Steph is my name, don't wear it out
Who am I?
Is being a mom something you've always wanted? Were you that kid who walked around carrying every baby doll you could find, stuffing soothers in their mouths while braiding their barely hairy heads?
This WAS me. But is it me now? I’m an actor, an acrobat, a radio DJ but…am I really a mom?
35 weeks into pregnancy, this concept still hasn’t hit me fully.
For years, my identity has been wrapped up in being an athlete, being a performer and most importantly being a HARD WORKER. I’ve never felt good enough, so I’ve endlessly strived for success.
But what is success?
For many years, I thought success meant running myself into the ground for outside gratification I thought I craved but so quickly discovered that, in fact, it had kept me in the same place.
This need for success even led me to develop an eating disorder. One I was hospitalized for.
It was only last year, when I hit 30, that I started to understand what my life is truly about and what makes me tick. It led me to start thinking about #momlife.
I knew something was missing from my life, but what was it exactly?
Now, I’m not sitting here suggesting that having children can or should fill a void, but for me, being granted the opportunity to look after somebody other than myself for once gave me some serious goosebumps. The good kind.
Of course I’m scared, of course I have doubts. In fact, as I sit here writing this, my eyes can’t help but well up with tears. Am I capable of this?
I’m terrified that my body – the same one that’s been so kind to me for so long – won’t ever be capable of performing the way it used to. I’m terrified that the people pleaser in me will stop me from setting boundaries when it comes to raising my child. BUT, the one thing I do know is that I roll pretty well with punches and I’ve got a kickass partner by my side who’s ready to take on this challenge with me.
I would like to say that my journey to parenthood was planned. However, I really do feel everything happens for a reason.
You know when I said, I knew something was missing? Well, I think my body knew better than my brain in this case.
After struggling through an ectopic pregnancy just over a year ago, my body once again planted a seed, but this time in the right location.
This seed made its way past a blockade of synthetic hormones (aka birth control), and pleasantly surprised my partner and I.
I remember taking the pregnancy test, thinking it wasn’t possible. But I had all the signs. My boobs were swollen and my period hadn’t come. When I sas the double lines on that little pink stick, I knew I wasn’t seeing double.
We thought long and hard about whether or not we were ready, and whether or not we could handle such a feat. Once we started turning our brains down a notch and our hearts up one, we knew the answer.
You know that saying “your baby chooses you, chooses your soul?” Well, whether or not that’s true, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I knew I had “proven” myself many times, I knew it wasn’t making me happy, so why not try something new? Why not open my heart to another life and help it grow, thrive and show it’s beauty to the world? And so my journey began.
So far, pregnancy has taught me a lot. One of the hardest lessons has been learning to take a step back. To live in the moment. And to be honest. This is something I’ve NEVER been very good at.
Throughout this journey to becoming a mom, I've had people tell me "just embrace this less busy time in your life" or "give yourself permission to rest". But given my hard working nature, this isn’t something I’m familiar with.
Having been a dancer, rhythmic gymnast and pretty high academic achiever most of my life, all I knew was hard work. The harder you work, the more you achieve, the less you work, the less you achieve, right? There was no such thing as taking breaks and this toxic way of thinking followed me into my 20s and even into my early 30s.
I’d like to say I’ve learned to rest, have a balance and take steps back when needed, but in reality this is still something I was still struggling with every single day.
Now, whether I like it or not, resting has become my reality – especially throughout this final trimester. I constantly have to remind myself that I'll get back to doing the things I love one day, and sitting back and just embracing the ride can be liberating in many ways.
Just yesterday, I sat on the couch, called my sister and shook as I told her how scared I am to be a mom. I cried, said I’d been mourning my twenties, and said that even at the age of 31, I feel like I’m still stuck as a 24 year old.
There are still so many things I want to do, and so many things I thought I would have already done. Done more work as an actor, traveled to India, taken up horseback riding. But then my sister reminded me of something: your life doesn’t end when you have a child, it just brings about a new chapter. Sure, there’s a new human in the mix, but why should that stop you from fulfilling your dreams?
I’ve seen many moms lose themselves in being a parent. They forget what they enjoy, forget how to be a friend or a partner. I’ve been scared of this becoming my reality, but I don’t think it has to. After all, wouldn’t being fulfilled make you a better mom?
Looking into the future
Being in the home stretch of my pregnancy, I’m looking into the future with fear but also with sheer and utter bliss. What aspects of my partner and I will our daughter emulate? How will I feel when she graces us with her very first smile? Who will she become?
On the more shallow side of things, I’m looking forward to being able to easily sit down and tie my shoes again, or prop myself up out of bed without performing several different maneuvers. I’m also ecstatic at the idea of reintroducing weekly runs with my sister into my schedule.
Speaking of my sister, she has been my main support system throughout this journey. Everybody needs one. Whether it’s your bestie, mom or a community of mamas like the ones I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know throughout our bi-weekly Mama Meetups.
You see, for so long I held on to the expectation that my friends and I would all press a magic button and get pregnant at the exact same time. We’d shed hormonal tears together, share swaddling wraps we’d perfected and talk “all things baby, all the time”.
But unfortunately this kind of thing happens mainly in rom-coms, and certainly hasn’t been my reality. Which is why I think our Meetups are such a great resource for mamas looking to connect with other like-minded mamas.
At this stage in my pregnancy, I’m overcome with the excitement of connecting on a deeper level with the mamas who have transitioned from pregnancy into the early stages of motherhood. The ones who have patiently cooked babies in their bellies for 10 months and are now facing the trials and tribulations of motherhood.
So far, I have learned so much from these ladies, but I can’t wait to share and contribute my own experiences as a new mom. From changing diapers to breastfeeding tips and tricks, let’s get to know one another on a deeper level.
If you want to expand your community of strong, powerful mamas and share your story, join our bi-weekly Mama Meetups every Tuesday at 1 PM EST.
I’ll leave you with a concept that’s been motivating me lately. It’s one that implies nothing is permanent, everything ebbs and flows: If you think of your life like a book, each page being one day of your life, that’s a pretty big book, right? Well, on the days that feel hard, just remember this day is only ONE page of your book. We are strong and can face much more than we think we’re capable of.