To the mama who wasn’t ready to give herself away, I’m with you. My story is about the original heartbreak I felt in finding out I was pregnant, followed by the incredible joy and commitment to my family that came after. I’m reaching out to any mama who initially came up with a giant list of reasons of why she couldn’t possibly be a mother yet, and to let her know that every emotion felt during this journey is truly okay. It has taken me so long to understand that I don’t have to lose myself in all of the change and I want to share with you that you’re so capable of staying true to yourself and fully embracing motherhood at the same time. I became pregnant at a fragile time in my life; a time where my faith was stretched thin and my ability to love proved to be difficult. If you can at all relate, I hope you find comfort in the words I’ve provided as they are equally meant for you as they are meant for me.
At twenty-four years old I was not prepared to see those two pink lines appear on stick after stick that I peed on. “How could this be real?” I remember asking myself. I’m married and have an excellent understanding of how babies are made. Still, I was in total disbelief. Even worse, I was devastated. Life had all too recently broken my heart and being a mother was nowhere on my radar. I guess I’d assumed Michael, my husband, and I would become parents one day, but I also assumed it would happen after I had my individual life fully together. The truth is, I am not even sure what having my life fully together even means. I was just certain it was not the right time to become a parent. My faith in humankind still shattered from a traumatic experience in East Africa less than one year prior, I didn’t have the energy to love myself let alone love a baby—even if it was my own.
July 2015 was the month I found out I was pregnant. Michael had just surprised me with a trip to Cocoa Beach, FL for our anniversary and to celebrate my recent acceptance of a formal offer to graduate school to study natural resources with both American University in Washington D.C. and University for Peace in Costa Rica. We were also in the midst of rekindling our love affair after a very difficult seven months spent apart due to my deployment with the Army Reserve. I’d finally felt like I was at the beginnings of getting my life back on track. We had a plan to live in the tropical jungle while I studied and to see where the adventure would take us from there. We were starting to live a dream, our relationship was steamy, and I was so ready to take on this new challenge.
Finding out we were going to have a baby broke all the pieces of myself I had successfully put back together. I was angry. I was finally able to decide where I wanted to live and what I wanted to focus on and in my mind, I’d managed to screw it all up. I managed to convince myself that with conception, I’d completely failed as a human being. As I stared at the three pregnancy tests on my bathroom floor, all of my freedom, so desperately craved, crumbled at my feet with each teardrop that ran down from my face. What’s worse is that I had quit a full-time job I hated just weeks before because I had the new plan of going back to school. For weeks I sobbed uncontrollably. It’d be less shameful to say it was all due to hormones.
It took my entire first trimester along with a few weeks into my second to feel okay with this new plan that I hadn’t asked for. Officially withdrawing my acceptance from the graduate program was tough. I felt shame. I felt so much shame and irresponsibility that I didn’t tell my work I was pregnant; I simply left on the original date of resignation I’d submitted. Even though the extra money would have been helpful and even though having a friend through all of those emotions was extremely needed, I kept my mouth shut. Only my family knew we were expecting. My husband was working at a new job he’d taken to help us move closer to D.C. so I could study full-time so we once again had an element of distance added to our relationship. My sadness turned into heartache. My heartache turned into depression. I would look at my friends traveling the world and feel like my passport was naked. I wanted more stamps as proof of independence and wanderlust. Mostly, I wanted to feel like I was in control of what was happening to me. This feeling went on for weeks. I needed an escape. We decided to move closer to D.C. as if to hold on to one part of our original plan and picked the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Moving was the best thing we did for ourselves. We’re happy (yes, me too) and we find cool things to explore every week. Our apartment is small but we’ve made it comfortable and luckily, we found a place with trails that lead straight to the Rappahannock River. Our dogs are in heaven playing in the river and so am I. Leaving my front door to go for a hike is something I’d always dreamed of. Growing up I lived near a beach town with zero elevation. Now I have numerous trails that are challenging to explore. With each hike I’ve grown stronger. With each gaze out onto the river I’ve become more content. With each day I recognize a little more of my soul.
Fast-forward to week 30 and I feel pretty damn good. Something transformed within me during those long thirteen weeks of the second trimester. I became less tired and more willing to do things requiring effort. Hours each day were spent outside helping me rekindle my love of nature. My husband and I started going to birth classes together on Friday nights and it’s actually way better than spending too much money at a local bar. I’ve gained a great mama-to-be friend who listens to my dreams and hopes and complaints with a smile on her face and a real ability to relate. I’m more kind. I have more patience. I’m so freaking excited for my baby shower that I spend time each day working on the decorations. And best of all, my husband and I finally felt motivation to fix up a space to welcome our boy into his new world.
I still have a couple of months to go in this journey but I’m no longer afraid of what is to come. Those goals I worked so hard to design haven’t gone away but rather have only grown; I’ll have one more person to share them with. Michael and I are planning where to take our son on his first trip and I can’t tell you how much better it is planning something incredible to share with your family. Week 30 into my first pregnancy and I am finally embracing becoming a mom. My affinity for independence is not fading away. I’m simply not fighting what is happening anymore and have found so much independence in that decision alone. I’ve realized acknowledging the changes taking place is important for embracing them. Trusting this process is the only way to keep your sanity. I still have tough days where I resent everything and barely let my Michael in, but they are few and far between. I’ve developed techniques to help me through those moments and to remember this life, right now, is perfect and beautiful.
What’s most incredible is I’ve now entered a right of passage only a mother understands. You know the one I’m talking about. Motherhood is a bond not only between mother and child but between mother and mother, too. Related or not, mothers have a deep understanding of what another is going through. None of this is easy. But all of it is, and will continue to be, rewarding.
Here you are, reading the Adventure Mamas blog because you yourself have already decided you’re not going to lose what makes you great. You crave a community of adventurers just like you. Mama, your sense of confidence and free spirit is not fading away. Adventure still exists; it just looks a little different now. C’mon mamas, let’s give ourselves some credit! You face new challenges every day and those alone are quite the thrill. Maybe your child can’t express it yet but believe he’ll appreciate your dedicated lifestyle one day.
Mama, you don’t have to give yourself away. In fact, please don’t. The trips you take will allow you to become more connected with the world, which will allow you to become more connected with your family even if they don’t always join you along the way. Continue taking time for yourself. Continue making your dreams come true. Continuing nurturing your own spirit as well as your kin’s. Keep your head up, stay strong, lace those hiking boots, and get outside. Feel proud; you’ve gained an adventure buddy for life to share all of your stories with.
Sincere congratulations for being you.
Caitlin lives in Fredericksburg, VA with Michael, her husband, and their dogs. She’s expecting her first baby in a few weeks and couldn’t be more stoked to integrate a baby into her adventurous lifestyle. She is an advocate for honest motherhood and wants to help foster a space where women can authentically share their feelings, experiences, and stories. Follow her on Instagram @CaitlinLaComb and read more of her writing here.