Losing Yourself to Motherhood


Losing yourself seems to be part of becoming a mother, almost like a rite of passage. The problem is, following a rite of passage people often expect you to be wiser and acknowledge your readiness for your new role. You’re given access to knowledge or tools you didn’t have before.

When you become a mother, all you get is coupons for diapers, a free can of formula (whether you intend to formula feed or not), and unsolicited advice from people who are a generation or two out of touch. You might get a bunch of pamphlets pointing you to local resources and telling you things like how to bond with your baby and when you can expect certain milestones to happen.

What they don’t tell you is that feeling like you have NO IDEA what you’re doing is normal. Or that the sleep deprivation might feel like it’s going to kill you, but it probably won’t and will (eventually) end. Or that if you don’t feel overwhelmed with love for your baby, that’s okay too, and if it lasts for a while and you really feel like you can’t cope you might want to ask for some help.

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As a matter of fact, none of the pamphlets I skimmed through or the books I read or the prenatal classes I attended told it like it really is. Which is:

You will lose a part of yourself when you become a mother.

You probably won’t be able to do all the things you’re used to doing, at least not at first, and your husband or partner shouldn’t expect to either.

You will likely be transformed by this experience in ways you could never imagine and no one could ever accurately describe to you.

Some of those changes will be great. Wonderful. Magical, even. Some might make you feel like you’ve figured out the meaning of life, even if it’s 3 a.m.

And some of those changes will be hard. Really hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cashier or a cook or a CEO, being a mother will be the hardest job you’ve ever had.

That was certainly the case for me. I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea just how hard it would be. Some of the changes were absolutely not okay with me but it’s difficult, I discovered, to convince a newborn who won’t sleep to see reason.

I realize it’s not this hard for everyone. For me, postpartum depression (unrecognized and undiagnosed for 18 months) made it almost impossibly hard. I absolutely lost myself and have battled for almost three years to find myself again. It turns out the person I was is not coming back, and I’m finally learning to be okay with that. To embrace it, even.

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When I started blogging and was trying to choose a name for my blog, I wanted to acknowledge that the crazy, raging, anxiety-ridden person I had become after having a baby was not who I wanted to be. That person was a stranger to me, and to my husband, who took the brunt of a lot of my exhaustion and anger. That stranger was a big part of me for a while, and will always be a part of who I’ve become. But it’s time to say farewell.

As she slowly ceases to be part of who I am, I watch her go. I send her acceptance and gratitude, both for what she’s taught me and for retreating when asked, but I don’t wish to see her again. I’m ready to accept what I’ve lost and embrace what I’ve gained instead.

Farewell, stranger. I wish you well.

About the writer

Robin Farr is a woman, a writer, a wife, a runner, a communications professional, a speaker and a mom – chronologically, at least. She got mixed up philosophically during her struggle with postpartum depression but wrote her way out of it on her blog, Farewell, Stranger. That experience, and a lifelong habit of finding inspiration in even the bad things that happen to her, led her to a new motto: “Live the life you’re meant to.”


Anonymous 3 months ago

I can relate to this so much. I had undiagnosed PP anxiety after my first. Your article is a perfect description of how I felt. I just had my third 9 months ago and I’m still trying to figure things out! The growth and changes in ourselves when we become mothers is monumental.

Susan 3 months ago

Keep in mind that this is a stage in your life. It will go by quickly. “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Outnumbered 3 months ago

Thank you thank you! I could have written this verbatim. I am in the midst of this now and cried when I read your words feeling as though I am not alone. These feelings have nothing to do with not wanting to be a mom or not loving your kids but rather being a great mom who gives all of herself to her family to the point she has nothing left. I am trying to try to take more time for myself and the other things that fill my soul besides my family. I know that this will only make everyone happier but for some of us it’s easier said than done.

Ali 1 year ago

Thank you.

