Who?

I’ve been attempting to re-write my (now deleted, burned, and ashes blown to the wind) about me section for this website as of late. In the wake of all that’s happened this past six months, it rang of a girl I no longer am. 

Separation (and divorce, once we get around to it), co-parenting while living together, being single again, my significantly changed role at work, and an inevitable move that will help further cement these necessary and changed dynamics. 

These are times of upheaval. Growth, becoming, relief – and upheaval.

I find myself standing among these pieces and grasping at where I belong. What shoe now fits. What identity rings true. What and who I now am.

For years too many, I identified myself by who I was to someone else. Mother, wife, sister, and daughter. 

In this time of now — a clawing back of independence and identity, listening to my own needs, and speaking of truths — who is Sarah

And so, I’ll write it out.

For what should become as a surprise to no one, I know not how to begin at anywhere else other than my faults.

Socially anxious and awkward. Shy. Unsure, self-doubting, and eternally self-deprecating. Often overwhelmed, terrible at asking for help, and demands of herself a level of work/”doing all the things” ethic that is often to her own detriment. Doesn’t know when to stop in those regards, and also doesn’t exercise enough or get outdoors as much as she should. Conflict avoidant (to the point of numbing out), repressor of feelings, and perpetually worried about “rocking the boat”. Has difficulties asserting herself and would love more than anything to just melt into the background – much like her slippery and evading sense of self-identity. Painfully perfectionist and introverted beyond measure.

Yet, at the same time, there is goodness.

Caring, kind, and thoughtful. Supportive, reliable, and helpful. Stable, peaceful, and patient. Careful, yet hopeful. Organized, meticulous, and detailed. Conscientious, observant, and a defender of the vulnerable. Respectful, progressive, and loving. Joyful and humble (perhaps to a fault).    

(Admittedly, not quite as good as talking about her good bits as she is her “bad”.)

And then there is that which is simply that.

The comforts she finds in the definable. Cozy in the exacts. Beauty and stability in data. Her eye for specifics. A love of words, reading, and stories. An appreciation for wit and intellect. A (100% untrained) connoisseur of tacos, thrift shopping, and Reese’s peanut butter cups. Liberal and atheist, and at one with nature. Nerdy. Give her video games with housing systems and give her board games with friends – she will be content. A complete, utter, and well-meaning doomsponge… but, also, a troll of the most loving proportions.  

And at the end of it all, a survivor of childhood trauma and postpartum mental health reckonings – keenly aware of how they have made her who she is to this day.

New and old truths, new and old shoes. Here lies my journey fourth.

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I see you.

In the way she navigates life. Taking those purposeful turns and back alleys, expertly maneuvering and avoiding any possible problem or issue. Even at her own peril – her own peril.

In the way she exhaustingly strives to see everyone happy, living in harmony and at peace. Even if it means she’s not there – she’s not there.

In the chronic people pleaser in her. An insistent persistence to please. Even to her own detriment – her own detriment.   

In her biggest want in life: peace. To be with and at peace among all. Even if that peace is beyond her, and there lies a battle within her — battle within her.

In her core fear: conflict. Her fallbacks and coping mechanisms of avoidance and silence. A purposeful hiding of her being – hiding of her being.   

In how she expresses herself only when there is little to no chance of discord. Absolute necessity being the only moments in which she dare gives voice – dare gives voice.   

In her obsession with safeguarding peace. Frozen still I find her. Acting or speaking her truths, she is found unable – found unable 

In her need for perfectionism. A perfectionism born rooted in a frantic need to not disappoint. To be found worthy. To be loved like you should have been – like you should have been. 

And in the very path that guides her as a mother and early childhood educator. Children — those of her own and the lives of others she touches — giving them the peace you didn’t have.

The peace you didn’t have. 

I see her.

I see you.  

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Still learning.

“Mama, why wasn’t [insert so and so] listening at child care today?”
“Mama, why did that person stop their car in the middle of the road?”
“Mama, why didn’t you remember to [such and such that my fried brain continually forgets to do]?”

“Because people are still learning, my sweet boy. Still learning how to control their bodies, how to obey the rules of the road, and/or how to remember to do things when functioning on not enough sleep. Life is always teaching us, and we’re always learning.”

A semblance of the above conversation (though for varying reasons) takes place between my son and I a few times a week. So much so that he now chimes in with me in answer, “yeah! They’re still learning!”

It’s a bit of an overly positive take on shitty drivers, I’ll give it that. But, there are nuggets of truth to be found in these conversations nonetheless.

With that said, we’ve recently had a helluva reminder that D and I are still learning.

But first, some backstory.

Six months ago, after having given birth to M, it became rapidly apparent that my mental health needed my son in full time child care while I stayed at home to look after my newborn. I simply wasn’t able to sanely meet both his and M’s needs on the days D was working. It was beyond me, and I feel no shame in admitting that.

Thankfully, we were quickly able to secure full time placement, and it has been the absolute best decision for us all. O adores his “school”, loves the time he can spend there with friends (as he can hardly do that anywhere else these days), and it gives him a place during the day to get out all of his energy and exploratory needs. Furthermore, when he’s at “school”, it leaves me with the sanity I need to care for his sister (now an infant), care for our home, and find some pockets of time during the day to care for myself.

This is not a decision I regret. That being said, I fully get that such an option simply would not be possible or available for some families for a multitude of reasons. Furthermore, some may have chosen differently. I respect that. My anxiety, however, had other plans in store.

Fast forward to now.

After having O at home recently (for reasons that can be found here), I realized something, and it was a something that I had started to clue in on during his week at home this past winter break.

We don’t yet truly, truly know what it means to have two kids.

