By Amber Leventry
While lamenting a gynecologist appointment, I didn’t receive an ounce of sympathy from my partner, the woman who birthed our three children. She had been the one to be inseminated. She had carried our babies: our first child then a set of twins. She had felt them move and stretch inside of her, and she had labored and bled and sacrificed her body for them.
She has experienced both the joy and frustration of their clinginess as they hold onto her in instinctive ways — primal ways which make them choose her over me. I have accepted all of this, but above anything else will always love and admire her for this.
I never wanted to be pregnant; my biological clock ticked for a family and for children but not for pregnancy. Jokingly, I said it was because I could never give up my addiction to coffee or deny my love of beer for nine months. The most truthful answer, though, is that I didn’t want to pass on my genetics. Addiction and mental illness run through my veins and I was not going to be the one to pass those preexisting risks onto my children.
My lament over an annual pelvic exam wasn’t done in full honesty either; the appointment provided more than the Pap smear I needed. I was out of the house, in a quiet room, without children. I got to lie down. And I got to talk and to reflect, something I hadn’t done in the six months since our twins were born.
Of course, I had had an appointment scheduled with my therapist on the day my partner’s water broke, on the day the twins arrived but I obviously didn’t show. (With three kids under three, a new house, and a new life run on caffeine and grit, I just didn’t have it in me. It just didn’t have the time.) But I didn’t realize how much I needed and missed therapy until I was face-to-face with my gynecologist.
I didn’t realize how valuable that uninterrupted time was, to be asked questions by a professional bystander whose job (without making it feel like work) was to listen and provide gentle and encouraging observations.
Sometimes I get an uninterrupted shower or a quiet cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but there is little time during the day to be by myself. Just me. Not working me. Not social media me. Not mommy me. Not partner me. Not friend me.
We are all an accumulation of the places we have been and the people who we have met. Some of those places and people have formed the definition of who we are, and over time we have found a place to call home and people to call friends and family. And with each relationship formed and title added, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the layers of comfort and chaos.
Meeting my partner, who has seen more of my chaotic layers than she ever bargained for, was the first time I really felt connected to someone or something. She became my lifeline, my coming out party, my foundation. Becoming a parent also solidified my sense of self, an identity that fits outside of the binary, that doesn’t conform to what most women or mothers look like. Marriage and motherhood have grounded me, yet given me permission to change and grow into someone I can sit quietly and comfortably being.
Even though I was in the company of another adult, I was reminded of how important it is to strip away all roles and responsibilities and to just sit with the core of who I have become because of those things. I am certainly not the person I am today without my friends and family, and I can never fully shed the layers of my many relationships, but it feels good to analyze my place in my them, to better understand my contribution and theirs.
Some days I crave alone time more than others. On those days, the sound of crying children, nagging mental reminders not yet written down on a to-do list, and the noise of everyday life terrorize all of my senses. On those days I forget that what I need most is time to step away. That I am allowed to step away.
It’s really easy to lose yourself, especially when you become a parent. I have struggled to maintain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth while being home full-time with my kids, even while knowing I am a good parent. I have struggled to keep depression away, even while listing so many reasons to be happy. I have struggled to find the words to write my stories, even though the desire was pulsing on the tips of my fingers. I feel like I am playing a continuous and foolish game of personal hide and seek, analyzing and looking for something that is right in front of me.
Sometimes my children scream out that they have lost something. Their anxiety and blinding urgency don’t allow them to see that the object they are looking for has been next to them the whole time. When my doctor came into the room and asked me how I was doing, I felt the same way. The paper on the medical table crinkled and stuck to my legs, and I felt the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. I wanted to run, to escape this appointment and this question. But in the gentle and unrushed space provided in that room, I found the energy to stay.
I allowed myself to be both naked and uncovered.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amber Leventry is a writer and SAHM. She tries to be good at both each day, but never the twain shall meet. She lives in Vermont with her partner, the kids, and their attention deprived dog. Her writing appears on The Next Family, Parent.co, Scary Mommy, Sammiches & Psych Meds, BLUNTmoms, Huffington Post, and The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.