Loyce 1 year ago

My little one is now 9 months old and have had to battle with sudden outbursts of anger and resentment towards my boyfriend. Am usually paranoid and the lack of sleep makes it worse. But I wouldn’t exchange the feeling of motherhood for anything in this world. I love this little being so much..

viagra 3 years ago

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Twins momma 3 years ago

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Paddy Peters 3 years ago

I can totally relate. Had twins almost exactly 4 years ago the first 18 mo pure hell.. Breast/formula feeding/pumping every hr and 45 min RTC for 5 months.. Thought we would die! And I had my mom helping nearly full time! Shit hit the fan right before their 2nd bday I found out I had kidney cancer and it has possibly spread to my ovary. Jesus Christ, we went through 5 years of infertility and treatment after treatment and I never got the god damn life insurance because I was too fat I wanted to wait until I wasnt pregnant.. Big mistake. Funny thing. I handled it all like a champ for that whole year following double mAjor abdominal surgeries( my 5th) then this last year I fell apart mentally. My md say its PTSD… Anyone go through anything like this? Im in total remission, i should be celebrating! It did not spread to ovaries!! Huge relief they removed it anyway only to find a blood clot. After becoming deeply depressed and extremely anxious( already had anxiety disorder) and now suffering from a year long bout of insomnia again ( similar but not as severe as babies first 18 months) I feel like I’m barely hanging on some days. I just shook my daughter physically In bed this afternoon for not settling down for her nap, and for coughing, I
suspected exaggeratedly, Jesus it got better with her inhaler..I feel like a fucking monster, out of control… I realize no one will likely see this old post.. MD started me on Wellbutrin which helped tremendously with depression but made anxiety and agitation worse. Anyone out there? With similar?

Joonbugh 3 years ago

Thank you! This made me cry since I could so closely relate to it. My husband’s dominant hand was badly injured before our son was born, and thus I got zero help for the first six months of his life. I fantasized about dying constantly and visited a counselor and my regular doctor, both of whom said there was nothing wrong with me. My son did not sleep through the night consistently until thirteen months and I can still count on my fingers the number of times my DH got up with him. He really wants another kid; I would rather be stung to death by bees, and the thought of losing even more of myself makes me even more opposed to it. 😛

Erin@MommyontheSpot 3 years ago

Realizing that the old you isn’t coming back – is so accurate. I had PPD, too, and never realized it. I wish I would’ve read this post way back then.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Momchalant 3 years ago

What a beautiful story. This is a great way to perceive the new person you have become after entering motherhood. I wish you well on your journey!

Kristen Brakeman 3 years ago

Nice post.
I remember feeling like the only one in the world who didn’t love being a new mom. Especially when people would look at me with that scrunched up face and say, ‘Isn’t it great!” I wanted to smack them! But it gets better. My teens are alive and well though now I’m sleep-deprived once again.

Ashley 3 years ago

I’m so in the same boat, and truly sometimes the only saving grace is knowing I’m not alone. No one could’ve prepared me for the highest of highs, and honestly lowest of lows, I’ve experienced as a mom. I’ve learned more about myself, about love, patience, and the fact that who I was is not who I’m going to be as a Mom, in the past 7 months that I could have thought possible. Thanks for this honest and hopeful post!

Lindsay Cresta 3 years ago

Thank you for writing this. I did not feel this way with my first child. A little lost and very insecure but in love and happy but this all changed three years later when I had my daughter. My second child changed everything in my life. She is almost four and I have not yet figured out what happened to me or who I have become. I have a list full of titles but I don’t think any of them properly describe me anymore. I need to stop ignoring me and this nagging need to find me and spend sometime with myself. I am just afraid I will never find what is missing or learn to love the new me. I had never heard anyone say this could happen on you second child it blind sided me.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    That’s so tough, Lindsay, but I’m not entirely surprised. Going from one to two kids is a really big transition. I hope you’re able to find your balance again.

dawn mc 3 years ago

OH THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS WONDERFUL PIECE! Finally someone knows what im going through and dss 11 & 8. This loss of self and a stranger in my place was further troubled when dh was diagnosed w cancer the week of xmas 2008. I felt like the stranger, has gotten even stranger! Thank you for for letting me know im NOT alone, although I have felt it. You gained a new follower!

