How time away renewed me in my roles as spouse and mother.
My son is about to turn two in just a few short weeks. What?! How and when did that happen? I can remember the night he was born like it was yesterday.
In the grand scheme of things, two years is not a very long time at all, but in the life of a baby, two years is the difference between being a helpless adorable blob to a speaking, walking, climbing person who can feed himself, sleep through the night, and build incredibly giant Lego towers, among other things. So, in that sense, two years is a very long time.
Two years also feels very long indeed when I look back at my pre-motherhood self. She seems very far away, blissfully unaware of how her sleep patterns will be forever altered, her hip circumference forever increased, and her heart forever breaking and healing in the endless cycle of joy and agony that is parenting.
I wonder if my partner remembers his pre-baby spouse or if she too is a distant memory? The one with whom he could enjoy long lingering dinners over a bottle of wine, who could remember even the smallest details, and who had seemingly endless time and energy for others.
My partner, perhaps because he knew I needed it or perhaps because we were both wondering if pre-baby me was still out there somewhere, sent post-baby me away on a trip to help celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. It was a big birthday and a big trip. The longest I have ever been away from my son was for about 36 hours and a 3-hour train ride away. This time it was 10 days and a 9-hour plane ride away.
How did it feel? At first, terrifying. The train ride to the airport was a constant effort to suppress a panic attack. As I arrived at the airport and moved through checking in and security I kept asking myself, “Am I really doing this? Am I going to get on that plane?” Well, get on I did. And I flew over the sea and through the air until I landed in another country and into the arms of my dear friend.
In my pre-marriage pre-baby life she and I traveled quite a bit together. It only took a few moments in that airport Starbucks, awaiting our connecting flight, for parts of my old self to emerge. And as the hours and days passed and turned into a little over a week of time away from my blessed life, more and more of my old self became unburied.
For the first time in two years, I remembered what it felt like to not have the responsibility of physically and emotionally caring for both myself and a small human. I did not have to be nonstop mentally and emotionally present for my son or my husband. I could daydream and get lost in thought and sleep in and linger over breakfast and read a book. I read a whole book, people! And it didn’t have anything to do with eating or sleeping or pooping or playing! I had lengthy uninterrupted conversations with my friend about life and the world and pop culture. And I also talked to her a lot about my son and my partner, my joys and challenges, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes and fears for our family.
When I first agreed to go on this trip, I was terrified that I would spend the entire time feeling guilty and worried. I had fleeting moments of both emotions, but overall I experienced a spaciousness in my breath, in my mind, and in my heart that I desperately needed.
Once you become a mother, you are forever changed. No amount of doing the things you used to do with the people you used to do them will result in you fully reverting to your old self. And who would want to? Your old self may have had fewer wrinkles and gray hairs, but she also didn’t know how great life was on this side. Ultimately, this trip helped me to reconnect with parts of myself that I missed, to appreciate how I’ve evolved and grown, and to recharge for life back in the saddle of parenting and working and existing within the framework of a family.
It also helped me to see my life as a mother and wife from a distance, a perspective we are rarely given a chance to enjoy. From a 9-hour plan ride and 10 days away, my life is not perfect, but it’s pretty great and it’s exactly where I want to be.
About V.K. Harber
V.K. Harber is a yogi, writer and mother of one. She is the co-founder and former managing director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center in Tacoma, WA, a non-profit yoga studio.She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea where she works as a yoga teacher and post-partum doula. (www.vkharber.com) She is also a contributing writer at World Moms Blog and can be found on twitter @VKHarberRYT.