Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Being a Mom & Stuff: Part One

Additional Proof of how Willow is a budding type-A personality. She found a speck of something on her sock (great powers of observation) and spent a few minutes trying to remove it from the fabric fibers. She is very focused. 

So, I've been wanting to write about this stuff since July, but haven't gotten around to it. Ok. Not true. I have several false starts in my drafts folder, but could never finish them. Now, they stare at me in open defiance,

"You couldn't finish your thoughts"
"You aren't brave enough to click 'publish' on me"
"You are too overwhelmed to finish this post"

I've done a lot of other activities to pass the time [in avoidance]. But I know that I just have to finish these ideas and get them out there. I can't explain it, but I need to write about this.

Maybe it will help someone who is reading. I hope so.
Maybe it will help me process the last few years. I hope so!
Maybe it will be a good reminder in His faithfulness when I look back at these paragraphs sometime in the future. I hope so.....

Let's scroll back in time to 2009. Adam and I got married on the first day of August and less than two full weeks later, we were landing in China (we went to Paris in between--basically spent all of August on jet lag).  We had signed a two year contract to teach at an International School in the northeastern city of Shenyang. It's a similar climate to Chicago, although I would say there's more humidity and less snow/wind. Did I mention it's about 50 miles from North Korea?

Anyway, we landed on a Saturday night, arrived at our new home close to midnight. We started work on Monday morning. We were overwhelmed--especially myself--the first few weeks. We were trying to get settled in our home, while trying to figure out curriculum, students, schedules, and all the many demands of our new jobs all at once. Oh, yeah. Did I mention marriage? We were figuring that out too.

That first year was really hard. During that time, we didn't always have time to step back and say, "Whoa, what in the heck are we doing?! This is craziness! We're insane!" Mostly, we just focused on the moment because that was all we could do. When our first solid break came, we succumbed to watching ten seasons of Friends because we were so mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.

We were trying to learn how to be teachers (college in no way can fully prepare you for what's to come), spouses, and expats in a foreign country. I remember nearly falling asleep in a professional development meeting because I was so tired during our first week of school. There's also a huge hole in the fabric of my memory that first Autumn and Winter because I was so focused on surviving that I retained nothing. My teaching assistant was horrible, and I had daily stress from that. It was a hard first year in the classroom but it was also very rewarding. Today, I was reminiscing about some of my first bulletin boards in my classroom. I had had my assistant decorate them to give her something to do. She literally did the worst job a human could do--perhaps out of spite? But I did not know what to do with a rebellious adult who was twelve years my senior! I wish I had torn those ugly bulletin boards down and told her to snap out of it and try again. She used to be an art teacher for crying out loud!

After our first year of teaching, I read a bunch of idea type books and resolved that it would be a better year in the classroom. I would be better with parents, better with communication, better in lesson planning, better in managing my assistant, better in staying on top of deadlines, etc. It was going to be a better year. There was not alternative! I was excited to get started with this better year. In another year, I could start the graduate program through Indian Weslyan University that our company would pay for. I could survive in the city with my rudimentary Mandarin. I could write over a hundred characters (that's actually pretty awful when there's around 30,000 characters). Our apartment finally felt more like a home and less like a place where we slept.

I thought, "This is great! I actually know what I'm doing this year. I don't have to feel like I'm drowning 7 days a week. I can enjoy the process, learn more, and become a better teacher". It was exciting to put together 15 new literacy stations and create full scale book units. I had a finally had the foundation I needed to succeed--it was called teacher in-service. The previous year, I couldn't find where the prior teacher had left the curriculum books. The second year, I was able to build prepare for the future.

Let's just say, babies were no where on our horizon.

I didn't need babies yet. I had students. They were my children. I had work to do in my classroom! I had units to create, standards to meet, tests to grade! There were manipulatives to cut out, word walls to keep up, libraries to add to. There were writing workshops to finish, limericks to pen, and multiplication tables to memorize. The reading workshops had improved, the students were learning much more than my first year. They were performing better. It was hard to imagine leaving this lovely world. It was my world. It was my classroom. I would often think, "These aren't my students. These are God's students. This isn't my classroom--it's God's classroom". But deep down inside, I knew that I had claimed it as my territory, apart from God.

