By Carolyn Hecken
February’s Über Moms Newsletter is all about careers. For many of us, the choice of which career to pursue is inextricably linked to our identities, passions and aspirations. But what happens when this identity is altered by, say, a significant life event or change, such as motherhood?
Motherhood – it redefines us. It requires us to reevaluate previously held beliefs about the world, adjust our priorities accordingly and approach life from a novel perspective. It’s no easy feat to reconcile career and family life – especially when it can entail reconciling one’s own identity as well.
Sometimes, multiple, significant life-changing events coincide, rendering the effects more profound. A mere three days after our oldest son was born, I was unexpectedly confronted with the fragility of own mortality as I faced emergency surgery under general anesthesia for profuse bleeding, the source of which was unknown.
I woke up from that surgery a different person. There was no going back. Medically, I may or may not have been close to death – I don’t know as five pages were missing from my medical file when I requested it a little over three years go. But for me – which is what truly counts – I walked away feeling that I had only barely escaped death and more keenly aware of the fine and fickle line separating life from death.
In the copious amount of time I had to explore and reflect upon the series of events that ultimately culminated in my near-death experience, I repeatedly dwelt upon the array of eventualities that could have potentially played out and seen me avoid such unnecessary trauma entirely, had just one
minor detail been different, had just one person listened to my complaints of severe pain, or read my hematologist’s letter, warning of a potential postpartum hematoma. The introduction or absence of any number of factors could have saved me, our son and our family from this traumatic experience, yet this particular set of factors had haphazardly and coincidentally aligned themselves with such precision as to produce an outcome none other than the one I had to experience.
So, why am I sharing this now? Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned from becoming a mother, it’s that our actions – no matter how seemly small or insignificant – hold the power and potential to ripple infinitely outward, affecting our lives and those of others in subtle and incredibly meaningful ways – ways of which we are not always cognizant.
For me, three key factors influenced my decision to switch from an academic, research-oriented career, in which I was a mere observer of social interaction, to one in which I had become an active participant.
While I was passionate and enthusiastic about my research as a doctoral student, after the birth of my son and the unanticipated confrontation with my own mortality, this passion and enthusiasm no longer provided the same fulfillment. Instead of effecting change through observation and analysis, I had an insuppressible desire to affect change on a more tangible, fundamental level.
Through my work as a doula, childbirth educator and breastfeeding counselor, I’ve found fulfillment in positively contributing to the well-being of mothers and their babies in wonderful, meaningful ways. And this, finally, brings me to the most critical ingredients of all:
1.) Value – When we consistently see value in the work we do and the contribution we make, we value ourselves. This is a huge source of contentment and motivation. And it is the satisfaction and motivation that we derive from our work that sustains us and enables us to invest ourselves in our work time and time again, despite the potential costs incurred.
2.) Passion – Almost as equally important as value, it is passion that carries us through in moments of doubt and helps us to persevere in the face of adversity. It’s what keeps us from giving up – and, even if we do give up temporarily, it most miraculously has a way of steering us back again sometimes in unconventional and unexpected ways.
3.) Aptitude – Taking into account our natural talent and abilities when choosing a career will help improve our chance of success. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we need to have already fully developed the skills at which we naturally excel. It means recognizing and seizing new opportunities for growth as well as honing and fine tuning solidly acquired skills. When encountering failure or setbacks, we maintain a growth mindset that allows us to achieve our goals.
How has motherhood changed your perspective career-wise? What factors did you consider when returning to or choosing a career after becoming a mother?
Carolyn Hecken is an avid learner of life, mother of four vibrant, spirited children, doula (D.A.M.E., June 2013), childbirth educator (HypnoBirthing®, June 2016) and breastfeeding counselor (EISL, September 2017). She holds a BA in Linguistics from the University of Washington and a MA in European Linguistics from the University of Freiburg. Home is wherever she’s surrounded by the laughter and shenanigans of her children, the zany humor of her husband and the company of compassionate friends. Admittedly, sunny weather and an exceptionally good cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt either. In August 2017, this ÜberMoms writer’s nomadic family travels landed her for a two-year stint in Hamburg. Carolyn is passionate about supporting mothers, babies and their families during the one of the most memorable and momentous experiences in life – pregnancy, the birth of baby and familyhood.