I’m coming out of the fog.
The fog of new motherhood. The fog of isolation. The fog of memory loss and forgetfulness and of being overwhelmed by simple asks. The fog of sleep deprivation and arriving late every place I go. The fog of unmet expectations from myself and inability to get my unwilling body to look like it used to. The fog of guilt for needing time away. The fog of having nothing left. The fog of a disconnected marriage. The fog of feeling unprepared and unwilling. There were times I thought that the fog would last forever.
But slowly. Over the past year, I’ve been coming out of the fog.
The past eight years of my life have been consumed by creating human life inside of my body and then making survival of those lives a reality. I’ve been a living sacrifice that has required pouring out of my body, my mind and my soul to sustain the lives of three other tiny souls. I’ve laid down my love for my career, for traveling the world, for last-minute plans and unstructured living. Even if I hadn’t laid these things down and let them go, I’d have reprioritized them in such a way that would be unrecognizable to my pre-motherhood self. I’ve realized that the holiest work I’ve ever done in my life is loving, protecting, teaching and nurturing my own three children. The sacrifices required so that I could do this holy work are peanuts. But sacrifice of this nature is still hard and can feel foggy, disorienting and frustrating. Yes?
Oh, but there’s joy in the fog.
There’s moments of pure bliss and endorphin rushes and the desire to remember this exact moment for the rest of my life. Introducing a toddler to his new baby sister. Watching first steps. “I love you mama” as he drifts off to sleep in his big boy bed. Those moments change us from the inside out. There were times I sat rocking a baby in a dark, quiet room, begging myself to remember the way it felt to have the weight of this precious little body on my chest, rising and falling, mouth open with warm breath on my cheek. Because those moments are fleeting and cannot be manufactured later. The joy of new life inside of you. The kicks and rolls and elbow nudges. How can you describe this accurately to another? The celebration of milestones, new skills, shared adventures. But despite the joys and the bliss, I was afraid the fog would last forever.
I was afraid I’d never have my feet underneath me again. I was afraid I’d always forget the extra change of clothes. I’d always be asking to borrow bug spray and sunscreen and baby wipes. I’d be late everywhere for the rest of my life and I’d always be the one overwhelmed because I signed up to bring paper napkins to the preschool Christmas party. I’d always have the kid who wouldn’t sleep through the night. I’d be the one who forgot to wear deodorant and didn’t care that my kids shoes were on the wrong feet. (I actually still don’t care about this). Yes there was a time that I thought the fog would last forever and that it had changed me indefinitely for the worse.
Yes, the fog changed me indefinitely.
But not for the worse. It grounded me. It exposed my mistaken identities, the things I’d been running after for far too long that were neither satisfying nor life-giving. It revealed how I’d spent years convincing myself that I was self-sufficient on my own. The lie that “I could handle anything” came toppling down. The fog brought fears to the surface that I didn’t know I had. And I had to deal with them. For the first time in my life. The fog forced me to prioritize life in a new way. It caused me to take a hard look at what things I’d been holding up on a pedestal for so long.
There’s nothing like clarity in the middle of the fog.
And now…my youngest one is almost three. We sleep all night long. We have caught our breath. As a family, we have margin for extra things and we’re rarely late to the places we go. I don’t forget about Halloween parades and birthday party gifts anymore. I can chaperone a field trip and have friends over after school. It’s not overwhelming to think about cooking a meal for a neighbor or taking a day trip to see family. I always have an extra change of clothes and remembered to bring sunscreen. Life is easier to navigate when you’re not surrounded by fog. It’s even possible to look forward and see further out that just the next 24 hours. You can make plans and get excited without fearing the disappointment of last minute cancellations because the baby didn’t nap well and we need to stay home. In the fog, you’re day to day. Nothing can be certain.
But when you step out of the fog, not only can you look forward more clearly, but you can look back and see it for what it was. You can see others who are still surrounded. Still struggling. Still sleep-deprived, covered in the body fluids of another, and surviving one day at a time.
Friend, if you’re in the fog right now, hear this. The thing we know about fog is that it always lifts. When the sun rises, the fog dissolves and we can see that the steps we took while we were in the fog actually did get us somewhere. It’s okay that you’re in the fog even though it feels like it’s not. I know it feels like you should be able to force your way through and handle all the things. It’s okay that you can’t. It’s okay to sign up to bring paper napkins. It’s okay to not sign up at all. One day you will again. It happens for everyone at different times, so try not to compare. That’s not fair to you.
And let’s be real, a new fog will come someday. There will be new struggles and new phases of parenting and new joys and bliss’s in each season. Fog doesn’t look the same in each season, but when it lifts, there you are. And there you were the whole time.