Expanding

I find it interesting that when people find out you’re about to become a mother for the very first time, they will often say things like, “Get ready to never sleep again!” or “Life as you know it is over! It’s all about the baby now!”

While it may be true that every mom sleeps less and that so much of their life revolves around the baby, I find these statements to be untrue and misleading. They always sounds so foreboding and ominous. It is a fact that I sleep MUCH LESS than I did before, and some friends of mine who are mothers sleep even less than I do since our little guy has always been an abnormally great sleeper. I also think about Travis and his well being every second of my day.

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For instance, the past couple of weeks Travis has had a cough that has kept the both of us awake off and on throughout the night. After such erratic sleep, I still have to wake up around 5am, nurse him, get myself ready for work, pack the gazillion bags I now tote everywhere, commute 45 minutes to work, work for 8 hours or so while taking 2 breaks at work to pump, commute back, pick up Travis from daycare, nurse him again, make a healthy dinner since Chad and I are trying to be healthier, do dishes/wash bottles, throw a load of laundry in, get Travis ready for bed, nurse him again, and lay him down to sleep while I read homework for my graduate class while trying to keep my eyes open. (Disclaimer: Chad helps SO much in all of this busyness with the exception of nursing!)

What message wasn’t portrayed to me leading towards becoming a mother for the first time was how very joyous these things, among others, would be. When my boy wakes up from a coughing fit, he wants ME. He snuggles sweetly into my chest and immediately calms down. His breathing softens and deepens until we’re both back to sleep…at least until the next coughing fit. When I wake him up in the morning to nurse, he gives me the biggest sweetest smiles that remove all the exhaustion from my mind. I smile back with a soft, but enthusiastic, “Good morning, handsome!” When I pick him up from daycare, his eyes light up again. Someday soon he will reach his arms towards me and say, “Mama!” because we belong to each other. When I am giving Travis a bath, or reading him a book, or putting lotion on his dry winter skin before placing him in a clean pair of soft jammies, he wraps his chubby little fingers around my thumb and ‘talks’ to me about his day. He is my boy.

These things are incredibly exhausting, but – as everyone says – absolutely worth it. What has been the most unexpected thing is feeling as if who I am has expanded. I have not been replaced with a new version of myself; I have expanded to become something more than I once was. It is difficult to explain, but I still feel so much like myself and like someone else new on top of that. I am still a wife, a friend, a sister, a student, etc. I am just now also a mother on top of those things. I was tired before and I am tired now, but I am somehow now able to function better than I could have imagined on very little sleep. I am not just Travis’ mother; I am Tasha. Adding mother to the growing list of things that make up who I am has only expanded what I am capable of and it’s so much more than I thought was possible.

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It’s true that I hold more tightly onto my free time than before because I have less of it and that my priorities have understandably shifted, but that is mainly a dual combination of motherhood and graduate school – neither are for the weak! It used to bother me so much when people would say that being a mother is the greatest calling God could ever ask a woman to do. What an isolating and discouraging statement for those women who cannot have children of their own or who choose not to.

As many of you know, for the past 4 years I wasn’t sure if I would ever have my own children. The women in my life who haven’t or who have chosen not to are extraordinary women! They are passionate and ambitious and contributing so much to the world. Being a mother shouldn’t be this glorified status symbol that graduates someone to being a ‘real woman.’ Being a mother is just another role that some people get to add to the ever growing aspect of who they are. If I had never gotten pregnant, I would still be me and capable of doing extraordinary things for God and this world. I am still me; I am just also joyously responsible for loving and raising a chubby little 20lb version of myself (and Chad!) to be the best young man he can possibly be.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am surprised that I am still me. People made it seem like I would lose myself in motherhood, but I feel as if the opposite has happened and I feel more like myself than ever before. I still love to read. I still love to create and to write. I still love cats and to travel. I still struggle with all the same flaws I had before and I still value the same things I have always valued. I don’t just want to sit and talk about my baby all the time and nothing else – I’ve never wanted to be that person… But you can bet that the best part of my day now is getting off of work and picking up my sweet little boy and kissing his face.

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The journey to motherhood has made me stronger and becoming a mother has expanded who I am and what I am capable of….. It is certainly one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it is also one of the best things to have ever happened to me. It is a joyous gift, but not something I can place on a pedestal as some kind of ultimate achievement of identity or success. The only thing I can glorify is who I am in Christ. He is everything. I can’t be a mother without Him. I can’t be anything without Him. All that is mine – including Travis – belongs to Him and I don’t want to glorify what He has given me, but rather I want to glorify who He is through these things. He has expanded me to be and do more.

Travis is my gift, but Christ is my treasure.