I've been a mother since I was seventeen years old. Sixteen if you count the forty weeks I carried Q. Needless to say, I became a mother before I knew who I was. So, that became my identity. I was Q's mom and I was okay with that.
My life was filled with PTA board meetings, helping with homework assignments, sleepovers, working, juggling bills and worry. Constant worry about whether or not I was doing it right; the whole parenting thing. My greatest fear was failing as a mom. Every time I looked at Q, I wanted more for her. More joy, security, stability and experiences than I had. I wanted better for her and I would spend the next eighteen years trying to make that happen.
Over those years of mommy-ing I realized that parenting isn't a test. There is no pass or fail. You do the best you can and hope that all that you've instilled and invested in your child(ren) is enough for them to build upon in order to realize the dreams and goals they have for themselves.
So, here we are, almost 19 years since the doctor placed an 8lbs. 3oz. baby girl in my arms to have and to hold. Forever. [They say eighteen years, but it really is forever. lol] Q is now a second year college student, working and striving to grow two business endeavors that she launched. Not bad for the product of a teen mom.
Let's back up for a second. Last year, almost immediately after Q left for college, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. My adjustment to life as an empty-nester had to take a backseat, because there was a more pressing matter at hand. MY mom was dying...
And two and a half months later, she did. In 2016, on Thanksgiving Day, my mother took her last breath.
Earth shattering. Completely.
Do you remember when I said I didn't know who I was when I had Q? Her leaving the nest and my role as her mom requiring a less hands-on approach was going to force me to find out who I was and I was prepared to do that work. But THIS?! Losing my mom?! Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of heartache and devastation that would accompany such a loss. Not to mention the identity crisis. It was magnified now. If I'm not Q's mom and I'm not Jackie's daughter, WHO AM I? [Yes, I know I'm still Q's mom and I'm still my mother's daughter, but I think you understand what I'm saying.] Q was away at college and my mother was... gone. What now?!
I was lost....
I spent the next several months on a wave of extreme emotional highs and lows. I was bouncing between the joys of a new love and tremendous grief from losing my mother. More than anything, I was depressed. Talk about an emotional roller coaster.
*insert crying and overwhelmed emoji here*
Somewhere in all that I decided that I needed a fresh start. I was going to rent my house out and buy a new place downtown. Something in the heart of the City that fit my new empty-nester lifestyle. So, when I returned from a week long trip to Jamaica earlier this year, I put up a soft listing to see if there was any interest in my home. To my surprise, the response was overwhelming and I had several solid prospects for potential renters. I was nervous, but ready to turn the page... only I wasn't quite ready for the title of the next chapter.
I could not believe it, but after two tests and a visit to my doctor, it was confirmed. It was true. I was having another baby. After eighteen years.
I had so many emotions... and not only did I have my own thoughts and feelings to manage, I was also concerned with my daughter's and that of MANY others around me.
This pregnancy has not been all glorious bump pics and happy nesting. These last 9 months have been HARD! In addition to complications I've experienced, nearly every relationship/friendship that I once held near and dear to my heart has been tested. Some survived, the dynamics of others changed and sadly, some ended. I always thought it mattered most who stands with you in the rain, but I've learned that having people dance with me in the sun is equally important to ME. Be happy for my happy like I am for yours. [But that's another discussion for another day.]
What I've learned and really want to share is - before you become anything to anyone else, know who you are FIRST. I must have read some variation of that message a million times over my lifetime and I never fully understood it... until now. It's easy to get caught up in titles [mother, daughter, friend, lover, etc.], but when those people, roles and titles are gone, what's left? Who are you? What do you have to hold onto? For me, because I love so deeply and give so much of myself to others, it is devastating to be faced with an ending, loss and deep disappointment. Whether it's death, a breakup, a friendship gone bad or a little girl who grows up and leaves the nest, letting go of THEM can be extremely difficult when you don't have a hold on YOU. That was the case for me, because I never established who I was for myself BEFORE taking on those roles. So, I hadn't quite learned how to bring my whole being to the table without losing the parts that should be reserved for myself. [If that makes sense.]
While I consider this pregnancy and the opportunity to bring forth [another] life a tremendous blessing, it has also been a time to uncover one of my greatest revelations to-date - I don't know who I am. I have allowed life, its circumstances and the people around me to dictate that for me. However, I am now working diligently each day, with great intention to figure it out, and whoever I turn out to be, I hope it's someone I can be proud of and I promise to never, ever let her go.