How does one realize they have become an adult? This is a serious question because sometimes I still wonder if I really have become an adult already (less and less so, but once in a while). Next week, I will be turning 37 and I think that is why my mind is steering me towards a lot of self-reflection lately. 37 is just another number, but it sounds so far from 30, so near 40, and yet ages from 60. This is my middle life, beginning. And I have been blessed that I am a wife and a mother - two things I wasn’t sure I was going to be, back when I was in my 20s. But here we are!
As I near my 40s, I find myself taking stock of who I am and who I have been. Always just Olivia, but never quite the same. People are like rivers that way. They may stay exactly where they are, but never the same as the waters passing through it only pass once. I was shy Olivia before I became the angsty Olivia, who then gave way to the intellectual snob but softened to just a nerdy and world-curious young adult. I traveled and I met people from all walks of life and got good at a few things and gave up on other impractical things (like my imagined skills in singing and dolphin training). Then I fell in love which colored my world rose pink, then quite unexpectedly, I became a mother. My rose pink world faded as new colors burst through my world. They were intense and sharp colors, not all of them to my liking, but there they were.
And now my question has changed. When did you realize you were a mother? Because for me, it wasn’t when I was pregnant. It wasn’t when I was puking my guts out, or spending months on my back trying to avoid a miscarriage. It wasn’t approximately 7pm of February 27, 2016 when my son arrived in the outside world and I held him in my arms. It wasn’t the moment my husband and I nervously stepped out of the wings of St. Luke’s with the full knowledge we are now responsible for the survival of a mewling. It still didn’t click even when I was feeding him from my breasts and changing poopy diapers. Don’t get me wrong, my brains knew I am a mother. My body is definitely aware it has given birth and have become worse for wear. But a mother-Mother who is like my Mother --- Me? It took a while. And even when it finally did, it took a while for it to settle in. I learned that knowing and fulfilling your responsibilities as a mother is just a small part of Motherhood. Although the responsibilities are hard it can be done on auto-pilot if needed. Yes, I am talking about all the lovely mothers out there changing peed-on bedsheets at 2am the world over. But something else inside has to change to be a good Mom. A part of you as a woman quiets down because the part that has to mother is just so freaking type A and there’s no space for someone else. Then, a couple years down the road, you are screaming to get those other parts back because you just know in your bones, your mind will disintegrate if you stay one more minute without those essential parts of yourself. Other experienced mothers have told you, don’t lose yourself. But there’s no signage, is there, when you are about to pass the boundaries? I can’t help but wonder if not all mothers have at one point lost themselves. Because it is really hard to contain the important bits of you together when you are trying to raise another human being. There were days I was literally hugging myself just to help me imagine my parts haven’t floated away altogether. Now I get it where the phrase “Keep it together” came from. So here I am.
A week before my birthday, I realize this is my time to consolidate myself. Not young anymore, but not yet too old either. I can feel the ache in my bones already, but I can also feel that I now own the space I occupy in the universe. This Olivia is not the same Olivia last year, but nor is she the Olivia next year. Because that Olivia will hopefully be a bit more wiser, a little more light-hearted, and a whole lot better as a mother, a wife, a person, a soul.