The moment I learned I was pregnant, every thought of myself coming first dissipated like the morning mist when the sun climbs up over the horizon. It became an automatic reflex in my life, a knee-jerk reaction. Children come first. My wants and needs slid down the priority ladder, and I accepted it not once, but twice – cheerfully, gratefully, and without regret.
I gave my children life, and their ability to thrive and grow depended upon me and my level of dedication to them. I saw them through sickness, emergency room visits, and health crises. I enriched their lives with stories, walks in the woods, and lessons about being kind and compassionate, even with the smallest of creatures. I shared the best parts of their world and tried to shield them from the rest.
Every now and again, I’d wonder if I’d recognize who I was before I became a mother. Would I know who she’d become? Would she be the same person I left behind years ago? Probably not. Claire knew she needed something more from her 20th century life in addition to being a wife and mother. Becoming a surgeon filled the hours and gave her life purpose, but there were those unexpected moments that forced her to remember the life and love she’d left behind.
Brianna grew up, and Frank passed away. The way should be clear for Claire to return to the 18th century and Jamie. Except the maternal instinct is strong, regardless of the age of one’s children.
It’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to put yourself first even when your children are grown and living lives of their own. Without Brianna’s determination and encouragement, I don’t think Claire would have gone back through the stones to find Jamie. Roger’s presence in Bree’s life gives Claire peace of mind, knowing he will be a part of her life once she leaves. Bree will be in good, caring, Scottish hands. And Claire can try to reclaim the life she left behind.
With my children grown, I looked at where I was on that priority ladder. I discovered I’d slipped down countless rungs, taking care of and being taken advantage by others. I was so far down, the top disappeared into the clouds – it would be a daunting, perilous climb. Who would I find if/when I made it to the top? Would I recognize who I was, or who I’d become? There were only two choices. Give up, or start climbing.
I’m nearing the top, and though Claire is climbing a set of stairs, I have the same feeling that’s reflected on her face. My heart is pounding, my palms sweating as I prepare to open the door to the life I left behind all those years ago. The life that was me.