I became invisible on May 13, 2013.
I remember it so clearly.
Grandparents and aunts talking on the phone, loudly announcing the arrival of Jane and Emma.
Nurses coming in to stick me with needles and draw my blood and “check my pad” every few hours, whether I was awake or not.
Friends coming to visit the new babies and being let right into my room, even while I was half-naked trying to pump.
Estranged family members showing up after seeing the announcement on Facebook.
I had been ripped from my cushy, private labor room and wheeled unceremoniously into a sterile surgical room. Had my babies torn out of me. Was wheeled into a nondescript recovery room, where I lay by myself, in and out of consciousness awaiting word on the health of my children, begging for water — being told “not yet.” Finally settling into a room with a curtain for privacy, where I was poked and prodded and “visited” all day and night.
Zero privacy. Zero awareness of my physical and mental recovery. Zero regard for what I wanted.
Little by little I’ve been chipped away at ever since. It became abundantly clear rather quickly how little what I wanted mattered. How little what I had worked so hard to become mattered.
And it wasn’t just other people chipping at me. I also gave pieces of myself up freely — unsure of what else to do. That’s what motherhood is, right? You are selfless? That’s what society tells us to do, right?
A couple of years ago, I realized that I had stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I caught my reflection and gasped. Who WAS this woman?
My life was no longer mine, and I was no longer who I had worked so hard to become. How I wanted to spend my time was insignificant. Who I wanted to spend my time with was insignificant. Whether I wanted to be touched or talked to or if I wanted to be alone or if I wanted to go somewhere did not matter.
Everyone knew better than me about everything in my life. And everything in my life was my children. Every choice that I made was because of my children. Every decision in my life led back to my children. I ate, slept, and moved about my day for my children. Spent every waking moment cooking for, washing for, cleaning for, deciding for, worrying for, breathing for my children.
When I pick up the phone, or bump into someone I know, the first question they ask is always, “How are the girls?” Without fail.
As I’m writing this, I look down at myself and the clothes that I’m wearing are part of the same rotation of five outfits that still fit me. My body is all out of whack because I’ve had children. My hips have spread. My uterus is a mess. My hair is falling out. I pee my pants daily. My wrists always hurt. My boobs don’t stay where they should. All because I bore children.
My nail polish is always chipped. I have holes in my clothes. I struggle to keep up with the cleaning and the cooking and the activities and the sleep. Days go by before I realized that my husband and I have not even so much as glanced at each other.
I feel frumpier than ever. But the little bit of money that we have to spend will go towards keeping our children in shoes that fit. In food that they will eat. In electronics that they will play with. In toys that they will devour. It. Never. Ends.
All the while, I’m completely invisible. When people come to visit, my children are the main attraction. I can’t remember the last time that I had an adult conversation that wasn’t interrupted 25 times by my kids in one way or another. Most of the time, I just give up and move to a different room, where the echoing voices of my kids can’t reach me.
I love them. But I am not them.
I am someone who enjoys spending time in silence. I enjoy listening to the birds. I enjoy having deep and meaningful conversations or laughing until my stomach hurts with smart and interesting people in the back rooms of smokey bars late at night. I enjoy being asked my opinion, and, in turn, I enjoy giving it. I enjoy snuggling up under a soft blanket in cozy little spots in my home. I enjoy reading. And writing.
I enjoy loooooong hikes in the woods, getting so lost in nature that I stumble out at dusk with sore feet and leaves in my hair, unsure of where I left my car. I enjoy watching documentaries and movies with subtitles. I enjoy reading a book on the beach until I fall asleep to the sound of the waves. I enjoy staring up at the stars and being overwhelmed by just how small I am. I enjoy wearing vintage clothes and shopping in little obscure shops where I may find a treasure from another time in history — and then coming up with a story about where the piece came from and who it once served. I enjoy pedicures. I enjoy flowers. I enjoy really good, hot pizza eaten off of a paper plate in a dingy little pizza parlor.
I am also someone who loves when my daughters laugh hysterically. I love when they lie against me and play with my hair. I love when they look at me and tell me that I am the best mommy in the world. I love raising up two strong, independent women who I swear will one day take over the world. I love getting to know who they are, individually. I love being the only one who can soothe them when they are sad or angry or hurting.
I am Jane and Emma’s mother, but I am also that other girl who used to dominate rooms and dream big dreams and have fire in her heart.
I am a mother, but I am also other. I am still me under here. Under these ratty clothes and chipped nails. I’m here just waiting for someone to see me again. Just waiting to take back the life I once had — the life I once dreamed that I would have.