Motherhood. It is beautiful and terrifying and amazing. The sense of duty and purpose is overwhelming and feelings of love and anxiety are so great I fear my heart could split in two. The changes I’m seeing in myself are physical, emotional and mental and, sometimes, they scare the shit out of me. Not because I’m afraid of feelings, but because I’m already so different than the person I was some odd months ago. As I celebrate this new life of mine, I am also mourning my old one…
The transition from single, selfish, self-absorbed and self-obsessed to utterly selfless is a shock. Am I still in there? Will I ever be the old me again? Do I care? Yes. Sometimes. I miss myself. I feel ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I miss my freedom.
Motherhood, in my infantile experience, has presented me with an unanticipated dichotomy: the fierce need to give myself entirely to my child and husband, but also the want to run screaming from the house and not come back. When I think about it, I feel utterly foolish for thinking I’d effortlessly survive the hazing of the postpartum/newborn period and gracefully acclimate to merciless sleep deprivation and drool-stained tank tops. I thought the hardest thing about babies was the 40 weeks you walked around growing them and the climactic event of actually birthing them. After that, it would be all chubby cheeks, coddling, and the occasional blowout, right? I didn’t understand the emotional overhaul and identity makeover I would experience after my body had healed and the nights became not-so-sleepless.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely overjoyed with my life. I have a gorgeous, healthy baby and a husband who treats me like a queen. However, there are those times late at night when I’m awake nursing my baby by the light of a smartphone and I begrudge the little one on my lap and envy the husband peacefully snoring. I resent the friends posting photos of their untethered lives on social media. I immediately feel disgusted with myself for those fleeting moments where I want to crawl out of my skin for thinking such awful things about the people I love the most. How can I be so selfish? Why can’t I get it through my head that my life is no longer just about me? Because it’s hard and because it wasn’t so long ago that my life wasn’t like this. I wasn’t like this. This is what your friends and What to Expect don’t tell you about having a baby.
The hardest part about becoming a mother for the first time is the shock of transitioning from living only to please myself to devoting every ounce of energy to my child and husband. I miss long showers and time at the gym. I miss friends and driving with the music turned all the way up. I miss going out to dinner and shopping for myself. I miss looking forward to the weekends and using two hands for things. I miss makeup and giving a crap about my toenails. And hell, I’ll admit that I miss drinking beer until the sun comes up!
Needless to say, I’ve had a rough time getting to know the new me. My social life is now endless text threads and scrolling social media while I breastfeed. I don’t go out. I am sound asleep by 8:00 pm. I try to find time to exercise and shave my legs and high five myself if both are done before noon. Sometimes I escape for a solo trip to the grocery store or for a haircut. I plan my life around the sleeping patterns, meal times and comforts of others.
I am now to my baby what I used to be for myself. I am her comfort, her entertainment, her food, and safety. She depends on me completely as I used to depend on myself completely. My fierce independence is now replaced with the never-ending service to my child and to my husband.
It’s not easy. None of this is easy. I liked the person I was for the last ten years and I hope she doesn’t disappear completely. I’m learning to love the person I’m becoming. The mother and wife I’m becoming.