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.
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.
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.