I’ve not written about this side of the motherhood journey for me before, but I have spoken about it and am not scared to admit what I’m about to write about, as I realise lots of other mothers out there feel and go through exactly the same thing. The beauty of us being so connected in the world, by social media and the internet, is now, people are talking about it more and sharing their true feelings and hopefully people are suffering in silence less. What am I talking about? Well, this crazy journey called motherhood and losing my sense of self…
Motherhood and losing my sense of self – what do I mean?
Sounds a bit dramatic perhaps? Ambiguous? Well for a long time, I don’t think even I knew what I meant by this statement. But I do now. What I mean is, that when I became a mother, I lost who I was as a person a little bit.
I had to really, because I was navigating this new world of parenting – I had a tiny baby that completely and utterly depended on me for life and I was faced with lack of sleep and exhaustion like I never knew was possible. Of course, I was bound to be changed. I didn’t really have time to think about it at first, certainly no time to do anything about it, as my sole purpose in life for those first few weeks (and probably months), was to feed, love and look after our baby, just like any other mother does.
I didn’t have much time to think about the things I wasn’t doing, or wasn’t able to do. I didn’t even think about the lifelong changes to my body at that time or the impact parenthood would have on our relationship. No, I was totally and utterly wrapped-up in being a mum, for its good and its bad, its best-thing-ever moments and its how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-through-this moments. I was just figuring it all out and motherhood was consuming me entirely.
The first 12 weeks
Anyone who’s had a baby will know that those first twelve weeks are the ones that are a total and utter blur. If you’re lucky, you’ll have your significant other and/or family around you for at least the first portion of that, but oh boy, is it a crazy time! You’re exhausted, you’re confused, you’re awake more than ever before and you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be doing (even if you did read all the books). You’re just figuring it all out. You’re also hopefully feeling elated, overjoyed, overwhelmed with love (although, many people also don’t feel like this at this time, so that’s normal too!) and excited about your new life as a little family.
there wasn’t really this back-to-my-old-life-but-just-with-a-really-cute-baby experience I’d hoped for
Losing your sense of self…
I was always pretty adamant that I wouldn’t be one of those people that had a sprog and a personality transplant at the same time. I mean those people that suddenly become “mumsy” and disinterested in all the things they loved before and incapable of holding on to the same group of friends and who only ever talk about snot, nappies and getting their offspring into the best nursery in the area.
Nope, although that may be perfectly fine for some, I didn’t want that and I didn’t think that had to happen either. My school of thought has always been that yes, of course things change and of course you have to adapt, but you can still be the person you were before children and your baby can fit into your life, not the other way round. I feel that was the general ethos my parents instilled in me – I never felt like we were a chore, my parents used to still go out, have fun, entertain friends and travel…just generally with us kids there too. Perfect balance.
So when I started to go through a bit of a “dip” and crisis of confidence, I was confused at how it wasn’t all quite panning out like that. A few months in, I spent the majority of my days at home with my baby girl, with intermittent trips out to baby-groups (for my own sanity, as well as her personal and mental development) and watching the clock ’til the hubby would come home and resenting it if he were even a few minutes late. I’d then hand-over baby, if even for a fleeting moment, just desperate for a bit of personal space, probably some food and a wash. But generally, in the moments where I would have my body and mind to myself, I’d do laundry, washing-up or tidying, as inevitably the place was a mess. A few months in, there wasn’t really this back-to-my-old-life-but-just-with-a-really-cute-baby experience I’d hoped for. I wasn’t really sat in beer gardens drinking Pimms (and if I was, I was trying to disguise my insanely overinflated boobs, whilst breast-feeding an endless grazer of a baby and half sipping my drink, half spilling it down my chin, before it all just became a bit too much and I decided being semi-passed-out on the couch at home would be an easier option instead) and I wasn’t skipping merrily along cobbled paths (I don’t know why I imagined cobbled paths in this scenario!), baby in sling, stopping-off for regular tea and cake breaks and book-reading sessions in the park, either. Don’t get me wrong, there was a bit of that, but definitely not as much as I’d anticipated.
All my baby-free friends came to visit…once. They’d pop by in the early days when baby was so cute and they could just cuddle her and ask loads of questions about how the birth went, but they all had their lives to go back to, parties to get drunk at and uninterrupted eating to get on with (damn them!). Family would come up and stay for days on end, giving a glimmer of hope of regaining a bit of my sanity and independence, before wrenching it right back with them when they left and again returned back to their normal, baby-free lives. I wasn’t really going out for girly evenings whilst the hubby remained at home, holding a sleeping baby in one arm and a beer in the other (as don’t get me wrong, he was going through all of this too, but only with the added element of having to drag himself to work on a daily basis!), like I’d planned.
Nope, I was a glorified milking cow for the best part of six months, eating whatever carb got in my way and walking around like a milk-stained zombie. I could barely remember my name, let alone what I enjoyed doing.
I could barely remember my name, let alone what I enjoyed doing.
…just for a little while
But you know what, if I’d had known that everything I’ve just described above was TOTALLY AND UTTERLY NORMAL and that in fact, I was putting undue pressure on myself to bounce back, be the happy, fun, energetic, Prosecco-loving version of myself, I would have given myself a break! Of course I was a zombie, I was having about 4 hours of interrupted sleep every night! Of course I couldn’t spend all day drinking in a beer-garden! I was breast-feeding our teeny, tiny newborn every 1-2 hours and she needed all of my attention. Of course I wasn’t seeing my mates as much! They had regular child-free lives to get on with and who was I to resent that?!
I realised that, after a while of soul-searching and self-doubt, that I couldn’t be all things at once. Instead there was a new dimension to me now, one that was a mother. One that was a bloody good mother at that (even though I do say so myself) and I needed to give myself a break. I’d be drinking in beer gardens with the best of them before no-time…just with a little mini-me hanging around too. [I should probably add here that I do not endorse getting drunk around kids…not without a sober, responsible adult around anyways…I just think if you like it, a good glass of wine or a stiff G&T here and there makes parenting that little bit easier!].
So I did regain my self-confidence, as well as a new found confidence in me as the same old Holly I always was, a good laugh (I hope!), someone that likes to go out (occasionally), and someone with an appropriate level of banter for a thirty-something. But I also now like to go for walks with my little girl, pointing out each and everything we pass, snuggle up on the sofa in front of Netflix with my family, take about a million photos of her every day and spend a good chunk of my time talking about how wonderful (and occasionally bloody difficult) she is. I also now enjoy saying things like “there’s no such word as can’t”…”if she’s hungry she’ll eat”…”babe, have you got the nappies?”…”no no, don’t wake her”…and other parenting gems like that. And you know what? I’m ok with that.
The new me
So I guess the whole point of me writing this is to say that yes, you change a little bit when you have kids – it’d be weird if you didn’t. You might even completely forget who you are as a person or couple for a while. But that’s totally normal and the majority of other parents out there are going through the same thing too. But this haze, this fog, is only temporary and things do get easier. You start to work out your own rhythm as a family and negotiate times where you get to just be yourselves again and then new times, that are wonderful in their own way, where you get to be parents and a family. And if you can work out how to do it all, have a laugh along the way and still have a Prosecco in hand occasionally, then you’re winning!
Then, just as it’s all falling into place…you go and get yourself preggers again…
And I guess, that’s another story. Ask me in 3 months time if I still feel I have my sense of self then 😉