Doesn’t that sound dramatic? Post partum identity crisis.
That’s how I felt for the first six months of being a new mom. The contents of my life were throw into a can, shaken up and unceremoniously dumped onto the sidewalk. I did not feel like me.
Things are great now and hindsight is 20/20, so I feel like I’m able to look back through a clear lens and process everything that happened. I’m on the other side now, the bright side, and I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled or joyous in my life. But at the beginning, my world was turned upside down.
It wasn’t about my baby either. He’s healthy and happy and I really enjoy the time I spend with him. I love this kiddo! But when he was first born and the duties were thankless, it was really freaking hard. And when I say hard, I don’t mean hard like before you have a kid. I’ve been told things were going to be hard my whole life. This was not the same. Raising a newborn kicked me flat on my ass and temporarily losing my sense of self was one of the worst parts.
What happened to my intellect? My ability to speak in complete sentences? No, I don’t want to always talk about breastfeeding or teething! Yes the baby is fine! No, I’m not sleeping. Are these the only conversations I get to have now that I’m a mom? I’m still Jessica! I want to tell jokes and brainstorm big ideas. I’m going to wither away if I only live in babytown speaking baby talk 100% of the time.
How about the curse of post partum depression? And all of the well wishing commenters who say “what do you possibly have to be sad about with such a healthy baby and wonderful husband?” How do you process such a deep, dark unhappiness when this is supposed to be the happiest time in your life? It’s heartbreaking to endure and it’s all part of the chemical dance happening your brain. And it can and will get better (in my case, with the help of a perscription that I have absolutely no shame about). The truth is that PPD is the number one complication after giving birth and going through that has helped me recognize what I need to balance myself out.
What the hell happened to the skin on my stomach? I went into having a baby willingly, gladly and excitedly and I came to the otherside feeling like I was in someone else’s skin. Literally. I left the hospital having lost two pounds (after an eight and a half pound baby), unable to wear the shoes or clothes I wore when I checked in. My breasts tripled in size. My tummy eventually flattened out seven months later, but now I have a little flap (ewww, can’t think of a better word for it) of skin that hovers over my cesarean scar. It takes a while to come to terms with the body you’re inhabiting isn’t the same one you started out with. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it won’t take time to process. I don’t feel ashamed of the changes or my need to understand and get used to them. We hear the media say all sorts of uplifting things about non-model bodies and battle cries of accepting yourself the way you are, but it’s not easy to wrap your head around living in a total different body, or at least it wasn’t for me.
Speaking of my body, how about those jugs? Now there’s a baby clammering to get to them, yelling “boobie!” in baby talk and hitting them everytime he wants a drink. How does that translate into sexy? WHEN DO I GET TO FEEL SEXY AGAIN?! It’s been so hard for me to feel womanly in that way when I have a nursling that’s almost always within arm’s reach and sleeps in the crook of my arm all night long.
But what I find to be most challenging of all… who am I if I’m not my job anymore? We spend years working towards our career dreams and I really felt like I’d made mine happen, but after the baby, you have to choose whether you work or stay home. Or do both. We do it because we need the money or the social engagement or the stimulation or honestly, because we need a break. But still, there’s this big cloud of guilt that hovers over our heads, even when we’re sure and confident about our choices.
Having a baby is without a doubt the biggest change of my life. I can’t say I’ve morphed out of my cocoon in the most elegant way, or that I’m off in flight or that I’m a butterfly and not a scary looking moth. But I’m different and I’m coming to terms with it. I’m different but better. I’m different and stronger. I’m different and I think I’m becoming more of the person I’ve always wanted to be.
I’ve discarded the shell that cares so much about what other people think. I’m a mama bear when it comes to any judgment on my parenting or the well being of my child. I’m the expert on all things Felix and that sense of confidence has spread into other parts of my life. I’m less apologetic for things I don’t need to apologize for and that feels pretty amazing. I know my child best. Period.
I’m starting to see myself as both loving mother and ambitious enterprenuer at the same time. I can be more than just a caregiver. I can love spending time with a baby and love getting tipsy on a night out with my friends. I can do both at different times.
I’m not just a mother.
I’m getting the hang of this.