I was someone before I had a baby.
I was confident, satisfied, stimulated, happy and loved. I felt valued, productive and capable.
I liked me. The old me. The pre-kid me.
I wanted a baby so badly. I wanted to grow a family with my beautiful husband. I wanted to hold my baby and watch him grow and learn. I wanted to learn how to mother. I wanted this big life-change.
But, in all honesty, I never wanted to lose my old pre-child self. I really liked her.
I wanted her AND to be a mother.
So, when my precious little firecracker came along and blew my pre-conceived ideas about how life would be with a baby in the house, I felt completely lost.
Becoming a mother stripped me completely bare.
Over the 30 years of my life that were child-free, life had layered layer upon layer of detail to my identity. Layers of who I was. Layers of how I understood myself to be. What made me, ME.
Birth, Labour and Delivery were the first part of the stripping process.
The vulnerability, the strength, the uncertainty, the power, the completely raw, unfiltered, primal part of me I had no idea was even there was suddenly a new part of my identity. It was equal parts pride and confusion, as I had to process what my body had just experienced, all mixed in with the sudden realisation of what it means to have your very own precious human relying on you.
My body felt foreign to me.
Every day in the immediate postpartum was full of strange, unfamiliar changes taking place within my body. This body I thought I knew so well, was now unpredictable and uncomfortable.
I was tired to my very core and yet strangely energetic and charged.
My heart felt like it was expanding with love too quickly for comfort.
This piece of perfection before me, had I really helped create him?
I was amazed and impressed with the way my body managed to grow, birth and now feed my baby, how incredible was it to know my new powers.
But the days melded into night back into day, back into night again.
I hated the smell of the milk that seem to hang on my clothes. I hated not knowing if what I was doing for my baby was right or wrong. I hated when we couldn’t seem to stop the crying. I hated that I couldn’t put my baby down. I hated that he seemed to be becoming more unsettled and awake every day. I hated that I couldn’t seem to achieve even seemingly basic tasks. I hated our filthy house. I hated that I felt like I should be coping better.
Surely something was wrong?
And this was only the first few weeks. Surely things would get better. Easier somehow.
Surely one day soon, I’d be able to feel rested once more.
But the weeks crept on. Then the months passed by.
I was stripped, further and further. Layer by layer. Until I could see nothing in myself that was there before.
I was a shell.
That pre-baby me, I loved so well? She seemed to have vanished entirely.
So, who was I then?
Just a mother? Well I seemed pretty shit at that (though my baby was pretty darn incredible so I couldn’t be all bad, could I?).
Maybe I was just my boobs? They did seem to be the only thing that made my baby happy.
Oh, but he also loved my arms. He needed them to hold him tight.
Maybe also my voice, my humming, singing and whispered words, they did seem to bring some peace.
Then I guess my face, that seemed so gaunt, unembellished, pale never seemed to fail to make that baby’s eyes sparkle the moment he’d see me. Sometimes, with the biggest of smiles and other times with arms outstretched and tears streaming down, like I was the only one who could make things right.
And I was tenacious … For months, I had tirelessly (despite being tired to my bones) sought help to try and help him with his sleep until I finally found surrender in acceptance that a part of his unique perfection was his wakeful nature. My tenacity continued but now in the form of my vow to be constant.
More months passed by and still I was constant. he maintained the waking and I kept on responding.
There was no break. Not one night to breathe.
My stripping back continued, despite being convinced there was nothing left to lose, as I shed anything and everything I could to lighten my load and maintain my focus.
Two of the things I shed would change my world for the better-
1. keeping up the appearance that I could cope on my own
2. my tightly held pre-conceived ideas of what mothering should look like.
I started to seek active help for myself (not to fix my baby) and I became open to ideas that would allow me to mother the way I needed to mother, not the way I had decided was needed before I had even met my child nor the way society liked to tell me to do it.
I started to consciously find the light and value in my baby, our day and vitally, in me.
I came to see what was left in me once all the pretence had been stripped away.
Me, when I was pared back to my core.
I started to try to see myself the way those who loved me did.
This process, this extreme stripping of layers, gave me the space to re-evaluate, reinvigorate and redefine myself in a way I had never been able to do before.
Turns out, pre-baby me that I loved so well, well she had plenty of baggage. Her identity was clouded by a mix of things that mattered and things that were just things … superficial.
In the process of losing myself, all that was truly lost is the stuff that didn’t really matter.
More than Three years in, I no longer miss the old me. I am no longer grieving for my pre-child life.
I am absolutely in love with the newfound me.
She is the best mix of the important stuff that made me, me before as well as the learning and wisdom I have gained from the process of becoming a mother.
The incredible part is, I know that I will continue to grow and evolve as my babies grow and their intense needs lessen or shift and the space to just be ‘me’ opens up once again.
It’s been one hell of a ride.
This fleeting season where our babies seem to consume all of us and more, provides such an important opportunity for self-growth if only we can free ourselves up to be vulnerable and open to the process.
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