“The you before kids is still in there.” I’m sorry, Instagram, but no, she is not.

This article is by Abigail Brougher:

In the past fourteen months I have started a degree, I have quit a job, I have left the home I knew and returned to a home I knew before. I have become a mother.

I have changed.

I have not changed altogether willingly. I know that some move away for new adventures. I know some take on challenges with gusto. I know some welcome children with grace and excitement.

I have never been one of those people.

I wept when I left the home we just sold, even though I knew it was time to go. I didn’t feel I was a mother until my midwife told me to reach down for my baby, until I saw him, until I knew his name. I didn’t turn in my last timesheet and walk into the sunset, I closed my computer and blinked — what now? I have required change to yank me over the edge; I have never surrendered to it.

This kind of change squeezes you through a tube. You have to contort, to adjust, to shapeshift your life and your perspective and your habits.

I was afraid that motherhood would change me. That it would change my marriage, my dreams, my future. And it has, of course. This you know, if you’re a parent. But if you’re not a parent I think you might know, too. It’s not parenthood. It’s any change, in and of itself.

Transitions are inherently disturbing because we’re afraid of what we’re losing, we’re afraid that different might be worse. We’re afraid of our relationships changing. We’re afraid that when a friend gets married or gets pregnant or moves away or changes jobs or changes their mind that they will be so intrinsically different that they won’t be compatible with us anymore.

I have spent more than a year terrified of change. And yet, one month after leaving what was home, three months after leaving a job that gave me immense purpose, fourteen months after becoming a parent, I am left with this fact: I am different. My fearsome truth is that I don’t remember what it felt like to be the me of two years ago. I don’t remember what it felt like to share her motivations, to move about my day like her. I don’t know how to get back to her. We have a lot in common. We would be friends; we would understand each other. But we are not the same person.

I have seen Pinterest quotes about this; I have seen encouragement to moms on Instagram: “The you before kids is still in there.”

I’m sorry, Instagram, but no, she is not. Or if she is, she is dormant; she has been starved.

Have you ever asked yourself, is the me before the trauma really still in there?

Is the me before the career change really still in there?

Is the me before the loss really still in there?

And what if they’re not? What if that would be to deny the power of the event, the ways you chose tenacity and cleverness and grace and joy and honesty, because change demanded it of you?

And what if that’s ok?

I’ve wrestled with this, I’ve let it be the knitting hook that wove knot after knot in my stomach. I’ve let it be the nag that screams in my head that I will lose my friends, my network, I will lose what makes me me.

But it hasn’t.

There’s an idea associated with this in the Bible — sanctification. It’s the idea that over the course of our lives, the miracle of grace pushes the needle more often in the direction of wisdom and maturity. It’s the idea that God does not leave us where we are, that the accumulated sedimentary deposits of time have been molded and shaped into something new. Leaving an old self behind is not something to regret, because sometimes letting the old things die is precisely how we move toward what we need to become.

And this is the truth: sometimes the fears surrounding change will come to fruition. Sometimes the different feels worse for a time. Sometimes the inertia of my change is not compatible with the inertia of my friends’ changes. Sometimes this looks like suffering and awkwardness. Sometimes this looks like goodbye. And sometimes this looks like momentum toward something new, something wonderful, in ways that you never could have expected.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, I encourage you with this: letting an old self go is not a selfish act. It’s not even a courageous or valiant act or a self-righteous one, it might be even simpler than any of that — maybe it’s just opening up to the way things are supposed to be. If you’re exhausted by resisting change, by holding onto a version of your past self because you’re afraid of what you’ll lose, what other option is there but surrendering to the inevitable? The death of the old is necessary for the new life to abound.

Perhaps this inclination toward change is rooted in an ancient and sacred idea of God making you more like himself.

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5 responses to “Ch-ch-ch-Changes”

  1. CJ says:

    I really relate to this abigail… What a hopeful word. thanks!

  2. Pierre says:

    “Sometimes the inertia of my change is not compatible with the inertia of my friends’ changes. Sometimes this looks like suffering and awkwardness. Sometimes this looks like goodbye.”

    That’s precisely why it’s tough to be on the other side of someone else changing… I’ve had this happen a lot with friends who have had kids. Inevitably it changes their lives a lot, and those changes often look like reorienting their relationships around people who do because they can deeply relate. But since I don’t have kids, I’m often the kind of person from whom they’re growing apart. There’s nothing really to be done about it from my end, unfortunately. I try to stay connected and involved, and sometimes it kind of works, but not always. Usually I’m the one who has to keep up the effort (which I get), but reading a piece like this makes me wonder if I’m holding them back. I don’t know what the right balance is. If the old “you” no longer exists, and that old you is the person I connected with, is there value in trying to stay in touch with the new “you”?

  3. Abigail Brougher says:

    Hi, Pierre! I don’t often respond to comments but yours is so important I wanted to reply.

    I don’t mean for this piece to be so related to the transition to parenthood; it’s just one example of big changes on the path to sanctification. I think that, in all likelihood, as parenthood may be an important step in all of our sanctification (including that of your friends,) your relationship to them does not have to be a casualty! I hoped to suggest in this piece that while sometimes the old things have to die, we also go through the uncomfortable work of changing as we grow more like Christ alongside each other. I hope it’s redemptive to think of your friends’ change as a work of sanctification in their lives that you can encourage & bear witness to (as I’m sure is happening in your life as well!) rather than arbitrary change.

    Sometimes that means goodbyes, as I suggest. But not all the time!

  4. Ofelia Eckert says:

    Really feeling this as I have become a caregiver recently to my mother who is at a moderate stage of dementia. In the midst of the struggle. This was extremely encouraging. Thank you!

  5. Amanda McMillen says:

    This is so beautiful – thank you!

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – Aaron Zimmerman

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