Mothergood Feature: Emily Fossier
1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?
My name is Emily Fossier and I am mother to 3.5 year-old Pier and 20 month old Eulalie, with another little girl arriving in a few weeks time. As a young child in Louisiana I always knew I wanted these three things in my future life: 1) marry a doctor 2) have lots of cute kids 3) live in a real Louisiana plantation. I can laugh about it now because, unexpectedly, all three of those silly childhood dreams have come true -- although, my younger self would be surprised at how much sacrifice those three things require. I met my husband, Brad, when he was a sophomore in college and I was a sophomore in high school. Immediately smitten at the tender age of sixteen, I told my best friends that I was going to marry him (and took great pleasure of telling them "told you so" on our wedding day, six years later). We had a dream courtship, engagement, and wedding and a week after our honeymoon, packed everything to move from Louisiana to the Midwest for my husband to begin his residency. I matured quickly in those residency years as I navigated how to become what I thought to be "the perfect" wife and mother. My husband worked long hours, sometimes entire weekends, and I was often left alone with a newborn baby learning the new mama ropes away from my family, friends, familiar home, and all that I held dear. Surprisingly, moving away was one of the best things I could have ever done for my personal growth and marriage because it set the groundwork for a strong family life. I can happily look back on those residency years with such affection at the roots we made there. After spending four years away building our new life together, Brad graduated and we made the minivan exodus back to Louisiana. Now, we are renovating a Louisiana plantation as our forever home while Brad works at a small hospital in town and I stay at home with the children.
2. What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?
Since receiving a baby doll on my first birthday, all I wanted to be in life was a mom. And in June 2015, my heart grew quicker than I ever thought possible when we welcomed our first child into our lives. When I added the title "mother" to my identity, it was a bit of a shock as I learned about the hidden weight behind that word. Motherhood stretches me, breaks me, and humbles me. It has transformed me into a new person -- a stronger person -- and it continues to refine me when I say "yes" to the little ways I serve my family. That's the most fulfilling and challenging thing, I think -- to recognize that motherhood demands a strength you never thought you had. You get zero recognition for the sacrifices you make every day. No pat on the back. No gold medal. But, honestly, it is the most beautiful thing to live out genuine, raw love by not expecting anything in return. You do all the secret sacrificing not only because it is required, but also because it is important work...may be even the most important work. At the end of the day, you have the knowledge that by persevering in the planting of seeds you will make a difference in this world. By raising up kind, selfless, hard working sons and daughters in the sanctuary of a loving home, we are doing our part to transform our hurting world. That's powerful. And that is what keeps me going on the days where I question the importance of my role as a professional tickler, vegetable-eating coach, and storyteller.
3. What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?
I am currently "in the trenches" as they say with little ones who seem to never get enough of me. As much as I would love if they were a bit more independent, that is just not where we are right now. They need a mother with an open heart for kissing their ouchies, open imagination for playing dinosaurs, open ears for listening to their stories, and open eyes for witnessing their lego creations. That is my day in a nutshell. I realized early on that if I was going to be content in my role as a stay-at-home mom, I need to actively participate in their play. I learned that the most important thing I can do during the little years is learn how to be little again. As difficult as it is for me to ignore the to do list when my son wants to pretend play, it is necessary because it is how he knows he is loved. The little years are hard because their needs are great, but I think we need to stop equating "hard" with "bad". I never thought I would find joy in reading stories multiple times in a row, building robot space stations out of magna tiles, and singing nursery rhymes to baby dolls. But it turns out, as hard as it is for a grownup to be a kid again, it's actually really fun!
4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?
The first year of my son’s life was the hardest year of mine. I realized that in order to be the best mother to my children, I have to take care of my self and my marriage before I can be in a place of serving anyone else. Here's the reality of that truth: my physical, mental, and spiritual needs come before the needs of my children. There I said it! Even typing out that sentence makes me feel selfish! But it's that kind of thinking that consumed me the first year of motherhood. I thought that taking care of children meant always putting them first, even before eating and praying and drinking water, and as a result, I was a ball of stress. Tired, cranky, miserable, and constantly questioning if I was "good enough". It's easy to feel burnt out when you are taking care of other people without checking in to see how you are doing. And in my case, when you add a postpartum depression and anxiety disorder diagnosis, you will eventually reach your breaking point. A month after Pier turned one I scheduled a doctor's appointment and heard what I suspected all year long -- that I had severe depression and anxiety and needed medication. I didn't realize the strength it took to vocalize for help, but I honestly don't know where I would be if I hadn't. From that day forward, I started to put my physical and mental health first and the positive changes in my relationships were drastic. When I feel like I need it, I tell my husband when I require an "Emily Day" -- a completely free day where he watches the kids and I can go get coffee by myself, browse an antique shop, write a blog post, or do whatever is life-giving to me at the time. Basically I pretend I am in college again, just minus the schoolwork. It's not only makes me a better mother, but it helps me feel like myself again...I highly recommend it!
5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?
If I could give advice to a woman considering becoming a mother, I would tell them to prioritize their marriage before parenthood. I cannot continue on with my story until I recognize the man who has held my hand through it all -- Brad worked hard as a resident, but he worked even harder making sure I was taken care of in those tender years of new motherhood. Having a supportive, understanding, forgiving spouse changes everything. If you have communication issues, or any type of stress on your relationship, go to counseling. Ask for outside help. Fix what needs to be fixed. And do it for the sake of your future family. Becoming a parent is the best thing that has ever happened in our marriage, but I know how it can also be a stressor on a relationship. Children need solid parents who not only love them unconditionally, but love one another unconditionally. They need examples of selfless love and, as parents, you are the most effective teacher they will ever have. I don't know if I could be a mom of three if my husband didn't take an active role in his fatherhood. You aren't meant to do it alone! Take care of your marriage first, and it will make the challenges that come with parenting so much easier.