Here I am with another baby-related post. I swore I wouldn’t turn into a mummy blogger but it seems to be happening and I cannot do a thing to stop it. So, sorry about that. Actually, I guess that’s the point of this blog post.
Losing yourself in motherhood is something that just seems to happen. I am positive that a lot of us tell ourselves that it won’t happen to us. That we will keep our identity as individuals with hobbies and other exciting qualities that make us unique. Being a mother will just be one part of us, not all of us after all.
That was my plan, anyway.
My thoughts pre-baby
Before I had a baby, I was totally one of those people that would roll my eyes at all the ‘first day of school’ photos of Facebook. I’d scream inside if a colleague showed me a photo of their baby and wonder why, once people had kids, it’s all they seemed to talk about. I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to talk about boring children.
I just wasn’t a maternal person. I wasn’t great with kids (I’m still a bit awkward around them, but much better!) and I just found them to be loud, annoying little things with sticky hands.
There was actually a long time when I didn’t want children. I only changed my mind into my early thirties (I know many people are adamant that they don’t want kids EVER – so I guess I’m also one of those annoying people that likes to smile and say ‘you might change your mind!’, which I know angers some, but that’s a point for another blog post.
Anyway, I was aware of the stereotypes of how women often lose themselves in motherhood. That their children are the only thing they talk about and they often find themselves isolated from childless friends. They no longer go out for drinks with the girls and bring their child everywhere with them.
I said that it wouldn’t happen to me. I thought I was too selfish to give up my life.
Then I got pregnant.
Being pregnant was all-consuming in so many ways. From the second I had that positive pregnancy test, my life changed and would never be the same again. My priorities shifted and I started feeling fiercly protected over the live inside me.
Being pregnant for me was such a feeling. The feeling started a few days before I took my test. I just felt pregnant. I can’t even describe it – I had dreams about being pregnant and how it would feel, and that’s how it felt! A heaviness, an ache, as if my womb was hollowing out and getting ready to home my child for 9 months. But that feeling was quickly overshadowed by the awful first trimester symptoms such as morning sickness, smell aversions and feeling terrible in general.
And so it starts, the loss of oneself into motherhood.
For me, there was no escaping these feelings. My mind was always occupied with pregnancy-related thoughts. Whether it was reading about the stage of pregnancy I was currently at, Googling WHEN WILL THE MORNING SICKNESS END? Or worrying something was wrong. Or crying, because I was bleeding again and had to wait a whole 24-hours for an emergency scan. It was already taking up a lot of my emotional and mental energy.
Being pregnant during the height of the Covid pandemic probably didn’t help things as I spent most of my pregnancy shielding and had a lot of time in my head.
I felt a mixture of self-pity for how sick I felt, and excitement for having a baby, throw in a side of fear over giving birth and looking after baby. I was busy preparing for my future and learning all about breastfeeding, safe sleep, things we needed to buy and trying not to think about how my cevrix would have to open by 10cm to enable a whole human being to fit through my vagina.
It’s all I thought about. It’s all I spoke about.
Being pregnant seemed to be the most important thing that had ever happened to me. And it was. It is absolutely life-changing in so many ways. You experience new feelings and emotions that you did not feel capable of. At least, I didn’t. Your purpose changes and every aspect of your life revolves around your child. And that’s even before they are born. It’s unbelievable.
Billions and billions of people have experienced pregnancy and birth but it still feels mindblowing that a child grows inside you from basically nothing and your body just does it. I’m still not over it.
Having a newborn.
I knew I would get lost in my newborn bubble and I thought it wouldn’t last forever.
Like many, my focus was on enjoying the first few weeks because they grow up so fast! I was exhausted, in love, trapped on the sofa with leaking nipples, overwhelemd and trying to be present in the moment.
I guess it’s normal to be so consumed with your newborn baby. I didn’t do much of anything other than tending to his needs. I struggled to keep up with friends and when I did the conversation was all about Leo and I thought it would change as he grew.
But it hasn’t, really. I’m still obsessed with him.
It’s a bit ridiculous, really. Like, most babies learn to sit up, to clap, to crawl, to walk. It’s not a big deal, is it? But for me, it was the most amazing thing in the world and I wanted to tell everyone. I sometimes do and they probably don’t care that he’s just got his first pair of shoes or just learnt what a ‘giraffe’ is.
That’s something I wasn’t expecting.
They grow so fast, they change so much. There’s always a new milestone and something to tell friends and family about.
So when you are in this newborn phase, enjoying and lapping up every moment – I can’t tell you when and if it ever ends. I still feel like I did when he was first born. I still look at my child with wonder every single day. And sometimes frustration. But mostly wonder.
They take over your life.
It’s true. Babies take over your whole life. Almost every decision you make, your child needs considering.
All your plans need thought. You have to work around nap times, meal times, bring 402059943 things with you on a simple trip to the supermarket. You become ruled by their sleep (or lack of).
You can’t be away from them without feeling them pull on you, they are a part of you.
It’s actually not awful.
Pre-baby, I would have hated my current life. I would’ve imagined myself angry and frustrated that I’ve gone from a care-free thirty-something who dined out regularly, enjoyed a bottle of wine at the weekend and could spend two hours a day practicing piano. I would meet up with friends and go to the gym without having to worry about nap times and bringing a child with me.
