One of the more bizarre things I’ve experienced recently is a strangely specific memory lapse. This may not seem significant at first mention, but for me, it’s quite peculiar. I am someone who has a vividly clear and long-lasting memory. I can recall specifics from all parts of my life, dating back to early childhood, and I can view certain memories like photographs frozen in time in my own personal internal photo album. So of course I become aware when I think about something and all of a sudden there are blank pages, as though someone has removed some photos and forgot to put them back.
Several nights ago I asked my husband if he remembered what we used to do or what our life looked like right before we had our first darling daughter. Now granted, his memory is quite the opposite of mine in its performance ability, but he does sometimes surprise me. Not this time. After a few moments of intense perplexed facial expressions he said, “You know, I don’t really remember.” As our conversation continued, we talked about time-lines, event occurrences, cars we had at the time, what the house looked like, where we ate dinner, but neither of us could actually picture coming home to a house without our little ones’ presence. It’s such a weird feeling as we could both remember life before them just not right before. What kind of physiological change occurs? I mean if it were just my husband’s lapse I would quickly figure it was just his poor memory, but my own blankness is baffling. In our own deliberation we concluded it is simply a testament to how preoccupied we become with our children and how life truly and completely becomes about them long before they are even out in the world.
From the moment our first darling exited me and entered our life I can picture every moment: Who came to the hospital, who visited us at home, our first days getting to know each other, and everything from milestones to highlights to accidents. Our whole life script had changed, mostly for the better of course, but as with any change, certain pieces have shifted to make space for new ones. Some of those pieces are pieces of our identity, my husband’s and mine. And even with my memory, I can sense that some parts of my past are becoming more like distant stories that are familiar only because I tell them. There is undoubtedly a level of detachment as I mainly identify with characteristics relevant to my mommyhood.
We often talk about the various lifetimes we’ve lived prior to our babies. It’s one of the delights my husband and I share in having known and been part of each other’s life for so long. Many of our conversations quickly fill with laughter and disbelief at our experiences and accomplishments, shocked by who those people were and astonished about their evolution into parenthood. It’s overwhelming to think that some of those characteristics, skills, and desires are still present, despite their current irrelevance and impracticalities at the moment. Feeling that they are there, patiently waiting to be called-on again, maybe to help with a book report or an art project, maybe to counsel an emotional life stage, or maybe just waiting to play when we meet again well into retirement. Regardless, our adaptation as humans is incredible. Our capabilities to sacrifice and become what is necessary are so far beyond what we acknowledge readily or imagine is possible, and yet we do it. Parenthood is just one astounding showcase of our everyday extraordinary-ness.