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Thanks, Dawn. Sorry to hear you’re in the same boat, but at least you’re not alone!

Stacey 3 years ago

Beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. I’m glad to read that you’ve had #2 and things are going better. Being a Mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding.

Jessica Smock 3 years ago

This is such a great post! Our stories are very similar. Now that my son is almost 22 months old, I feel like I’m beginning to make some sense of the new person that I’ve become. It’s really a long process of grieving, of letting go, of your old self and your old world. Part of it is wonderful, part of it is more difficult than you could have ever imagined. I feel so strongly that women should use pregnancy as a time of trying to figure out themselves, of spending lots of time alone, and of reassessing where they are in life. When I think of all the time during pregnancy that I spent comparison shopping strollers or debating the merits of various diaper bags, I now tell all pregnant women to think less about the “stuff” and products that are going to be involved in new motherhood and more about their inner lives.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    SO true Jessica. I wish it were easier to make those about-to-be-moms understand that.

Debbie 3 years ago

Hi Robin. Glad that you are doing good now. Yes, we do loss ourselves after having kids, but I came back a better person.

It is a good thing that not all mothers have to go through the depression. Sorry that it worked out this way for you.

Lindsey 3 years ago

Wow, I am left speechless by this and it’s pulling me to write you a comment (as which i have never done before). Thank you for those amazing words I felt them in my heart while I read them. I too have battled this war and getting to the end as well. Well said , well put and good luck, as I know I will need it to.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Thanks for commenting, Lindsey. And good luck!

miss lissa 3 years ago

When I went through postpartum depression and anxiety, my doctor told me to look through parenting magazines. But not for the reason I expected. She pointed out how flawed the pictures are of the new mothers with perfectly applied makeup, white, spotless clothes, cuddling their newborn with not even a hint of fatigue. We set ourselves up for disappointment comparing ourselves to the standards of magazines and pinterest and others. Real life has ups AND downs, and there’s nothing wrong with sharing both.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Absolutely! I roll my eyes at pictures in magazines.

Savannah 3 years ago

This made me bawl. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only mother in the world who feels lost. I know in my heart that I’m not but often that doesn’t help in the moment. I love my child more than anything but I will never get the months back that I spent buried deep in depression after he was born. I have so many regrets, but I also have so much love.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Oh Savannah, I want to give you a hug. You aren’t alone. You really aren’t. But I know it still feels that way.

Hayley 3 years ago

Thanks Robyn, it take courage to share these things. There is such alot of competition and one upwomanship in having a child. It is very easy to feel isolated and alone. Particularly if you get pnd like I did. Somedays it felt like it was me and a packet of pills against the world but it does get better. We lose ourselves but we evolve. I miss my carefree pre baby self, but I feel like I am older and wiser now and it is great to have blogs like scary mummy to escape from all the yummy mumminess that so many women try to present to the world.

Mommyproof 3 years ago

I can so totally relate to this — I just wrote a post about it on my own blog no less than a week ago!


I’ve actually found that it becomes harder and harder to find “myself” as my (first) child gets older, because I’m further from the person I used to be… and that’s scary. I realize that this new me isn’t permanent, she’s here to stay.

Arnebya 3 years ago

So many of us leave the hospital or birthing center clueless to multiple things. The loss of essential parts of our being, the inability to be the way we were instantly after the baby has evacuated “our” premises…these are things that need to be talked about more often and you do it so wonderfully well here.

Heather 3 years ago

You have magically put into words what every new mom realizes very slowly over time. Beautiful post!

Jen @ Life on the SONny Side 3 years ago

This is brilliant. I could relate to every last comma. What a perfect way of putting into words what so many of us feel. I get trying to convince my husband…”before”
will never be again. New game. New rules. New life. A wonderful piece!!

Kathy 3 years ago

When my baby wouldn’t stop crying and I was soo tired, I imagined throwing her/him out of a window. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was ashamed. I then found out I had postpartum depression and it was being PROLONGED by breast-feeding! That was 27 years ago and this is the 1st time I ever told anyone what I was feeling. Don’t stay quiet! This blog is important for all Moms of all ages!

