NAVIGATING BEING A NEW MOTHER
Motherhood is a profound experience. Motherhood can also be a time of figuring out who you are in the process and not lose the YOU, you were pre-baby. I remember after I had my first son I had really felt like I didn’t remember the me that I was. I felt I had let myself go. I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I was shocked. I had no idea who was looking back at me. That person I was staring at had unwashed hair, spit-up, and breast milk stains on her old oversized unsexy Gap T-shirt. She also had a breast pad stuck to the back of her stretchy pants. I found out that I had been doing things I would have never done before. I ate weird things standing up in the kitchen, and I was now perfectly willing to stick my hand in my kid's diaper to test if it was time for a diaper change. How did I get to that place?
My breakdown moment came when I was out for brunch for the first time after my first baby was born. Sitting at the table, I lifted my son out of the highchair and buried my nose deep in his diapered butt to sniff for a poop. The woman at the table next to me looked appalled and absolutely disgusted. I don’t blame her. I was smelling for poop in a restaurant! I had just done something I had sworn I'd never do. I walked to my car, sweating profusely from carrying him in that awful bucket car seat, that still gives me hives when I see one, and I too did not recognize the woman staring back at me in my rearview mirror. It was a sleep-deprived and overwhelmed moment of low.
Although I think maybe having a soaking breast pad secretly stuck to your body may be a right of passage, feeling as if you lost who yourself is something to really address.
You have a baby now. Yes, your life has changed. Yes, you are tired. Of course, you are! How could you not be? You are responsible for keeping a human being alive and loved. It is an incredible and rewarding full-time job and a challenging one too. However, you are also responsible for keeping yourself whole and loved as well.
I suggest you take a few minutes to yourself. Sit down and do some free-writing in a journal. Get everything out. Write as if nobody will ever see it. Say all the things you are afraid to admit—state all your fears. Be angry and sad. Do not hold back! Get it all down and out. Once you have done that, make a shortlist of five things that you would like to change to begin to get yourself back to yourself as a whole YOU. Perhaps this will be the first time you embrace the idea that you get to be a whole person, even with kids. For example:
I commit to teaching my baby to sleep through the night. All of us need to sleep, and everyone is suffering.
Have a loving, grounded conversation with my partner about the things that need to get done around the house. We decide together who will do what and how we will get it all done.
I sit down at the table to eat at least two meals a day. Even if it is short, it shows I value myself.
I trash my vomit-smelling Gap T-shirts. I go on Amazon and look for a beautiful PJ set that makes me feel good. I buy some bath salts too and maybe some high-end T-shirts!
I carve out a bit of time after the baby is asleep to eat dinner at the table with my love, and then go up for a fifteen-minute relaxing tub.
The list is just a start, but as you can see, you do not have to decide to go back to work or climb Mount Everest or ride your Peloton for an hour. Start small and make sure your list is entirely doable at first. If you were too ambitious at first, pare it down. If you start small, you will be more likely to follow through; you will feel better because you did it!
We tend to morph into the roles we have in our lives, our titles. I am a lawyer. I am a writer. I am a mother. But what you do in your life does not define who you are as a human being. You are a unique and beautiful person who can be whole no matter what is happening outside yourself. Take this "OMG I have a breast pad stuck on my ass" moment as an opportunity to flourish and unfurl. You get to decide what is important and who you are. It is a moment to discover your real self.
It is always good to try to see the humor in everything. It helps give you the perspective to lift above the hopelessness.