shoe shopping with Jack

My Journey to Me

Daycare pickup is my favorite part of the day – a shocking revelation if you consider that halfway into my first pregnancy, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mommy.

Some of my friends know that I struggled with depression throughout college but especially during my first semester at the University of North Carolina (UNC), when I transferred to North Carolina State and moved to Raleigh to live with my grandparents shortly after exams ended.

It seems like a lifetime ago, especially after my sister’s Batten disease diagnosis and the 12 difficult years that followed forced me to finish growing up more quickly than most of my early-20-something peers. In fact, nearly two decades passed before I understood exactly what happened that unhappy autumn in Chapel Hill.

I got injured my senior year of high school and couldn’t play soccer when I arrived at UNC. That, coupled with severe homesickness and a general lack of self-confidence, sent me spiraling downward.

Lots of kids get homesick, but my situation was more complex than that. I had identity issues. Suddenly, at 18, I had no idea who I was. For most of my life, I’d let “things” define me. The sport I couldn’t play. The visual arts I gave up to focus on creative writing. The school paper whose editorial staff I couldn’t crack (I wrote for my high school newspaper for three years, but the Daily Tar Heel turned me down). The serious boyfriend and parents and siblings I left in Charlotte. The close friends who chose other schools.

When all of those “things” went away, I thought I had nothing left. The damage ran so deep that I needed years, not months, to recover.

I’m older and wiser now, but I’m still the same person who lost her way among the leaf canopies and winding brick sidewalks of the UNC campus all those years ago. That’s why, as a working adult who runs races and a nonprofit and writes books and blog posts and travels to far-flung national park trails to lose herself on purpose, I secretly worried that if I became a mommy, I’d have to pull back and once again lose the “things” that make me who I am.

I went through with it, of course, and my brother and sister-in-law threw a gender reveal party for us on Mother’s Day last year. The moment those blue balloons burst out of the box? That was the first time I experienced what felt like excitement about my baby. And the moment I saw him for the first time? That was when I fell in love.

gender reveal

Fast-forward to the smile that played on my lips during my drive home from the office this afternoon. To the love that flooded my heart when I leaned down to lift my sleeping son out of his crib at school, and he opened his eyes and grinned at me.

I’m seven months into this thing, plenty long enough to learn that I don’t have to give up who I am to be a good mother. I have to navigate more challenges and be more creative about how I tackle my to-do list and survive on less sleep. Like anyone else, I’ve always fallen well short of perfect, but for the first time in my life, I’m okay with it.

But Jack hasn’t asked me to give up any of my “things,” and I feel certain he won’t make that kind of demand even after he starts talking. Motherhood hasn’t robbed me of anything that makes me who I am. Instead, it’s made me into a better version of myself. I still work and write and run and hike. I’ve learned to train for races with a jogging stroller at less-than-ideal times and pump while making dinner and answering emails and write blog posts while sitting cross-legged on the floor with a baby who won’t let me out of his sight.

This motherhood thing isn’t easy. But more than ever, and maybe even for the first time in my life, I know exactly who I am and what makes me happy. My “things” are important, but they’re still just things. And my heart is full.

Laura and Jack

A Letter to My Infant Son

Tonight, it will be 10 weeks since you told me you were on your way. And for the next 30 hours, you inched forward on your journey into the world, giving me plenty of time to think about how my life would change when you finally arrived.

Thirty hours is nothing, of course, compared to the 36 years I waited to meet you or even the 12 years I waited after I married your daddy. First, I waited because I was young. Later, I waited because I was scared. Scared of facing tough choices. Struggling to find balance. Forgetting who I was before I became a mom.

I was afraid because I knew you’d turn my life upside down.

I’m so glad you did.

I fell in love with you the moment they placed you on my chest. I loved your tiny hands and feet and the delicate red fuzz on your head and the way you knew me as if we’d already spent nine months together, because we had.

I love to wear you against my body and feel the squeeze of tiny arms and hands as they clutch my sides and the little puffs of your breath, warm through my shirt. I love how you imitate the whale sounds I first played for you in the hospital room we shared. I love how you shrug your shoulders when you sleep. I love how your blue eyes crinkle at the corners when you smile. I love how they look into mine when I hold you.

I love how every day with you is exactly the same yet entirely new. How you can look at the turning blades of the ceiling fan in your room or the white lights on your first Christmas tree or your own face in the mirror with the kind of wonder adults experience maybe only once or twice or three times in a year. How you make things like reading and writing and running harder but also better.

I miss the things I did before I had you, but not as much as I miss you when we’re apart.

I want time to stand still, but I can’t wait to watch you grow up. I want to share my joy for words and art and music and the outdoors with you, but I’ll be okay if you don’t love them like I do.

I love the beautiful, perfect baby you are today and the kind, brave man I hope you will become.

I wasn’t sure I wanted this adventure, but now I can’t imagine life without you. Because you’re the best thing I’ve ever done.

petroglyph family

Running Toward Motherhood

I’m going to be a mom.

Today, I’m in week 22 of what BabyCenter and The Bump and my doctor say should be a 39-week journey, and I’m excited.

Okay. Actually, I’m terrified.

I married my high school sweetheart in 2006. For 12 years, I’ve been perfectly happy working full-time in marketing, hiking remote trails in Utah slot canyons and Washington rainforests whenever I feel like getting on a plane (and can afford it), dashing off to run out-of-town races and working by the glow of my laptop at all hours of the night. Writing a book. Scheduling tweets. Running a charity on the side. I’ve made time for my family, but I’ve never had time for kids.

Then, I turned 35. And a little voice in my head whispered, “What if?” What if I wanted to have kids later and couldn’t? Would I regret it? I’d certainly have enough to stay busy. But would I feel whole? Could I leave a real mark on the world without contributing my DNA?

I think I told my husband I could do this the same day I realized I’d never know the answers to those questions, regardless of whether or not I took the leap.

I don’t regret jumping. But I’m still scared.

I don’t want to struggle to find real balance for the next 20 years.

I don’t want to suffer from mommy guilt if I miss a Kodak moment because I went for a run.

I don’t want to have to always choose between reading a bedtime story or writing my next book.

I don’t want to leave all of the squeeze-through-slot-canyons and hang-from-the-side-of-a-mountain and run-another-half-marathon-blindfolded adventures on my bucket list unchecked.

I don’t want to forget who I am or who I was before I became a mom.

But I also don’t want to miss an opportunity to share this amazing world of ours with my son. To teach him to love the sunlight on his face and the ground beneath his feet. To watch him grow into first a boy, then a man, with his own hopes and dreams and loves and fears.

That’s why I’m scared but excited, too. Why I already call him by the name that we chose for him. Why I wasn’t upset when I ran a half marathon last weekend and took almost 30 minutes longer than normal to reach the finish line. Why I started Pinterest boards to collect cute nursery ideas (I went with a woodlands theme to symbolize his parents’ shared love for hiking) and miniature boy clothes and encouraging quotes.

I don’t think I’ll ever find real balance (a mother friend recently told me that balance is bullshit). I hear myself tell friends that within eight weeks of my due date, I’ll launch a book and run 13.1 miles blindfolded and go back to work, and I know I sound crazy. But here, at 22 weeks, I’m starting to realize that I’m okay with that.

Because I know that no matter how crazy it gets, it will still be the greatest adventure of all.