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Kathy, I’m right there with you. I wrote a post on my blog about wanting to throw my baby out the window and it was so incredibly hard to admit. I’ve since discovered that A LOT of moms feel that way. Like, really a lot. So even 27 years later, you’re not alone.

Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 3 years ago

It’s so true that no one prepares you for this. I’ve definitely lost pieces of myself, and postpartum is so brutally difficult. At the same time, I’ve found other parts of myself I didn’t know existed. It’s such a crazy journey.

Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) 3 years ago

Great to see Robin here!

Where was this post 8 years ago? In my (humor!) book, I cover PPD briefly, by leaving some blank pages. Because that’s pretty much what I remember of those months. And how a felt.

Great post.

Theresa 3 years ago

I think a lot of the resentment and anger I still feel is my old self trying to cling to this new life. I dont know how to let her go…

Thanks for sharing your story, I always love reading your words.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Thanks Theresa. And I totally know what you mean. I was that way for a long time and it was a central part of my struggle. The trick for me was acknowledging my old self and being honest about what parts of her I couldn’t keep (at least for now). And then figuring out which parts I absolutely need to keep and finding a way to do that. Like being an introvert – I need quiet at some point in the day and time alone. Even if that’s 5 minutes in my room with the door closed, I have to have it to stay sane. So I started finding a way to get it (at least some days). Knowing which parts of me needed to be kept and supported helped me find that balance.

Michele C. 3 years ago

This is so very, very true. And I wish I had understood it more when I had kids. I went through a similar struggle when I got married, like I wasn’t sure what my role was. My first was an easy transition, but after I had my second child our lives flipped upside down and I’m only now, almost 3 years later, figuring out a new path for myself. Thank you for sharing this.

Amy K. 3 years ago

For a while after my first was born, I was determined not to let anyone else go into motherhood unprepared! I tried SO hard to explain it to my friends who had kids after me, and succeeded in scaring the bejeezus out of some of them, but failed to accurately describe what first time parenting is like. You do it so well here!

The thing I am realizing now is that those years of giving up yourself & every.single.minute being about your kids go by *really* quickly! In a quick 10 years, I went from first first-time mom among my friends to everyone being done having kids. It went by so fast!!

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    So true. And also I think it’s literally impossible to explain it to someone who hasn’t been there yet. You simply can’t know what it’s like to be a mom until you’re there yourself.

Isabel 3 years ago

i love this thanks! i also had ppd for almost 6 months…after three boys i still am looking for myself…:( how does it work?

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    I think the key is determination, some time to yourself and the hardest thing of all – asking for help. Most of us aren’t good at that, but I think it’s a big part of avoiding being totally consumed by motherhood.

Beth 3 years ago

Oh yes, you do lose yourself. It started for me with pregnancy. Mine was not intended, and deciding to keep it, I lost friends. I spent a week in the hospital, and so many people, instead of giving me support, were outraged by the hospital and mad that I wasn’t out yet. I got lectures, interruptions, debt collectors, and 2 weeks with my child before back to work. 14 weeks later, and I still am in shock. I am just starting to come out of my labor induced shock, and am slowly realizing so much more needs to change.

    Tiffers 3 years ago

    Good for you!

    I only “see” most of my old friends on FB since I have had my kids. Oh well so be it. It gets better and new friends will pop out of nowhere

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    That would cause shock for anyone, Beth! Hang in there.

Jennifer 3 years ago

ALL so true. Just accepting the new me now, 22-months after my Love arrived.

Wendi Kilbride 3 years ago

Guess what…I’m 43, with a 14yr old, 11yr old and 2 1/2 year old. Don’t give up that your old self won’t ever come back, it’s only been 3 years. Sure, at this point 3 years seems like an eternity but one day, when your kids are older, you WILL get many of the parts of you back that you thought were long gone. Only this time, you’ll be old enough to appreciate them :) Mark my words, 5 or 7 years from now..you’ll look back and realize that you were just going through the normal young children years which is just a blip on your long life as a momma!

