The Dance of Selves: Moving through New Motherhood

Enter exhaustion, awe, irritation, fierce love, boredom. Cue coos, giggles, sobs, cries, and screams. All of this and more. Every day. Ceaselessly.

I've never done anything as constant as motherhood.

I remember in the early weeks, back in April when Roland came into the world, realizing, suddenly, about the vastness of Motherhood. The voraciousness of that identity. I will never not be a mother ever again. Dissertations end. Rehearsals culminate in a show. Semesters ebb and flow. But this--this--it is always and it is limitless. My mind has to adjust to a whole new plane of engrossed and involved. My emotional stamina has to build and expand.

As part of this evolution, I have been doing the dance of selves. My various identities shift in and out of focus. The wife, scholar, dancer, geek, laze, friend, sister, daughter. The Netflix addict and mimosa connoisseur. Each of these selves demanding something, starving to have her time center stage. That wholly visceral pulling, tugging as new corners of my identity reveal themselves.

Some of this is managed in very practical, terrestrial ways. A daily schedule. Coordinating carefully with JT. Planning deadlines with editors and co-authors. Saying no and being less than absolutely-undeniably-on-point (the standard at the center of my identity). Making time--every day--for something just for me. Some of this is managed in very, absolutely, entirely impractical ways. Scouring the internet for answers to just about every question (daily hiccups? blue rings around infant's eyes? when does a newborn change into an infant?) or singing ridiculous songs at the top of my lungs while firing off an e-mail with one hand.

There is something very honest about having a child. I cannot lie to Roland about who I am. I cannot sell him a narrative of self. I can only live who I say that I am day in and day out or not.

As part of that, I work to define my role as Mother while dancing her. Thank goodness for years of improv. The ability to respond suddenly and fully to spontaneous cues. I experiment with different boundaries and test myself. I ask to have my needs met and rely on others. I encounter feelings of guilt and gendered expectations and push into them. I try my best to love as much of it as I can.

How did I not know that Love like this could swallow me whole? That it could devour my separateness in a way that feels so right one moment and terrifying the next? 32 hours of labor was trying to communicate something to me. Maybe that this transition would not be quick, it would not be without suffering. That it would be beautifully difficult.

I remember the first few hours and days with him in my arms. Holding him and feeling devastated by Love. Floored by it. I still am. When he howls uncontrollably and I shush him with exhausted arms, thinking of pending deadlines and selfish urges. When he curls against my chest, warmth and sweetness embodied, and I feel time twist onto itself gently. And I feel meaning and yesterday and tomorrow all at once in the center of my chest. I imagine every moment that he will be here and close with me and fret over the moments when he won't be.

Thankful for time to continue to sort this out. For great Loves and supporters. For a sense of clarity and purpose. At the end of the day, a dancer isn't defined by perfect execution, but the intent and purpose behind each movement she makes. The commitment.

Is this what I have trained for all of these years?