The childless version of myself died suddenly, at age 29, from complications of bringing new life into the world.
By her mid 20s, she had achieved her dream of writing professionally in the greater Fort Worth area. An endurance athlete, she also pursued enriching pastimes of cooking for and traveling with her beloved husband before passing away into distant memory.
She vanished overnight along with her hobbies. Immediately upon giving birth, she lost herself in the relentless demands of motherhood. The new role of full-time caregiver snuffed all former identities of writer, runner, lover, and chef.
She is survived by a shadow of her former self.
Where she once passed the hours in training for her perfect 10-minute mile, the now-bereaved version of herself loses hours to nursing, soothing, and diaper-changing. An abbreviated jog in the park with fussy children is her only exercise.
Carefully portioned mise en place in the kitchen gave way to indiscriminate volumes of breastmilk — mostly vomited up by a colicky infant. Meanwhile, hastily prepared foods are sure to be rejected by a picky toddler. She no longer takes joy in disastrous mealtimes.
Shared passion with her husband withered into anemic dialogue of daily have-done’s and to-do’s. She is far too tired — and far too aware of her spare inches and pounds — to consider intimacy.
What was lean and strong became soft with neglect. What was once bright and energetic became slow. Drive became drudge.
Efficiency devolved into survival.
In life, she marked success in measurable results. But the bereaved redefines success as a mediocre routine, endlessly repeating while days and nights blur into weeks and months. The result of her daily efforts cannot be measured across the scope of years separating her from socially functioning, adult offspring.
In the absence of such an observable outcome, the bereaved struggles to place her identity. She knows now that her departed self never truly rooted her identity in things unshakeable (her heavenly Father who created her to live in worship), but in circumstances she could control: routine, fitness, and work output. As a mother, the bereaved finds herself without control over these things.
She is pulled between simultaneous grief of mourning the woman who used to be, and guilt for not treasuring the woman she has become. (Of course, she treasures the little ones for whom she has become this new version of herself.) Because loss of former self is bitter. But the gain of new purpose is sweet. And nothing is more worth learning to die for than the little ones who call us Mama.
The bereaved is consoled to think that one day she may glance over at her daughters to find her sacrifice — of time, energy, and mental and physical self — has paid out in the blossoming of strong, driven young women. Until that day, the loss feels as endless as the diaper changes.
My childless self is preceded by countless women who laid aside hopes and aspirations — and often any vestige of sanity — to faithfully raise their families. In lieu of flowers, the bereaved requests contributions of grace, affirmation, and, if possible, an occasional personal day.