Artist’s Issues #9: Experiencing the Role of Motherhood

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I’m a momma now!

Two months in it still doesn’t seem real.

However, I figured it was time I write the follow up to my last article on my impending motherhood to let you know if any fears were realized, revelations were had, etc.

First of all, I had been quite nervous about the whole birth thing. I mean, the physics just didn’t make sense. But I’m here to let anyone else who might be nervous about it know that my birth experience was actually great! Seriously. Now, every birth is different, so I can make no guarantees as to how yours may go, or even how others of mine could go, but it is totally possible for them to rock like this one did. Our bodies and science are amazing, and boy do drugs work. It literally felt like I was witnessing (pain free) magic. If you want the down and dirty details feel free to reach out, I’m happy to chat about it, but now back to our regularly scheduled article topic.

So after I’d laid eyes on my little snugglebug did my passion and drive to act fade away? It did not. I’m still me, but a leveled-up me. Our child has folded into our lives so perfectly. As my college roommate who swore she didn’t want kiddos said after she had her boy this year, “I don’t know what I was worried about.” It’s really the most natural thing ever. My heart grew, but it’s still my heart.

In fact, I got and agreed to an audition before my epidural had entirely worn off (granted, it was for a video game and they agreed to see me 3 weeks later – but I booked it!). We even managed to get the last shots for the movie we’ve been filming around the pregnancy days after my guy was born. My desire to be in the game, to be a storyteller has not vanished, but it has evolved.

How has it changed?

Things did slow for a bit, as I knew they had to. Bodies take a little time to heal and the hectic downpour of activity that was my normal got turned down to a trickle. It was lovely though; a cocoon of time just for my family that I will always cherish. Like a perfect vacation. In the grand scheme of things it’s such a small amount of time to set aside in exchange for what I feel I’ve gained.

As far as career goes, things have come into a sharper focus as to what actually matters. It feels like I have more chips on the table, more to lose, and somehow that extra risk brings the feels closer to the surface. That can be a great source for our particular craft.

Now because going out on my own to an audition requires a tad more planning and the clock is always ticking (to get back and feed the boy or relieve my hubby) I find myself a bit fiercer in my efforts in the room, if that makes sense. Mamma needs to take care of her cub. Yet oddly, when I don’t book something I really don’t mind. It doesn’t seem to have the same sting, I mean hey, more time to cuddle the kiddo. Because of that, auditions themselves (the few I’ve had so far) seem a lot more precious yet not dire, and I’ve been more grounded in them. It feels great! Is that sleep deprivation that I was so afraid of talking?

Well, here’s the thing, and I have to be delicate here because the struggle some parents have is very real and changes on a per-child and per-stage-they’re-at basis, but so far … it’s not bad. I mean, I LOVE sleep, I was a 8-10 hr a night gal, but there’s this magic combination of superhuman hormones, the fact that when I do wake up it’s to the most adorable little face, and that it’s only briefly to feed and change him, that has made it very doable for me. That, and the awesome support of friends and family. However, I realize we’re beyond lucky that our babe is healthy and generally not fussy which makes all the difference.

While having non-stable jobs like Charlie and I do has its own stresses, it is definitely nice to both be home with him and trade off in kiddo care. I’m very thankful for that. We get as much maternity leave as we want/can afford, and more time together than lots of families get. Yet even on days where I’ve been largely on my own I’ve come to realize that I can handle this. I won’t get everything on my To Do list done anymore, but the things that are important to me get done. Hopefully by the time he becomes a human ping-pong around the house we’ll have leveled up some more (we’re so not ready for a toddler!). I’m aware it will change, constantly, but now that feels exciting rather than scary.

Speaking of important to me, I’ve found that I now have a keen interest in working out. That’s new. Working out was my mortal enemy before baby, but this magic trick my body pulled off has left it not looking exactly the way I remembered. So now an actual effort to eat well and move has emerged and I gotta say; kinda happy about it. Two months later and I’m already back in my old pants… though not my old bras… and we don’t yet speak of the bikinis. But I like the way I look. It’s hard not to be a little proud of an extra curve here or there when you know the miracle that caused it.

Yes, my social calendar has shrunk a lot, but I’ve made it out a bit. I was especially proud that we pulled off going to the Streamy Awards a month after delivery. We had an early night, but come on, who over 22 doesn’t kinda love snuggling in bed with a movie over mingling in heels all night? And heck, we both got to celebrate a The Geekie Awards win last week (pumping in backstage bathrooms, though not glamorous, was also doable)!

So, Past Me, still wondering what makes it worth it?

It’s the extra spark sharing your world with a little human brings. You get to see it again for the first time and shape how someone else experiences it. How every future event, trip, and holiday becomes extra exciting. How seeing someone be born and develop seems like the closest I’ve seen to real magic. It’s the way they start to look at you. It’s the extra fire they light under you to be your best you. Do they add some extra drama? Yup. But come on, we work in entertainment, drama is our oxygen.

So to those of you wrestling with the idea of parenthood as I did, the insight I can offer is this: I loved my years sans kids and am super glad I waited to have him until I had the right partner and some of my ducks in a row. No one ever has all those ducks lined up, and you don’t want to waste your life trying to wrangle ducks rather than actually living and enjoying your life, but it’s sure nice to have some fall in line. My child-free years were wonderful and couldn’t have been what they were with a babe, but if you feel the call to share your space and love with a little one, don’t fear the change it will bring. Dumber people than us have been doing just fine for eons and with all the support available at your fingertips now, we have an edge. It can change you, if change is what you want or need, or it can magnify who you are. Much like deciding what to serve a kid for dinner, you get to make the call.

Having a baby doesn’t mean your career is over unless you decide that’s what you want it to mean. It does mean your creativity and time management skills will be tested daily. It means some doors will close and there will be some opportunities you can’t take, but perhaps you’re not supposed to take those. At the same time, other avenues and possibilities will present themselves that never would have otherwise, such as auditioning as a family now, or perhaps it will lead you to create a line of baby clothes or children’s books or a kid’s theater camp. Maybe your kid’s best friend’s parents will be famous producers that will then team up with you to create a franchise, you never know.

Being a mom is wonderful, awful, hard and easy all at once. Kinda like most things that make life worth living. It’s not for everyone and that’s more than fine, it’s necessary, and should be celebrated and supported too. However, I came to realize that I wouldn’t have felt complete without it in some form, be it having a baby or fostering or adopting, I had a mothering role to play and I fought hard to land it. Much like with acting I’m not in it to win awards and I may never be globally recognized for it, but that’s fine. I’m doing it. I’m doing them both. This IS my dream. I cheer you on in living yours.

Paula Rhodes

About Paula Rhodes

Paula is a multi-hyphenate with emphasis in the geektastic genres and a founding member of the 5'2" & Under Club. She counts among her best diary entries teaming up with Stephanie Thorpe to turn their life-long love of the comic ElfQuest into getting the film/TV rights, and getting to embody some of her other fandoms as Wendy in The New Adventures of Peter & Wendy (a modernized transmedia adventure based on the classic Peter Pan tale), Lady Door in the West Coast premiere of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Zelda in Knights in Hyrule (Machinima), and Skipper & Stacie in Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. She's hoping to continue to grow her collection. She's also pretty sure owes producing in the web space for the last 7 years, and the connections social media allows, for the majority of the credits on her imdb page. Follow/add her adventures on twitter @paula_rhodes and at OfficialPaulaRhodes.com.