(It is here I struggle in putting what I mean by that into words. A part of me feels that what I have to say next is not a valid “problem” as it is one born of first world privileges. The other part of me dismisses that notion, and says a struggle is a struggle, and giving words to problems has always helped me better make sense of it all. So, fuck it. I forge ahead.)

We don’t yet know how to fully balance the juggling act of forever meeting the needs of two children while trying to meet our own.

We don’t yet know how to deny the sigh of exhaustion that comes with forever needing to be the type of “on task” that two children require of you.

We don’t yet know how to best give each other breaks (even if that just means one of us being with the “easier” kid in that moment) so that the other can feel the briefest moment of reprieve before having to dive right back in (and how to be accepting of that fact).

We don’t yet know how to quiet the loud sighs of relief come after Sunday evening bedtimes and Monday morning child care drop offs.

How to be at peace in the mess of preschooler + infant “all-day-no time to clean” living… How to give up the illusion that our sore bodies won’t forever be laying or sitting on the floor for YEARS to come… How to not blessedly (and guilty) SAVOUR the daily TV time aka “mom and dad break” that we’ve been having from 4:30-6PM…. These and so much more are things we are very much still learning.

(Truth be told, these are things that we may never learn, or may not HAVE to learn. But, I digress.)

When O is at childcare during the week, I can re-replicate the ease of what it once was to just have one kid. I can breathe. It is a blessing, but, it is also a curse. It’s inadvertently made us be able to deny and delay the demanding, draining reality that comes with having more than one child.

There’s no choice.

Much like winter break, we’ve recently been given no choice but to face this reality head on.

There is much I could say about how it went, but I’ll simply say this: it’s been exhausting, bonding, raw-rubbing, relationship building, HARD-yet-meaningful work.

And while before all of this I may have quite rudely guffawed at the following positivity that I am going to type, I’ll do it anyway. We have been made all the better as a family for it. Yawning, laughing, grumbling, smiling, still learning and all.

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Until now.

I’ve been managing. Despite being always at home while on mat leave, juggling an infant, and my daily adult in-person interaction since early November being limited to just D and my son’s educators during child care pickup (you’d be proud, Dr. Bonnie Henry, with how well I’ve listened), I’ve managed. Until now.

Then this week happened.

Something snapped, and I let the loneliness and isolation “grief” finally creep in through the cracks. Despair set in, acutely and deeply.

I give up, Covid. You win.

As a deeply introverted, shy, homebody (who married someone that is the same exact way), I am profoundly lucky and privileged it took me this long to get here. I admit to that fully.

Yet, here I am now missing things I have *never* missed before in my entire life. Super busy play cafes, shopping in packed malls, full to the brim drop-in programs, over flowing movie theatres, and grocery stores with isles that have so many people in them you can hardly move. All things I would have non-jokingly told you I was allergic to a year and a half ago.

And when I remember back to the slow and simple days of park get togethers, play dates, and meeting up with mom friends to chat while our kids were being kids — it physically hurts now.

This was not the postpartum experience that I thought it would be. This is not mat leave I wanted it to be. The summer ahead of us, the first with our completed family of four, it will likely not be the experience I wish for it to be (at the rate Canada is going with the vaccinations). I hate all of this.

Perhaps next week I’ll be able to start seeing again the other things to look forward to, the silver linings in our time outside, and the positives in the small joys to keep celebrating.

But, right now? I am in mourning.

There is so much more I wanted to do this time around while I was off work. I had plans. M’s an easy enough baby that it would have worked this time, too, unlike with O. Yet, when I pulled out her diaper bag the other day prior to leaving for her sixth month vaccinations, upon it was a layer of dust. I was at a loss.

There are no thought provoking words or inspirational wisdom to end this piece, and it feels weird without it. Yet, I’m not sorry for it, for all I want and need to say is this:

This really, really sucks.

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The “if only”s.

My sweet boy.

As I’ve built this website, I’ve unintentionally had to remember and relive the “trenches” that were the first six months of your life.

I had realizations that came five years late.

Fraught discoveries at all that I didn’t know.

Wishes and hopes for the should-have could-have would-have but never-had.

I got stuck in the if onlys.

If only I could have better known your sleepy cues.

If only I could have better known your hunger cues.

If only I could have better known your signs of teething.

If only I could have better known the million things you were undoubtedly trying to tell me.

If only, if only, if only.

Instead, you were my bundle of hot, angry, and frustrated tears. Exhaustion, worn edges, and frayed emotions became you (and me, if we’re being honest). We lived, cried and grieved as one in the cavernous hallways of colic.

I tried.

To hear you, to see you, and to truss out from the misery of everything the need you were trying to communicate.

But that everything became one, and more often than not, I failed.

Yet here in the now, this is where I stop myself.

For in those failures – failures of first time mothering, failures of laughable pre-birth expectations, and failures of selflessness I wasn’t yet ready to let go of – I grew.

Those were the days that defined me.

If I had those if onlys, would I have learned to say fuck it and let go? To laugh at my utter lack of intuition, and just go for it on a wing and a prayer? To wade deeply into the murky Nile of motherhood, and still be able to find it’s soggy, muddy, messy beauty?

I don’t think so.

I intend not to write these soliloquies through rose coloured glasses, my mental health would have frankly moved mountains for those if onlys. My marriage with your father would have breathed sighs of reliefs in their reprieves.

But in those days, weeks and months — I became. In that battleground of exasperation, love, annoyance, and adoration (and the bravery to admit I felt all those ways), you taught me. You pushed me beyond myself. You gave me the greatest lesson I ever learned.

You made me a momma. ❤️

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