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April 23, 2018

Mothers are Selfless :: Part Two of Brooke’s Story

Brooke has been a close friend of the 31 Bits’ team for years. She’s lived more life in the past year than anyone we know, and as we started planning our Mothers Day Campaign, we asked if she would feel comfortable telling her story… (In case you  missed it, click HERE for Part One)

“Sometimes I feel as though motherhood isn’t allowed to be hard for me. For all I went through with IVF and what felt like a lifetime in the NICU, it should be nothing but bliss to have a thriving baby girl by my side.  And to a certain degree, it’s true– my gratitude is likely farther reaching. I’m less likely to take simple pleasures for granted because I spent so much time wishing and praying for the dream of Colette. 

However, about two months after bringing Colette home from the hospital I had a bit of an identity crisis/breakdown/sobbing at my kitchen counter episode, which was highlighted by pink hair and a new tattoo; not a euphemism, my hair was pink for a minute and I got a tattoo that I hadn’t really planned on. Of course, no one had the pleasure of seeing my pink hair since I’m home all of the time – likely something I cried over during said breakdown. 

A little about me: I love being outside, florescent lights make me die inside, and in pre-mom life I would hike once a week. I love to cook and though I cook pretty simply, I enjoy using a lot of vegetables and fresh ingredients. I have a Master’s degree in counseling and worked at a job I loved for six years before leaving for maternity leave (from which I never returned). I super hate needles and hospitals, and blood makes me timberrrrrr….faint. Full on, black out, faint. I like new experiences and travel and don’t do well with the idea that things won’t change, so routine is not comforting to me. 

Basic as I may be, I gave it all up. For five months I spent 12 hours a day at the hospital with Colette. Something I’m still not sure how to talk about or describe and maybe not even sure how to understand. It was a twilight zone of survival. It was chaotic and monotonous. It was a lifetime and a blip, It was lonely and over-stimulating. The hospital was exhausting but home without her was depressing, so we mostly ate frozen food that was stocked in our kitchen by our family and friends before sleeping or driving back to be with our new daughter. I watched the summer and autumn pass by through a window and off a reflection of the sky from the neighboring hospital tower. I sobbed most days when I walked to my car, breathing in the fresh air and glimpsing the last bit of daylight. My brain shut down to one mode, which was something like survival and white noise. So many things I loved about my life had been stripped from me. I had to let so much go so I could do the only thing I could bear to do, which was sit in a hospital room and hold my sick baby.

 Coming home was the greatest relief of my life. A blanket in the backyard, cooking a slow dinner while she slept in the other room, having friends over, the energy to read a book – these things brought me back to life. And yet there were still bits of myself that hadn’t recovered after coming home from the hospital; parts of myself that were left behind in exchange for motherhood. 

I began to notice and consequently miss huge chunks of myself that were all wrapped up in my identity that suddenly were no longer part of my day-to-day life. I wanted to keep working, for example, and I think I was hung up on it actually, but I had to let that go. I see people less now, so I have full on conversations with my nine-month-old, complete with asking her questions and responding on her behalf. So what is that? Loss of sanity? Sometimes my new world feels so small and I get panicky, like I just got benched. For the first time in my life I’m a little envious of the young, with all of their big changes and decisions up ahead. I’ve chosen my lane and sometimes it feels narrow. 

Reading this at 21, or 25, or last year (and a little bit right now), would absolutely freak me out.  But I don’t regret it. The great contrast is that the emptying of oneself to live for something greater always leads to a more fulfilling life. I’ve let go of parts of myself to give to another person. There are so many ways that people give up their life in exchange for healthy love, and in every single circumstance it’s worth it. Arguably the very meaning of life. 

I’ve come apart and I’m seeing what I’m made of. I’m finding what false parts of my idealized self I was clinging to, and then what parts really matter to me. I’m recovering what is genuinely who I am and decidedly picking up the pieces that are true of me. I’m finding myself again with Colette by my side, or at least I’m trying to. I am still Brooke: wife, friend, counselor, writer, and now mother. I’m adjusting; I’m figuring out how it all works together, and I’m trying to find my feet under me. Motherhood does a number on our identity as women; sometimes it pulls from us the things that we love, sometimes it sloughs off the excess, sometimes it’s deeply disorienting, but mostly it adds profound purpose–a purpose that has found its way to the very core of who I am.

My love for Colette has proven to bear the weight of its own cost, making the sacrifice of motherhood one of the greatest privileges of my life.” 

Stay tuned for Part Three. You can find more of Brooke’s writing at Brookehoehne.com.

Photos by Shannen Natasha :: Shop the Mother’s Day Collection that Brooke is wearing HERE.