9 Ways My Kid Saved My Self-Esteem
I don't like to position my child as some kind of "savior" in my life. Honestly, that's not his job. He didn't come into the world in order to "save" me from something, and I didn't get pregnant in order to add some stability to my life. It's my job to take care of my child, not the other way around. However, motherhood has a weird way of re-prioritizing and re-structuring your life in a way that makes things crystal clear. So, in so many ways my kid saved my self-esteem. His presence in my life forced me come face-to-face with the undeniable fact that I matter and I am important and I am worthy of love.
Of course, procreation shouldn't be necessary in order for any woman to realize her self-worth, nor is procreation a necessity in order for a woman to have any worth. However, I grew up and survived an abusive environment and, as a child, being physically, verbally, and emotionally abused solidified what my toxic parent had convinced me of: I didn't matter. I have carried that message with me throughout my life, and it has been a hard message to shake. I could go to therapy (I have) and I could tell myself the opposite (I usually do) and I could be vigilant in self-care (I definitely try), but that toxic message has remained.
Then, well, my son was born. While he isn't a magical being capable of erasing my past, he has made my self-worth undeniably obvious. I know what I am capable of and that I deserve to love myself for everything I have done, everything I can't do, and everything I will do in the future.
He Reminded Me Of My Strength
It's sad that procreation was the big life-decision to remind me that I'm a strong, badass you-know-what, but it was. I have bungee jumped off bridges and pulled people from crashed cars and I've skied down mountains and done a slew of other things but, as a woman, it's easy to loose sight of your strength.
Bringing my son into the world was a steady reminder on how truly incredible and strong I am; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I could birth a baby into the world, while doing all the heavy emotional lifting that's involved.
He Made Finding My Voice A Necessity
While I have always been quick to speak up for other people, I usually stifled my voice when it had to do with sticking up for myself. I would be the first to advocate for my friends, but speak in a whisper if I felt someone was hurting me.
That changed when I was pregnant. Suddenly, I realized that if I wasn't OK, my baby wasn't OK. I needed to make myself a priority, which meant I needed to speak up and advocate for myself with no regrets or remorse. I became unapologetic in the space I took up, the tone and volume of my voice, and my beliefs. If I made someone upset when defending myself? Well, so be it.
He Gave Me A Newfound Love For My Body...
I have had a very complicated love/hate relationship with my body. I used it to play competitive basketball well into college, until I endured a devastating knee injury that made it impossible for me to run, let alone compete competitively. The body I once took pride in became a body I resented, and that didn't go away until that same body brought my son into the world.
I still struggle with my relationship with my body, to be sure, but it's really hard to hate the thing that is responsible for my son's existence. I love what my body can do, has done, and will do in the future. After all, it's the only body I have.
...And Reminded Me That What My Body Can Do Matters More Than What My Body Looks Like
I used to value my self-worth based on a number on a scale and the number on the tag inside my jeans. If I didn't fit within the narrow box society had defined as "beautiful," I felt as though I didn't matter. After all, if I couldn't use my body to play basketball or run or do one of the many active things I had grown to love as a kid, all that was left was for my body to look a certain way that made other people "happy."
Healthy, right? Well, my son took care of that by simply existing. When I was postpartum I didn't particularly care for my form, but I couldn't hate my body at all. I might not have liked how I looked, but how I looked no longer mattered. I brought a human being into the world. I was sustaining that same human being with milk my body was making. I was living on absolutely no sleep, still working, and caring for someone I had made. Who gives a sh*t how I look? I'm a badass.
He Reminded Me That I'm Important
Again, it's a damn travesty that it took procreation for me to remember that I matter. That I'm important. That I'm valuable. However, an abusive childhood will do that to a person, so it took a long time for me to realize that I am a person worthy of self-love.
So, the amount my son needs me has reminded me that I am an important, valuable human being. I am the reason my son exists. I am the reason he has continued to exist, and thrive, and learn, and be the happy, tantrum-throwing 2 year old he is.
He Reminded Me That I Need To Take Care Of Myself, First
Sadly, I took pride in playing the martyr. I thought the more I gave of myself, the better of a person I was proving I was. Sadly, I would give and give until there was nothing left of me, and that isn't healthy at all.
Motherhood has been a constant reminder that I cannot take care of someone else unless I take care of me, first. I need to be at my best and rested and healthy, so that I can care for others. I am a priority, and must remain my first priority if I am going to be the mom my son deserves.
He Made It Obvious That I'm More Than A Mother...
While it's easy to lose yourself in motherhood, my son has been a constant reminder that I am more than a mother, and a better mother when I also pay attention to all the other aspects of myself. When I make the time to also be a friend, a romantic partner, a coworker, a writer, an advocate, an avid The Office watcher, I am better at being the engaged mother my son loves to play "special tent" with. (Our favorite game, where we both hide under the covers and say "goodbye" to all the things in our home we can no longer see. It's seriously my favorite thing ever.)
...And Am Worthy Of Respect, Regardless
Whether I had a baby or not, I am worthy of a respect. A woman is not defined by her reproductive system and whether or not she chooses (or is able) to use it. I knew that before I became a mother, but the birth of my son made that all the more obvious. No one should be forced to have a baby. No one should be defined by whether or not they're a parent. Motherhood is a choice, nothing more.
He Proved I Could Handle The Impossible
As a domestic abuse survivor and a sexual assault survivor, I knew that I could survive damn near anything before I found out I was pregnant. However, my twin pregnancy, the subsequent loss of my one of my twin sons at 19 weeks, and the traumatic birth experience that was bringing a baby into the world that was alive, and a baby that wasn't, solidified the undeniable fact that I can handle anything. You really and truly do not know your own strength until it is tested, and damn: motherhood tests your strength like very few things can.
So, while I know I am teaching my son an endless amount of things, and he is learning from me, not a day goes by that I don't remember that I am learning from him, too. He has taught me so much about myself — as a parent, a mother, and a human being — and raising him has truly been one of the greatest honors of my life. And, well, we're only two year into this mess.