December 16, 2016: Members Only – Part I

I’m Finally a Part of The Club

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Photo Date: December 6, 2016
Wet hair wrapped up in a white towel turban upon my head, small droplets of water beading off my skin, I move my face close to the mirror until my breath starts to fog it up and peer into my own eyes: “I’m still the same. Aren’t I?”

Looking deeper inside myself I peel back layer by layer of who this new self is in this same body and soul. Are my core values the same? Two months ago they had been: kindness, other centeredness, faithfulness, leadership, and resourcefulness. But something has shifted. I don’t feel as kind anymore, I feel protective and hesitant to trust. Other centeredness is now the top of the list with that center being this delicate, little baby who I will kill for. Not quite the same sentiment as before. The same goes for being a faithful and resourceful leader. It’s all focused on something so much bigger than me now. It’s all for her.

There is this different essence of Self. Partner. Mother. I’m one, all, and the same. And it’s confusing as hell as I maneuver through this myriad of strong emotions and feelings brought on by extreme hormone shifts, combined with long-term sleep deprivation, and heightened alertness at every turn. There is no more place of rest, I feel on edge and ready to react in any situation. I know it will get better. They say weeks 6-8 are the hardest, and I believe Them.

Photographer LaRae Lobdell and her daughter, Miami FL, December 6th, 2016

 

Who are “they” that I am referring to here? I’ll tell you.

“They” are The Club.

I first noticed The Club about 30 years ago in the lounge area of the women’s restroom at my church. A few select women gathered around a new mother crying while nursing her baby on an aged, threadbare sofa, whispering advice, giving gentle touches on her shoulder, quietly praying for her spirit to be lifted as they walked past her. Any woman who wasn’t married or had children wasn’t allowed in this circle. Including my 10-years-old self. We weren’t just ignored, we were given sharp glances and stiff body movements telling us, without using words, to not say a peep and to keep on walking.

The Club became more in focus and crystal clear in my 20s and 30s as my two sisters started having babies. Then my younger cousins began their families. In the span of thirteen years, our family welcomed a total of 16 beautiful children and family gatherings became very large events filled with crying babies, giggling toddlers, and mischievous tweens. At first I was so excited to see everyone, to hold the babies, to feel connected and important to them as an auntie. However, trying to connect with the women I grew up with was different somehow. I couldn’t understand their conversations, wasn’t able to identify with their feelings of physical and mental change, and I must admit that I was so incredibly self-centered that I ended up being completely incapable of empathizing with their tears of frustration, joy, and family pride that seemed to glue them together in a way that I couldn’t possibly comprehend.

As these get togethers started incorporating their friends’ with children, my place in the social dynamic shifted big time. Feeling my body ache from head to toe for one of these kids of my own yet not being able to have one, made it difficult for me to even try and talk with the moms – my sisters, cousins, and friends. It was just impossible for me to connect with what they were saying and to understand the strong, and very evident, bond they all shared. Their birth stories, battles with toddlers, experiences in overcoming the challenges of a second, third, and even fourth babies. They were always so sweet and welcoming, trying to understand what it was like for me to put career first in life, but I knew I just didn’t belong in the group. Trying to remain a part of my family but not knowing where I belonged as the spinster, I ended up gravitating to playing with the kids or hanging out with the guys. Most the time, I just bounced around from group to group, pretending to be a part of one and all of them. Feeling completely awkward and utterly out of place, I nearly always planned my visits short by arriving late and leaving early.

Then I moved across the country and got pregnant at 40. I had a baby. Everything changed.

To be continued in Part II http://shadesofrae.com/members-only-part-ii/

Photographer LaRae Lobdell and her daughter, Miami FL, December 6th, 2016

Photographer LaRae Lobdell and her daughter, Miami FL, December 6th, 2016

Photographer LaRae Lobdell and her daughter, Miami FL, December 6th, 2016