Mmmmm….Has parenthood changed me?
Do you want the short answer or the long one?
Based on a gloriously harmonious day or on a –stressed out, exhausted, I feel like a rag and I want to throttle you- days? …
Parenthood has defiantly thrown me to these extremes as well as everything that falls in between. So the short answer is yes, parenting has changed me tremendously from reacting with fear to responding with love. It has been the most challenging experience I have ever undertaken as well has given me a hearty dose of humility, empathy, and resilience. It has spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically healed me.
The long answer: I was born hardwired for fear and hyper-sensitive. Experiencing or even witnessing violence, especially during the crucial period of brain development under the age of five significantly affects brain development and can make a child feel scared, anxious, worried, confused, angry, and insecure. This list of feelings sums up my battles in life to a “T” and parenting triggered every one of these vulnerabilities.
You see, even with extensive experience working with children and degrees in elementary education, psychology, human development & family studies, and marriage and family therapy, I still felt inadequate and unprepared for parenthood. I even had a self-imposed rule to wait till I was married for 5 years before having children. I began joking with my partner that we needed to have kids so I could have more credentials for my practice as I specialized in children and parenting issues.
After a snowball effect of interventions and traumatic labor, my first son was born 5 months shy of my 5th wedding anniversary, yet I was too tired and hungry to hold him. The natural concoction of bonding hormones was disturbed and my predisposition lead to post-partum depression. I spent a large part of his first year just going through the motions, feeling like a failure and even resentful. Then the anxiety and shame over what I thought I should be doing kicked into overdrive and robbed much of my joy.
During this time, I also worked with families involved with the Department of Family Services providing in-home, intensive family therapy. After a couple of miscarriages and another pregnancy, I took part in intensive therapeutic and parenting training that introduced me to how trauma affects brain development and regulation abilities in children. The light bulbs went off in my head like a fireworks display. So much of my life made sense and new connections were made. Then I had another traumatic labor, this time ending with a stillbirth.
WOW…talk about turning your life upside down…try holding a dead baby…your baby.
Although this was extremely painful, the perspective it gave me toward life and parenting was astounding. You can read more about my processing of stillbirth here. It encouraged me to truly process my grief, to dig deeper, try harder, and keep learning. I took more training on understanding brain development and healing trauma. Having a child actually gave me more compassion and understanding for the 24/7 demands of parenting and the complexities of the parent/child relationship.
I chose to put my relationship with my child first and take responsibility for getting my own and his vital needs met. I chose not to conceive again till I had no fears about the pregnancy and accepted the reality that I may never have another live birth. I did eventually go on to have a positive and empowering birth experience with my daughter who I had a home, water birth. I had to consciously filter out others’ opinions and outside influences to tune into my mind/body/soul connections and innate intelligence. I was better able to parent from my heart and less from my trauma.
My relationship with my children has been a mirror of my soul. The reflection is not always pretty, yet I can easily see when my intention, thoughts, feelings, and actions do not match and align with them. I am blessed to have 4 angels, 2 children, a supportive partner, and a peacefully chaotic family. As the more I focus my energy on the integrity of my relationships, the more I have of the gloriously harmonious days. Now don’t get me wrong, I am human and still have those other days yet they have shortened into moments, happen less often, and are easily remedied with a hug, silly face, or a happy song. I can truly feel how every day is a gift.
This has been more like my medium answer because honestly, I could go on and on about how evolutionary principles, attachment science, quantum physics, and a love-based paradigm shift could maximize human potential and heal the world…But I’ll just leave you with my poetic version of how parenthood changed me: