as connected as I need to be. Right before Gideon was born, our entire network of ministry and friends pretty much left to help plant other churches (ALL GOOD! ALL through our church), but we were not feeling called to do that. In the meantime, Andy was working retail and was only able to make it to church once a month, sometimes twice. So he wasn’t serving anymore, and as I was pregnant, and then with a newborn, staying involved was nearly impossible, and all of our connections, including the pastor we most felt pastored by, were no longer in our immediate circle. So no deep friendships at church, and a lot less opportunity to connect with them otherwise. And I would take Gideon to church, but end up in the nursing mother’s room the whole time, and then go home.  I started going to one of the church plants, simply bc my sister was going, so I went to be with people I knew and that had pastored my heart before. But really had no capacity to serve, as the church was 45 minutes away, and Andy was still working crazy hours, and now a baby with an early bedtime ruled my nightlife. (Andy is now working a better job with regular work week hours, and that has helped SIGNIFICANTLY. But even still, after a year of being there, I am just feeling like we are getting to more solid ground energy to give of ourselves more.  And it does feel good.)

You can see how all of this spirals into major changes…and definitely not good emotional support. Then we had major upheaval with our home and finances, all while finding out we were expecting Jak. So life just got crazier. And then having the two kids………..seriously have questioned if I even have a brain left.  And I have seemed to have one health issue after another after having Jak. I don’t say this flippantly…having them back to back has physically wrecked me. And I’m really trying to get some health back.

And don’t get me started on the changes that have happened on the career front for me. I’ve been making some decisions, in order to stay at home with my boys, that some in my field would possibly doubt. We get so caught up in the idea that we can have both worlds…career and children. And we sometimes can, and we sometimes HAVE to. But I’m making the choice to have one, not the other, for now. And it has caused MAJOR wrestling internally and in prayer to make that decision.

But the idea of losing myself gives the connotation that ministry outside of the home is more important than the ministry INSIDE my home (which for now, is VERY much inside the home). That I have some how done something self-destructive in having kids. That i have somehow not taken care of myself, or that having kids has taken the best part of me. In a way, they have, because they are my calling, and I certainly hope they are receiving the best of my anointings and giftings. The question of have I lost my self stirs up momma-bear defenses, and leads me to second guess my abilities as a mom, as well as my reputation of who I am as a woman. I’ve wanted this my whole life. We can certainly have feelings of disappointment..or even have total confusion about why we wanted this in the first place, after experiencing the hardships that come with it, and the hormonal imbalances that pregnancy brings. BUT we have to remember a few things about our feelings.

Fear and anxiety, depression and despair are NOT from the Lord. They are NOT good. They may be natural. They may be common. But they are destructive. Disappointment has more to do with my own expectations, and can be resurrected to become hope and joy when I take it to the Lord. And I might need my friends to help me do that.

So, I do welcome the question, am I Ok? Am I emotionally healthy? Am I hurting? Am I lonely?

And if you are asking yourself before having kids: will I lose myself?  Again, I say, probably yes. But the bigger question I should ask is, “Is that a bad thing?”  Because you will be disappointed if you think you’ll be exactly the same as you are now, and that is what you would prefer. But in general, I think you find that you are BETTER in the end, and won’t be too upset at what you have “lost.”

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I want to share more about the conversation I have had with my friend in follow up to our initial brush with the question of losing myself in motherhood, because there is wisdom to glean about friendship, social media, and personhood in the dialogue we have had. So I will share more of that in my next post!

Stay tuned!

My friends Jessica and Kassie are sharing some of their thoughts about losing ourselves in motherhood today as well! We haven’t coordinated our writing, other than we want to answer “have we lost ourselves in becoming moms.”  But we have different experiences, and our viewpoints may vary or overlap, as I’m sure yours do, too! So hop on over to www.journeyintorealmsunknown.blogspot.com and www.thefreshlybrewed.blogspot.com to read their thoughts!

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Is Losing Yourself a Bad Thing?

One of my primary motivations to finally attempt to blog again was to write this post. I don’t know that I’m ready from a literary standpoint…or even from a finalized opinion…to actually formulate this post. It may come out as a stream of consciousness, and it will likely come out in more than one post.  But I simply cannot get it out of my mind, and I have many thoughts and opinions that I can’t keep in my head, by my lonesome.

It is certainly a question I have pondered in my head many years. Before having children: thinking about what I imagine I will be like as a mother, and how I will carry on with mothering while living MY life as I have before. After having children: trying to sort out how to manage mothering while maintaining the normal or finding the new normal.

Teaching at a Hottie or Nottie conference, one of the many amazing things I got to do as a single woman in youth ministry before I met Andy.

Teaching at a Hottie or Nottie conference in 2004, one of the many amazing things I got to do as a single woman in youth ministry before I met Andy.

I think every woman has expectations of what motherhood will look like for themselves, if they plan to be a mother at all. And I think, particularly for women who don’t have children while super young, if you’ve been without children for much of your adult life, you have had time to follow many interests, passions, careers, etc., so you wonder what will happen to those things once you have children.

Christmas 2006, just a few weeks before our wedding.

Christmas 2006, just a few weeks before our wedding.

Recently I had a conversation with a dear friend that I really didn’t know how to process. Initially, I was thoughtfully concerned that her words should convict me and I had truly changed, and not for good. Later, I grew more than a little frustrated, that there were definitely some misconceptions about expectations on me as a person and a mother…and I teetered on the fence of offense. Later still, I actually saw it more as an opportunity to check on my emotional well-being (post-partum depression can set in well after the first months of motherhood), and I THINK, that was my friend’s intention, but I’m not totally sure.  Nonetheless, a statement in the conversation dug hard at my heart and continues to plague me, almost daily, and I go through the whole gamut of thoughts and emotions as I process it again.

Just minutes after Gideon was born.

Just minutes after Gideon was born, in 2012.

“I was talking recently with ___ (our mutual friend), and we feel you have lost some of yourself since you became a mom.”

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About an hour after Jonathan (Jak) was born, in 2013.

 

 (I’m not sure exactly if she actually said SOME or A LOT….in my head and emotions, it feels as though I was being told I was a totally different person.)

Now…as I start to write about this, it is clear to me: I STILL don’t know how I feel about this. I have a lot of opinions bouncing around in my tired brain. So, I plan to dissect this a little over a few posts.  I think I have many questions to ask about this challenging point that was spoken to me by my friend.  Do we ALL lose ourselves…or only those of us who are weak enough to not protect whatever it is that was supposedly lost?  What did I lose exactly? Am I actually a different person, and how?  What are outward signs that I have lost some of myself (provided this can actually be quantified).  Does it matter who is making this observation?  Is it possible my friend is actually observing signs of depression?  Is “losing” myself a BAD thing?

Oh, the string of thoughts going through my head. If I were to type them as they come, you would never want to read anything of mine again, because they would be as chaotic as the wall of pictures connected by string by someone paranoid or solving a mystery. It doesn’t help that it is super late.

For now, before I try to break it down further…I’ll just pose the open ended question to you: If you’ve had children, do you feel like you have “lost yourself”? If so, what did you lose? Is this bad? (The conversation has already started on Instagram…Comment here if you would like!)