    Bobbi 3 years ago

    Wendi writes: you WILL get many of the parts of you back that you thought were long gone. Only this time, you’ll be old enough to appreciate them :)
    As a 60 something mom and grandma, I can agree with Wendy. It may take some time, but you are who you are and parts of you don’t really disappear forever. Unless you want them to.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Wendi, I think that’s true to a degree. I originally wrote this post a year or so ago, so while I’ve only been a mom now for not quite 5 years, there are parts of me that I really do think are gone forever. I think that’s part of the deal with postpartum depression for a lot of women – our brains actually change and we lose some of who we used to be. I used to be totally organized, reliable and anally punctual. Not at all anymore, and it has nothing to do with being a busy mom.

    That said, I have found ways to get parts of myself back after a rough start to motherhood. And I’m almost 40 – I appreciate more and more every day!

      Tina 3 years ago

      I have been a momma for 2 1/2 years and I am a survivor of postpartum psychosis and severe postpartum depression. My husband and I are currently struggling with the fact that he thinks the “old Tina” will be back – in just due time. He thinks that I will be the way I used to be eventually. I keep trying to relay to him what Robin said above. That part of me has changed. I know I do the best that I can and I can see some of the old Tina which is nice…but there is still apart of me that is…lost. I totally understand this post. Thank you Robin for sharing. I have copied and pasted your comment to send to my husband. Maybe it coming from another momma – maybe it will sink in with him. It is a lot of pressure to constantly be reminded that you are not “who you used to be.” Like this “new” Tina isn’t good enough.

Christina 3 years ago

This SO needed to be written! I had no idea who I was once my son was born. Three years later, there are still days I am not 100% positive. I was a sleep deprived, paranoid mess in the months following his arrival. I remember one night when I was in the shower and was SURE that someone had broken into my house and was trying to kidnap my baby…and that someone was his paternal grandmother. I jumped out of the shower in a storm of confusion and chaos only to find him sleeping soundly in his crib, my house (in the middle of NOWHERE btw) empty…just as it was 2 minutes before when I got in the shower. I thought I was going insane and NO ONE heard me when I would talk about it. They all laughed and thought I was being comical. Grrrrr…

Anyway…thanks! This is going to help so many new moms!

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Oh Christina, that sucks. Stuff like that is actually more common than most people think and it’s totally not funny. Our brains can really mess with us when we have a baby.

jen 3 years ago

So true and honest. I am pregnant with #2 and am actually more scared of what parts of me I will lose when I gain this new love.

    Robin | Farewell, Stranger 3 years ago

    Jen, I just had #2 in October. (This post was originally published on my blog in 2011.) I actually feel like I’ve found more of myself now instead of losing more. I think there are many reasons for that, but some of it is just awareness of how hard being a mom is and knowing I need to find time for myself.

      JQ 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing all of this.

      I also had #2 in October!

      I find I am beginning to like this mommy version of me now, where I couldn’t really see her with #1. I thought I was a terrible mom–always berating myself for feeling disconnected and bitter about the things having a baby took away. So much guilt.

      Just a few days after coming home with #2, I found myself curled up around him, admiring him through the blur of big dribbly tears. They weren’t from sadness or frustration, but tremendous relief and awe. I was actually capable of experiencing these elusive maternal, nurturing, bonding feelings. I wasn’t broken or anything! (one of the thoughts I kept having with #1)

Karen 3 years ago

Soon, you won’t even really remember your former self, because you will be a completely new person, a person you are glad you became!

Poppy 3 years ago

There are a few tell it like it is pregnancy books, but this post should be included in discharge paperwork from the hospital because it is so true. All new mothers need to know that “I have no idea what I’m doing” feeling IS normal.

Alison 3 years ago

Yes, yes we do. Lose ourselves. It’s like because a piece of us, our heart, goes into each child we birth. I’m so glad you found your way back to the other side.

Jennifer 3 years ago

Yay Robin! Thanks for sharing your story here. I don’t think anyone ever talks about these types of things, and they need to be said out loud so that others will know they are not alone.


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