So much of who I am has been shaped by my kids, but the most profound changes I have made have been the result of my son’s presence in my life. Long before I even laid eyes on him, he began changing my soul’s trajectory, and as a result, my attitude is different, my outlook is different, the way I love others is different, and the way I love myself is different.
I suppose I can start this off at the space and time at which I found out I was expecting. Though I didn’t know he was a “he” yet, I viewed his message of incoming (that’s my made up term for positive pregnancy test) as a nod from God that we were doing right. My husband and I had been working through incredibly rough and painful obstacles in an effort to fight for our marriage. Though I won’t say this was the first time we’d done so, I will term it as the most real time. I had faith and high hopes, but I also had uncertainty. When we conceived quickly after reconciling, I took it as a sign that I was exactly where I needed to be – with him – and our relationship only seemed to flourish just as our new baby did.
But I also had to wrestle with some other, more personal issues upon conception. I had to start making some serious, more long-term decisions about just exactly what my life would be moving forward. I’ve referenced my Life Reset plenty of times on this blog, and that’s because it truly was one of the most defining moments of my thirties thus far. Like an artist in her own gallery, I took every painting down and scrutinized it to decide if it really represented my work. In this case, the gallery was a metaphor for my life, and the art was representation of the stuff my life was made of – social media accounts, a few close friends and family, an unnecessarily large circle of simple acquaintances that I was putting more effort into maintaining than I needed to, a foggy sense of self, and a disappointing relationship with anxiety. By the time I finished in my metaphorical gallery, it had almost no art left on the walls, representative of all the relationships I stopped making time for, the commitments I walked away from, the fluffy stuff in my life that I had been convinced I needed to care about that really didn’t matter at all – I threw it all in a dumpster. With more space on the walls of my life, I had a chance to start reinventing myself as an artist, and indeed, as a woman.
My aspirations are largely visionary; I cannot achieve something unless I am able to picture myself in the role realistically. As a woman in her early 30s expecting her second child, I had ideas for what I wanted to be, but I was not her. Hell, I’m STILL not her. I probably never will fully realize “dream wife and mom Antoinette,” but where I was before was really far off from what I am striving for, and I wanted to be closer. I wanted to resemble her more. For starters, I wanted to be stronger. I had claimed to be strong for quite some time now and it wasn’t an untrue statement. However, I knew I could do more. And do more I did as I sank into a valley of new medical impediments I had never faced before. Coupled with the other “fun” hoops pregnancy can throw you through, I was pretty much either in pain or nauseous or both from the moment I opened my eyes each morning, until I closed them again from exhaustion that evening. This happened consistently for the entirety of the pregnancy. Every day in pain. Every day sick. Sometimes both in the same day. I’d been sick before, but that was as a child when someone could take care of me. This time was different – this time there was no crutch or safe place to sit until I felt better. Life had to continue and I was still mom to a growing, walking, talking child while incubating another one. I was still a lead at work, and there were still projects to be done. I was still Antoinette, therefore had responsibilities that will not ever pause just because I have a sick day. I had to deal. That can take a mental toll after a while.
Outside of my physical ailments, I was eager, as well as forced, to confront my mental ailment of anxiety. I want to believe that I would’ve been proactive about making headway on this regardless of being pregnant or not, but I remember feeling on multiple occasions during my first trimester that I didn’t want to be home to a beautiful, growing baby and also house crippling thoughts in my brain. It seemed toxic. I didn’t want to be a slave to anxiety anymore – I was ready to gain the upper hand on it once and for all. I wanted my children to have a strong mom, in body, mind, and spirit. So I sought counseling and began studying meditation and hypnosis as a means for using my own soul’s power to meet the nastiness of my anxiety and reduce it to dust. It was not easy at first, but with practice, I got better.
I also began looking at my relationships with people critically, as relationships, boundaries, and trust have all been sources and triggers for my anxiety a lot in the past. I decided to ditch the relationships that I felt weren’t necessary anymore. It’s okay to have seasonal friends – some people are sent to us at just the right time to help us with what we’re going through, but not all of them are meant to stick around forever. I’ve learned this and accepted it, and through that have experienced healing from the wounds I had from past relationships broke up before I was ready or wanted them to. Trimming the landscape on my friendship front also meant I would no longer be letting anybody in who truly wasn’t worthy, thus protecting my family more. So many people who have claimed to value me and my friendship have in fact used my friendship and then very easily discarded me afterward. The difference now though is that 1) I no longer say a sentence like that sadly. I say it honestly and peacefully. 2) I am able to say that sentence peacefully because I am no longer tied to the validation of having a certain number of friends. Quantity is irrelevant, and while friends are nice to have, they should never shape who you are entirely. 3) While I do have friends and care for my family and those in my inner circle, my perspective now places much less weight on issues like those, favoring my faith and spirituality, my marriage, my children, and my personal development much, much more. Journeying to this peaceful place internally wasn’t easy either, but it was important that I reach this place before my son arrived so that I could teach him (and his sister, too) how to find it.
I dove deeper into my faith in order to become a more gracious, patient, focused, and honest person. The result has been better performance at work, a better relationship with my work, and a better regard for my work. In my personal life, my relationships with the people who mattered to me were given the much-needed TLC I was neglecting to give because I was so caught up in my digital self that I wasn’t giving much of my real self. I had to find my real self, dust her off, and start getting to know her again. I do not feel that I was walking around a liar – but I was much more a product of social engineering than I ever realized, and that wasn’t me.
(I’ll cover that topic in a different blog later)
It was important that I get clear on my own identity because that essence of me is being passed on to my children, and I want to do it justice. As a black girl with dark skin, I had to reacquaint myself with just exactly what makes me a unique person with value, outside of what the grand narrative may tell. I had to do this so that my own daughter will recognize the same of herself and love herself. I had to do this so that I’d be in a position to prepare both of my children, but especially my son, for the chaos that might follow them because of their skin tone. Racism isn’t going away, and when my babies come to me devastated because they’ve been greeted by it, I had to know how to respond. I had to be able to show them how to shine even in the face of negativity, which the world has in droves. That negativity doesn’t have to stop them, though. It’s only stopped me when I have allowed it to. I have seen many triumphs despite what others may have been hoping, plotting, or wickedly scheming up for me, and I want to be the kind of mom who gets her babies prepared for that. I knew I wanted to raise a smart, confident, self-loving black girl and an intelligent, savvy, self-loving black boy. I wanted them both to have the internal strength to topple mountains. But I knew couldn’t make them strong without being strong myself. It wouldn’t have been fair for me to expect them to be resilient against race-based criticism if I was not the same. I was almost there before, but I’m much closer now.
Becoming a mom to my son has forced me to grow stronger. Giving birth to him the way that I did was a symbolic crossing over for me from what I was to what I am now, and what better method of crossover than to have to muster mental and physical strength in order to triumph in a place where I had once failed? Even after the birth was over, I’ve successfully kept postpartum depression at bay, also with a med-free approach, which was another important personal choice I made for myself. Overall, I’m tackling much more and succeeding in the process and these are accomplishments that make the 2013 version of myself look quite watered down compared to who I’ve been in 2017. Maybe my son didn’t “make” me stronger, but he certainly prompted me to become so. He was my lighthouse in the midst of the perfect, dark storm. He IS my reason for not only wanting, but having to do better. He has forever altered the way I see and play the game (of life), and I am so grateful he is here.