Weathering the Storm of Change
Updated: Nov 16, 2018
When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I loved my second grade teacher. She was gentle, considerate, and so beautiful. A genuine person who loved her students just as much as we adored her. She reminded me honestly of Ms. Honey from Matilda. Years later I narrowed my dream to becoming an English teacher. Reading was my passion. I could devour books within days and wrote to pass the time. Once more I was inspired by another teacher of mine, Mrs. Johnston. She was sassy and fun, but focused and disciplined. I aspired to be a mixture of both women.
I went on to college, earned my bachelor's degree in teaching, and became engaged two days after my graduation ceremony. It was a whirlwind weekend, but I had achieved my childhood dream. I was officially a licensed English teacher. I should have been on cloud nine, but underneath my sense of accomplishment, there was a awareness of something wrong.
I ignored my gut, knowing it must be fear of a new unknown, a new career (since I'd been a student basically since five). Applying to local schools was simple. Part of my schooling had detailed how to apply, how to interview, and even how to negotiate salary. I had every tool needed to successfully land a dream teaching job. One month out of college and I landed a position at a middle school teaching 8th grade English. My family was beyond proud. My fiance was ecstatic (we were looking at buying a home at the time). I would start that fall.
And yet, that sense of dread slipped up my spine and tugged at every email I received from my principle. It nipped at every congratulations card and sapped away any motivation to begin planning. Was I terrified of moving forward? Had I been in college too long? Had I settled into the safety net of student-teaching past the point of ability?
No. None of these.
I was pregnant.
Life twists and surprises us. In my experience, those surprises typically revolved around the people in my life – their choices or actions would gently push at my lifeboat, but never really disrupted my personal plans. Likewise, I was engaged to a man with a similar mantra. We'd put in the work. We'd gone to college. We'd achieved our childhood dreams of completing college, finding a great partner for life, and saved for a house.
But on a hot June evening I slipped away and into my room that I shared with my now husband (we were living with his parents until we found a house). I took a test on a hunch that I may be pregnant, though I tried to reason it was a wicked case of PMS.
But there it was. Two little lines. Both pink, as if already trying to scream, “I'm a girl, Mommy!”
My life's plan did not include a baby yet. Eventually, yes, maybe four years from then. But now, at twenty-four, freshly engaged and graduated, I was also pregnant.
Shock and fear collided in a split second as I raced down the hall to tell my fiance. In the privacy of our bedroom, he confirmed that I had not misread the instructions. His face was blank and together we felt the world shift from two to three.
Research states that nearly 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. My first obviously was. I knew very little of what it meant to be pregnant, much less what it meant to deliver a baby, and then raise said child. I threw myself into reading, as was my default for anything.
From my research I discovered I wasn't just having a baby, I was diving into a new level of life. A realm of parenthood that was murky and frightening, sparkling and awe inspiring, but above all else, filled with love beyond anything I'd ever imagined.
Like all mothers, I wanted to do what was right for my baby. I quickly learned that there is no definitive right as long as baby is happy and healthy.
Talk about vague...
Flash forward nine months postpartum and the foggy world of motherhood was enveloping me, but not in a loving, open embrace way that I had expected. No, I felt smothered by my highly sensitive little girl. I was lonely with my husband at work in NoVa, nearly 90 minutes from our new home in a town I'd only passed through when looking for houses. My relationship suffered. My baby girl didn't receive me as the woman I am. I was a shell of myself, slowly withering away inside at the hands of a sneaky demon called postpartum depression.
I was lucky.
My love of reading saved my sanity once again, and I went to my doctor for help after reading the symptoms and knowing in my heart of hearts that I wasn't well. I couldn't accept that this angry, exhausted, weepy, emotional wreck was the new me. My doctor wouldn't accept it either. Together we formed a strategy to battle my sickness: medication and therapy.
Now five years later my darling girl is a wild child, full of love, light, sass, and so much feeling that it overwhelms her (and honestly, me too) on a daily basis. I am more myself than I've ever been my entire life, but it has been a struggle. My depression isn't conquered and might not ever be, but I have the right armor now to withstand the harshest of blows.
This was part of what led me to becoming a doula – the unexpected, the unknown, and the harsh realization of unrelenting change.
I can't change a pregnancy coming at the wrong or a difficult time or even a happy surprise that leaves a woman scrambling to prepare. What I can help with is to soften the explosion of change that occurs once that newborn comes home. I've watched my own life take multiple turns and roller-coaster highs and lows within just five years of motherhood. I want to be the help I never knew I needed because no matter how you prepare, motherhood will change everything.
So wherever your journey is leading you at this moment, should pregnancy be a part of that journey now, I'm here because I've been there.