Giving birth to my daughter I thought would save me from a really hellish, long, exhausting, painful and really annoying pregnancy. After spending the majority of the 9 months on bed rest, I was excited to regain my life again. Little did I know that over four years later, I’d still be in pain. Still, although it’s been a long, arduous journey, I’m beginning to feel like I’m emerging from the fog. The pain and the constant need to put my daughter first took me on a journey away from myself and into a coping pattern that I feel is beginning to break.
Something of myself was lost in that delivery. It’s difficult to explain how it happened, really, but I think the combination of constant horrific pain, extended sleep deprivation and massive depression just sucked away a little bit of my soul. I write this now in a mildly sleep-deprived state, so I won’t express it as well as I’d like, but essentially I forgot some of myself. Part of me evolved into another person, constantly obsessed with pain management and entirely devoted to my daughter’s well-being. At the same time, as I began building a career around blogging and writing from bed, much of the work I took on came by chance rather than any particular plan I might have intentionally hatched on my own.
Now my daughter is becoming her own person, and through her independence I’m finding some of my own again. Sleep has been incredibly important in this journey, because even though I am still in pain probably 80% of the time, I’m much more conscious of where I’m going and why. Professionally I have some amazing opportunities, but due to my physical limitations, I remain unable to take on all that I’d like in that respect. Still, it’s better for my health and for my daughter that I don’t work that much and I appreciate on a minimal level being forced to make realistic decisions for my family.
What I lost on bed rest though was a sense of long-term focus. People would ask me what I want to do next in my career or in my life and I’d just say “whatever doesn’t hurt” or “whatever allows me to have schedule flexibility” rather than anything I might actually want for myself. In the past I would harass my husband for not knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his career and he’d just go from job to job following an interesting product or group of people rather than taking time for himself to challenge his dreams. Now I get how that happens. And for someone who is “multi-passionate,” as a friend once termed me, I’ve always had a difficult time limiting myself. It doesn’t help that self-confidence was never my strong suit, and being temporarily disabled doesn’t lend itself to increasing that metric.
I don’t want it to seem like I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile, however. I semi-anonymized this blog for search purposes, but many of the readers know who I am. You know I’ve been able to do some really amazing things over the past four years and I value those opportunities and experiences highly. But as I may have mentioned before, as cool as it was to be in the White House, I was in chronic pain in the White House, and I was unable to completely take in the whole experience like I would have otherwise. In fact, not much impresses me these days. I get the biggest highs off the rare days where I have almost no pain and can live a regular life and do things I love like skating.
So now I’m not sure where I’m going next. I still have pain, but I’m establishing a bit more independence of thought and ambition. I want to tackle the pain, but it’s not worth becoming a zombie for months on end and losing my newly regained mental freedom. And it may be worth noting that I’ve been getting out a bit more lately physically too. Physical freedom also feels nice.
Now I look at my life and my family and I feel like I should take a moment to reveal to myself what should come next. There are wondrous possibilities – more time with our daughter, starting a flexible company on my own terms, perhaps writing a book, maybe even taking a much needed vacation. What I remember of “me” may not be totally reborn yet (mostly because it never totally died in the first place), but I do have some ideas gestating that I hope will take shape. The real challenge will be finding that elusive solution to diminishing the pain for good while trying to hold onto this new-found sense of self. Stay tuned.