Parenting

I'm Finally Out Of The 'Baby Phase' ... Now It's Time For My 'Me Phase'

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I got married at age 21 and immediately started trying for a baby. It took us six years to have our first, three years to have our second, and another four years to complete our family with a third. From the ages of 21 to 36, I was in the “baby phase” — either pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive.

Fifteen years.

Years when I was very young. If I’d chosen another path, I probably would have spent that time partying, or at the very least, prioritizing myself a little more. Instead, I chose to spend it peeing on ovulation tests, charting my cycles, taking fertility meds, and generally focusing almost solely on creating my family. I don’t regret a thing. It really feels like I was born to be a mom. I never wanted anything more than each of my three babies.

But they’re not babies anymore. My youngest is two. She weaned a few months ago, and my body is now fully my own. For the first time since I was 21, I am not housing, feeding, or hoping to house a human baby with my body.

My tubes are tied, and my baby phase is over. Sure, there’s some wistfulness there, but you know what else there is?

Freedom. And time.

I’m out of the Baby Phase, and it’s time for my Me Phase.

I’m prioritizing things that I let go when I was a brand-new mom. Now that my babies are getting bigger, I’m taking care of ME.

Of course, I’m still taking care of my children, too. But that’s a lot less of a full-time job than it once was. They’re getting more independent by the minute, and I think it’s only fair to them that I rediscover myself. They shouldn’t have to be my everything. That puts way too much pressure on them. They deserve to have a mom who knows who she is outside of being their caregiver so they can feel completely free to discover who they are outside of this family, too.

My first order of business when I chose to prioritize myself again was to get a panniculectomy, a procedure to remove loose skin and fat from my lower abdomen. As soon as my last baby weaned, I started the insurance approval process. I had the surgery a few months ago. I’m still plus-size and round, but I am so much happier in my body. My mobility is better, buying clothes is a blast again, and I feel more energetic and pretty than I have in years. Having an apron belly was weighing on my heart even more than my body.

My surgery made me realize that I’ve been living life on the back burner during the baby phase. Putting my children first has always felt so obvious, so intuitive, but I never really considered how much I was ignoring myself in the process. My babies have every single thing they could ever need or want. I have to remind myself that it’s not selfish to choose to take center stage in my own life once in a while.

For me, that looks like regular nail appointments, intentional time carved out for my girlfriends, investing time and a small amount of money in taking care of my skin, and even late-night crafting. It means guilt-free date nights because I’m not leaving a tiny nursing baby behind anymore.

My “Me Phase” consists mostly of allowing myself to use some of my time on things that only benefit me without allowing my mind to wander to a place where I would feel guilt or shame.

I have three years until I turn 40, and I’m making the most of them. I’m doing things that make me happy and give me a purpose that isn’t wholly wrapped up in motherhood. When I turn the big 4-0, I want to be able to confidently say that I consistently take good care of everyone I love—including me.

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