Finding the Value within Myself

October 3, 2012

It's been two weeks since the loss of my pregnancy, and I think I may be finally coming to terms with it. Of course, that has involved a lot of gardening...and writing...and jewelry making. Anything that isn't crying. Not that I haven't cried. I have.

It's not just that I wanted this child and lost him. It's all the other emotions that come with it. I had to adjust to the whole idea of becoming a mother again after deciding I wouldn't. Plans to get a job were interrupted, rearranged. William and I talked about the baby, especially when my belly started to grow. I had just bought maternity clothes, had just got over the persistent morning sickness. The baby's heartbeat was strong at 10 weeks. My big ultrasound to confirm the gender was only three weeks away. I expected to feel the kicks at any moment. And then I go to the doctor to find out that the baby had been dead since week 13. Now I'm back to square one, unsure of how I will move forward. My mother-in-law calls it "emotional whiplash."

I think that description is quite apt.

It's amazing the kind of clarity that can come out of these situations. For instance, working as a way to cope with my pain has shown me exactly how much I am still capable of doing. Being stuck in the hamster wheel of housewifery for the past three years had made me think I had lost the energy, creativity and initiative that I possessed in college. Now I know that it's still inside of me.

I think it's very difficult for young women to realize the full extent of their value. Society says women are basically useless unless they're bringing home a paycheck. The problem is, even when we are bringing home a paycheck, our work isn't as appreciated. Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And for those of us who stay home to raise our kids, the enormity and (sometimes) drudgery of what we do is overlooked. "Oh, well YOU didn't have to battle morning traffic, or sit through a boring meeting, or miss lunch because an overbearing client was breathing down your neck," husbands will say. No, but I spent the day wiping up urine and puke, wrestled a cranky toddler, and ate a sandwich that had fallen on the floor. Sitting through a boring meeting sounds like heaven. Do you get to pee there without someone watching you, too??

So how do I cope? I find the value within myself.

And that's hard to do when people's expectations of what you should be doing are numerous and unrealistic. Breastfeed until your child is 3. Socialize this many times per week. Cook breakfast for your husband (or you don't really love him). Iron his underwear. Shine his boots. Don't let your child cry, ever. Use that degree you earned. Work off that belly fat. No VOCs. No GMOs. Organic only. Co-sleep. Don't co-sleep. Use only rear-facing carseats. And for heaven's sake, no more than an hour of TV per day. Really, WHAT do you do all day?

I could go on. But here's the thing: life is more than living up to arbitrary standards of perfection. And that's a HUGE admission coming from a self-proclaimed perfectionist. Just because I'm a wife and a mother doesn't mean I stop having my own dreams and goals. I need to learn, to try new things and fail at them, to be a human being. It's through exercising my talents and pursuing the unique opportunities available to me that I find a life worth living. In that regard, I'm no different from a man. My child is not going to remember in 10 years whether he ate homemade baby food or not. And he's not going to feel less loved because I bought him Gerber peas instead of growing my own in the backyard. What he will remember is the time we spent together. And whether I was a happy, secure, fulfilled individual or not.

I feel like I've hit a major milestone with this epiphany. I have value within myself that's not defined by a paycheck or a pat on the back. What I do matters to me, and that's what ultimately matters to those who love and depend on me.


Shannon said...

You are an inspiration. You keep going even when you have reason to not want to. That alone gives you a great worth to me. ♥

Sherry G said...

This is beautiful and so true, April. It was an encouragement to me. Your last paragraph hit home with me. I've been home with my boys for about 5 years now, and have begun to feel like I'm losing myself a bit. Thanks for the kick in the pants that I needed. Blessings to you.

Now, I'm off to read more. I didn't realize you blogged. :)

Debbie Rowland said...

Thanks for being so very honest!! This is exactly what you need to do to help you with your emotional whiplash. (I like that comment too)! Thanks for allowing us into your heart, which is SO beautiful by the way!! You make me proud to be called Mom! I can't believe the crappy job I did as a mom sometimes, crafted my little girl into this wonderful person that you are! I love you with all my heart! I am praying for you daily!

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