I had forgotten what tremendous upheaval a pregnancy triggers in one’s life – feelings, sensations, emotions, thoughts (hormones) turned upside down and inside out. I seem to recall my first pregnancy being more magic and sparkles than upheaval, but perhaps my recollection has faded. What is burning ferociously in my memory is the immense suffering that I’ve endured over the past 10 weeks and how much worse it was for me the second time around.
So there I was with a broken back, lying in the bed of a third-world medical clinic - still in my bikini, still caked in sand. And there I would stay for the next two days, with minimal food or water, before being strapped to a backboard for 15 hours (the second most agonizing experience of my life) and airlifted home over 1500km away.
Each and every one of us has a story; a story that largely defines who we are, a story that would fill the pages of a book. Sometimes there is one key turning point in life that changes the course of one's life. Sometimes it is a chain of events. Often there is a decision involved; a risk that is taken, a mistake that is made. The path of my life - at one point (restlessly) comfortable and predictable - was drastically altered as a result of one big mistake that I made, followed by an unforeseen and devastating event that cost four lives. Here is my story.
One child or two? Or more? (forget it) In my case, once Ian and I decided to have children, we pretty much knew from the start that we would have two. My four-day labour did its level best to persuade me otherwise. But once I overcame the post-labour night terrors that afflicted me every time I thought about going through THAT again (actually, I still suffer from occasional labour terrors… what was that thing people say about forgetting the pain once the baby arrives? SO NOT in my case!), having number two was right back on the agenda. So the next question was, when?
In the past few weeks I have read half a dozen articles that all share the same theme: Generation X women have largely chosen their careers over having children. The articles have appeared in the New York Times, Fox News and of course the prominent Mommy Blogs. This current chatter has been inspired by a study that concluded that up to 43% of Generation X women have remained childless. While that number seems unfathomably high to me, I would concede that Gen X women have certainly had more choice in the matter - and substantially more freedom to exercise that choice - compared with previous generations. Did YOU ever consider, really consider, not having children?
The Power of Now. Living in the moment. Carpe diem! Ok you get the point. These phrases (among many others which will go unmentioned here I'm afraid) compose the background drumbeat of my conscience: always reminding me to enjoy each moment of life and returning my focus to what is important in my little world. Of course I am not Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle or a Buddhist monk so in my opinion I am never quite present enough. I always get caught up in unproductive mortal emotions such as anger (if that drink cup falls on the ground spilling milk ONE more time!) impatience (when IS he going to walk through that bloody door!) frustration (I've tried and tried and tried and still the stupid thing won't go!) and too many others to itemize in such a short post.
However there are those spontaneous moments in the day that happen to snap me back to the absolute perfection of the present. More effective than any self-talk or meditation could accomplish, these are the moments that laser-focus my attention, sharpen my senses and dull out the world around me. These are the moments that I live for. Here are my favourites these days:
Sleep has always been tricky for me. Even as a child I can remember lying awake for hours in the silence of night contemplating the size of the universe, the existence of God, and the presents I might get for my birthday. It didn’t happen every night and my energy levels during the day were largely unaffected, so this occasional insomnia was not a crisis in my life. A crisis it became though, once my post-baby sleep deprivation dragged me into the depths of depression and sleep was my only lifeline.
During my first 18 months as a mother, being a mum was my job. Sure, I had part-time work outside the home when I wanted it and I had opportunities to pursue my career and intellectual pastimes at my leisure, but for that first year and a half it wasn’t my income that put food on the table, it was my partner’s. My job was to raise my son, and I loved it. But there were those times when I ached for the freedom that Ian still had in his life and I was truly envious of his autonomy in going to work each day, collaborating with friends and colleagues, advancing his career interests and interacting with the world at large. I often wondered, “When will I have my chance again?” Well, I’ve just had it.
Well, we did it. Ian and I swallowed our fears, psyched ourselves up into a state of frenzy and forked out our cash. We kissed our son goodbye trying our best to conceal our tears and flew off to Alaska to fulfil our 7-year dream of heliskiing together at the top of the world. What a week. I wish I could tell you it had been the experience of a lifetime and that all the effort and heartache that preceded the trip was worth it. I wish I could tell you that we unequivocally made the right choice in going. I wish I could say that we had no regrets. Unfortunately, I can’t.
Taking calculated risks is an inherent part of life. Some are extraordinary risks such as taking part in an extreme sport or hazardous occupation while others such as boarding a flight, driving a car or crossing a busy road may be more mundane but are risks just the same. As we age, our awareness of risk becomes more acute and our tolerance for certain types of risk adjusts in response to our shifting values and priorities in life. So what about motherhood? Does motherhood change our perspectives on risk? Are there things you used to enjoy in life that you have since eliminated because of the perceived risk to yourself or your family?
Extrovert or introvert: which one are you? Although we all exhibit characteristics of each from time to time, most of us would identify more strongly with one personality trait over the other. For me, although I certainly have my extroverted moments I have always been the most comfortable and happy in my introverted self. From the shyness I felt as a child to the awkwardness of my teenage years and continuing into adulthood, I have never relished being the center of attention, never sought out leadership or management positions and would much rather observe group dynamics than participate in them.
Now here’s the next question: has motherhood changed your introversion or extraversion tendencies?
It is a wondrous force of nature and it awes me: the lengths that mothers will go to protect the interests and happiness of their children, often to the detriment of their own comfort. Even me; despite my tendency to be uber-attentive to my own needs over those of others, I am no exception to the rule when it comes to my child.
Having recently completed a harrowing airplane journey half-way around the world with my partner and 19-month old son, I had ample opportunity to discover precisely what measure of discomfort I would shoulder in order to relieve that of my child’s.
Looked death in the eye. Then never looked back. I left the city for the mountains. Left the corporate world for the ski industry. Met the man of my dreams. Gave birth to my heart and soul. Juggling mummyhood, skiing, consulting and blogging. Loving it.