I had not surrendered my role as a teacher.

Who knows why He chose to, but despite all precautions...WHABAM....I got pregnant.
Maybe it was because I had too many idols in my life.
Maybe it was because I needed to be disciplined for my selfishness.
Maybe it was because He has my good in mind, and knew that joy would come.

So you see this little girl running around in a Calvin Klein denim dress? She was a surprise. When I took a test to confirm that I was pregnant, it was early in the morning. It was right before we left for work and I impulsively took the test. I couldn't stand not knowing any longer. I waited, and saw the two lines. I also spent some time on Google trying to confirm that two lines actually meant 'negative' and not 'positive'. Wishful thinking.

Willow, if you're reading this, just know that I was/am a very selfish person and my first thoughts and feelings were very sinful. I was angry. I was angry because I knew that I had to do the right thing. For me, the right thing meant quitting my job as a teacher. It meant putting my world on hold. It meant giving up my life and going on with something that I hadn't chosen for myself. Well, maybe I would have chosen motherhood, but not at the age of 23.

I had a lot of excuses. Bear with me:

--I need to teach a few more years! Otherwise, that was a total waste of an education.
--I need to go to graduate school! We have this great opportunity here.
--I love teaching! Asking me to give it up is cruel and unusual, God.
--I'm too young to be a mom, and I live in China for crying out loud!
--We can't afford this right now.
--Being a stay at home mom in China is going to suck.
--Child bearing is painful, uncomfortable, and my #1 fear!

I was so angry that first day. I marched out of the bathroom, looked at Adam who was putting on his tie and growled, "Look in the bathroom!" If I could go back and change this, I would. I had always imagined clever and creative ways to announce pregnancy, both to family/friends and to Adam. Maybe next time, because I totally failed with baby #1. Adam saw the positive indicator and was immediately happy. But he saw that I was frustrated, so he kept his excitement on the down low.

I was going through so many emotions for the first couple of week. Some might want to brush it off as pregnancy hormones, but I was dealing with some hardcore bitterness and resentment. Because we were not sure about major upcoming decisions regarding our work, we kept the news a secret. For 13 weeks.

We had a lot of decisions to work through. Since we were coming up on the end of the contract, we could technically move back to America and have baby #1 in the States. We could move back and be near family. This presented a few problems. Baby was due in July. We wouldn't be able to move until June. We would arrive in America with no insurance, no pay check, and no home. Hmmmm.....great way to welcome one's first child! Ok, so what about staying in China? We would have 100% coverage, we would actually receive a stipend raise to cover the expenses of a child, and Adam could continue to work. There was a foreign clinic that I could go to for prenatal appointments. We already had a three bedroom apartment.

For practicality's sake, it seemed like China was the answer. Also, Adam still felt a strong call from God that we were to stay. He had been praying that He would make it really obvious if were were supposed to sign another two-year contract. "Next time, be more specific", I told Adam. We talked to our principal about the options that were available to us. Adam didn't want a Chinese nanny taking care of our baby, and there are no day care options for infants. So, could Adam be a stay at home father? The answer to this felt frustrating and like a double standard. No. that means, by default that Julie HAS to be a stay at home mom. Or, maybe she could teach part time. Could she teach part time, continue with the drama program, and be a mom? Julie said....No way.

I felt forced into it. It took weeks to acknowledge and months to accept. Although I didn't admit it at the time, the second I saw those double lines appear, I knew in my heart of hearts that I was in my last year of teaching.

1 comment:

  1. I love this.
    Our story is different, since we were trying for Jameson, but the awful selfishness and self-surrender I had to find has been the same. In fact, there are moments that it's almost worse, because I think, "You asked for this. This is what you wanted, remember? How can you complain?"
    Keep going with this. I love reading it.