Thought there are times I do wish I had that freedom (I can’t tell you how amazing it would be to just decide to go out, grab my keys and go without having to get a baby and changing bag ready!), I really don’t mind.
It feels easy in some respects. Maybe not easy, but I don’t give it a second thought.
I just love him so much that it seems natrual to consider him in everything, to prefer to stay home so I’m there to do bedtime and make my child seem safe and secure, rather than go out drinking (or something else!) with friends.
I know some women do go out still, but we all parent differently, all babies sleep differently and feed differently. Leo wakes a lot and I feed him back so sleep so I’d rather be here for him. But then again, we don’t have family close by so while others babies may have very close and secure relationships with grandparents, it’s just not viable for us! I feel like this post might sound like you are trapped forever, that’s just not the case – you do what you need to do and what you are comfortable with.
I’m a bit of a helicopter mum and would happily have Leo with me 24/7! Other mums (usually after the first baby!) are more relaxed about letting others take over for a few hours.
I feel like I’m going slightly of a tangent here. But the point is that loving your child and putting our childs needs first is SO EASY. I didn’t think it would be this easy. Being a parent is hard, having no time for yourself is hard but giving up things for your baby is not. It feels natural.
I’m a different kind of selfish now.
I thought I was too selfish to be a mum, but now I kind of am a bit selfish but in a way that includes Leo. I have to advocate for him while he is still young. I have no problem doing that to make sure he is looked after and knows he is loved. It’s like we are a team and I look out for us both. Maternal instinct or something. I stand my ground much more when it comes to Leo than I would for myself.
Be kind to mothers.
It is frightfully easy to get lost in motherhood. Finding purpose outside of motherhood might seem hard, especially when you’re a stay-at home mum.
If you don’t have a child and have a friend that does, or a friend that is expecting, please be kind with them. We live in a world where children are often seen as an inconvenience. In the western world we want to train babies to sleep through the night, sleep on their own and cope without their parents from an age much earlier than our natrual instincts and emotions allow for.
Don’t except a friend to leave their child at home or find a baby sitter to go out unless they are comfortable to do so (some are, it’s about respecting their wishes and parenting style).
When someone talks about their child, try to remember there’s so many emotions and so much love here. I change the way I see children now. I did find them annoying before I had my own baby. But now I see a positive pregnancy test, a pregancy amouncement, excitement, scans, getting a nursery ready, a mother holding a child for the first time – it whole journey of bringing a child into the world is magical and amazing and it’s not just another annoying child. It’s someones whole world. So while it might seem like your friend has lost themselves in motherhood and lost their identity, maybe they haven’t.
When we give birth to a baby, we are also born into motherhood.
It’s okay to embrace that.
Socitety has confusing expectations.
Losing yourself in motherhood is almost frowned upon. It’s seen as something old fashioned. Women once were stay-at home mums and their identity often was being a mum and housewife.
But now women have careers and lives outside of just being a mother, which is great.
But it can be a lot. Be a mum, be a wife, have a career, be a friend, have a side hustle, workout, clean your house, cook meals from scratch, keep up with your hobbies, keep your relationship alive..
By trying to free women of the traditional roles, it can be more a burden. As women are still expected to be the primary caregiver and there can be a lot of guilt surrounding this.
So, if you want to get lost in parenthood and are happy to do so, then go ahead. Maybe the phase itself ‘lost in otherhood’ is problematic. Some women want children more than anything and are perfect happy to embrace their life as a parent. It’s an adventure and journey for us, too. There is much pleasure in watching your own child grow.
On the other side of the coin, being able to stay at home is often privilege that not everyone has. In the UK, we generally have good maternity packages compared to counties such as America where many women have no choice but to go back to work when their baby is just weeks old. I’m forever thankful that I’m able to work from home when Leo is asleep.
Getting your identity back.
If you are desperate to reclaim a piece of your identity back and need a break from parenting to recharge, then speak to your partner or support system and see how you can make it happen. Having a child is a big sacrifice but you don’t have to quit everything you love. You just need to prioritise your time and compromise.
Whatever you want to do, just don’t feel guilty about it. There will always be someone who will frown at you and think you’re being ridiculous no matter what you do.
Being lost in motherhood can mean something different to everyone. If you are feeing weighed down, frustrated and like you have no room to think – you might just need to make space for yourself.
For me, I love being a mum and I love being with Leo. I don’t feel a massive need to reclaim my identity or fight against it, though there are days I do need a breather. These are mostly days when Leo is being difficult and I’ve not been able to sit down and take a moment for myself. Just having a bath or taking 30 minutes to play some piano helps me recharge.
There are times when do yearn for the old me. I’m sure it’s the same for most of us as parenting is full-on. It’s unpredictable and stops up from doing what we want, when want.
Sometimes we just need to figure it out on our own and need to have bad days and good days.
But mostly, I embrace motherhood and don’t feel the need to ‘get my identity back’. I do need to go backwards at all. I have changed and I will continue to change, grow and move forward as Leo grows up and his needs change.
Parent in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Take a break if you need to, but do iton your own terms – not because other people are trying to convince you it’s time you left your baby for a few hours/over night. Enjoy motherhood, it’s special, meaningful and rewarding. Embarcing it isn’t a step back in our society as long as it’s your choice.
Be supportive of friends that have children and how they wish to parent and remember that their child is a part of them and should be in your friendship.
I’d love to hear you thoughts on this! Have you ever felt lost in motherhood, or is it somewhere you thrive?