The Loss of When

There’s this thing that has been grieving me lately, tearing at my heart and spirit, driving me crazy. In full disclosure, I’ve quite nearly lost it, fully-certifiable nutcase, about a dozen times since the birth of my second child. It’s not just sleep deprivation or the chaos of two under two. It’s deeper, more inherent to who I am and who I want to be. 

It’s not a matter of if I shower, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I eat, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I sleep, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I work, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I see my friends, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I go to yoga, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I spend time with my spouse, but when. 

It’s not a matter of if I am ever alone, but when. 

You read all the articles, seek all the advice, savor each nugget of wisdom from the women who have gone before you, but absolutely nothing can prepare you for the loss of when. 

Our second child was a complete surprise, although we did want more children eventually. Spare me the “don’t you know how babies are made” tirade because, yes, I’m well aware. I already have one. (But I feel certain this is the sweet justice of my incredulous remarks about just how do so many teen girls seem to get pregnant because it isn’t that easy.) 

The loss of when began the minute I found out I was pregnant once again, covered in vomit from my toddler and his first stomach bug. I took one look at that positive stick, purchased with a pile of Pediatlye, uttered a word my mother would die if she knew I said, and walked away, convinced it was in error. I proceeded to take 12 additional tests before I was convinced that, indeed, without my permission, decision, intention, I was pregnant. 

Motherhood is an adjustment, a shock to your way of life, but the hardest part, most shocking reality is the complete and utter loss of when—when you shower, eat, sleep, work, socialize, exercise, make love, find solitude. 

No longer do you set your own schedule, design your own day; rather, you must respond to the demands of a tiny dictator who is completely irrational, illogical, inconsiderate. 

I am struggling to navigate this new normal, a daily regiment that requires the complete loss of when I want, when I need, when I desire much of anything, some thing, everything. They tell me this season will pass, that now I’m doing the very hardest work. 

This does not lessen the sting of surrender now. 

I’m not saying I don't provide a soothing rhythm for my children, a set of expectations for the day so they can feel secure; they are on the best of schedule you can hope for as far as little people go. But I often find myself holding my bladder for 30 minutes before I can escape for relief. I often catch myself needing lunch at the same time I should be preparing dinner. And forget bedtime, because the toddler needs water, back scratching, lullabies, when mom needs to wine and unwind. 

I knew the sacrifice of motherhood would be enormous, but I had no idea the deep grief I would feel over the loss of when, namely the idea of “when I want.” Motherhood has brought out a confidence, a self-assurance I have not found in any other endeavor. Equally compelling, motherhood has brought to light my incessant selfishness, self-centeredness, the focus on me that I never recognized before. 

Perhaps the grief I feel over the loss of when is imperative, essential, necessary to putting others first. I’m clinging to this idea because I believe it will save my marriage, my family, my friendships, my career. I’m praying, believing, professing that the pruning of my control over the timing of all the things in my life leads me to depend on Him, His provision, His benevolence, His purpose. 

Perhaps losing when is finding life.