Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Goodbye Katarina, Hello Katarina

It's been nearly a year since I last blogged. A lot has changed since then. We moved back to Phoenix from New York City. I became a mom. Wait, what? Yes. About two months ago, the craziest, most amazing thing happened. My daughter "Te" was born.

I'm two-thirds of the way through my maternity leave now and the fog is finally clearing enough for me to be able to get some words down. Women talk a lot about pregnancy. They share the most gory, mind-boggling details with their girlfriends in the hopes of, I guess, preparing them for all of the belly-growing, skin-stretching and memory-losing.

What no one really talks about, though, is what happens after the pregnancy, once the baby is here.

Like how you'll pretty much be an uncontrollable, emotional wreck for a while. Like how you more than likely will not be able to console your screaming baby much in the first month or so. Like how there's a good chance you'll wake up in a cold, overwhelming sweat several nights in a row.

Like how, as you watch the setting sun through your living room window those first few weeks, you'll deal with a strong and overwhelming feeling of "evening anxiety" that takes over your body from head to toe. Like how that's all actually normal.

And I haven't even touched on the physical changes and intense road to recovery. Giving birth is A BIG F-ING DEAL.

As cliche as it sounds, the weeks after Te was born were an extreme roller coaster. I went from feelings of sky-high happiness (She's latching! She's pooping! She's sleeping!) to extreme anxiety or sadness within seconds. (Why isn't she latching! Why isn't she pooping! Why isn't she sleeping!)

Throughout all of those ups and downs, I asked God/the universe/myself the same question, over and over: Will I ever feel like myself again?

Actually, will I ever feel normal again?

The answer was YES. Even though, in those moments of late-night confusion/frustration/exhaustion, I didn't think it was ever going to be possible, I feel normal again. Like myself again. But it's a new normal. A different myself.

One other bit of brutal, postpartum honesty: As I was celebrating Te's beautiful new life, I was also mourning the loss of my old one. Staring out the window during one particular rough 3 a.m. feeding, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks: My life is no longer about myself.

A lot of women that I know feel like their lives are fulfilled once they have babies. I admire those women. They are some of the most inspiring mothers that I know. But I felt like my life was already pretty full before I became a mom. Adding this huge, glorious thing to the mix was overwhelming at first. When things changed so drastically so fast, and I suddenly realized that there's a tiny little being that I need (WANT) to put before myself, it took some getting used to.

I've always done what I wanted, when I wanted. Having Te made me realize that I might have to put some of those wants on hold. What surprised me most is that I realized I wanted to put some of those wants on hold. I was pretty scared for a second there. This was completely uncharted territory for a person like me.

But then, around 6 or 7 weeks (I don't even remember anymore!), Te stopped crying all the time and started cooing. She started smiling. She started making eye contact and placing her tiny little hand on my hand while I was feeding her. And I forgot all about those rough late nights and her constant newborn wails. It's true what they say - that first smile happens and all of a sudden you think, "OK, this is going to be great. I can do this."

Te is now a happy, chubby, delicious baby who loves when mom whistles and when dad...does just about anything. She smiles at ceiling fans and chats with grandma like she's dishing out all of the town's scandalous gossip.

We have a lot of challenges ahead of us as a new family, but I know that there are more good times ahead than bad. I'm ready to take on the challenge of living a life of example for my daughter. I want her to be smart and curious, adventurous. I want her to love her family and know about her roots. I want her to look at the world as a place of warmth and possibility, not fear or hate. I can't wait to see how she discovers it all.

And me? Well, life's different now. In my new role as a first-time mom, I knew I needed a place to write about all of the good, bad and funny. Life has changed, so my blog has changed. It's no longer just about travel. It's now about family, about life, about work...and about travel.

Because I may be a different Katarina, but I'm still Katarina. Thank God.

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