"Having a baby changes everything"
If you are pregnant, or a new mother, I am sure you have heard this statement over and over and over. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this I would have around.......one hundred dollars. When people would tell me this (usually I would hear it at work, at the time I was working for Lush Cosmetics in Macy's, downtown Chicago) I would want to roll my eyes and think, "No, I had no idea!". I knew that my whole perfectly balanced life was going to be turned upside down, and I didn't need anyone to remind me of that fact, I wasn't upset about it, I just thought I already knew what I was in for.
I was very, very wrong! Having Julian has literally changed EVERYTHING. My marriage, my faith, my friendships, my body, my heart, my mind, my confidence and even the way I take care of and view myself. That is a lot of change in a very short period of time. It's understandable why so many women struggle with postpartum depression when you take all of this into account (on top of all the crazy hormones you have zinging around your body).
After the initial shock of, "whoa there is this tiny human screaming at me and I can't understand what he wants because I don't speak waaaaaaaaah!, " wore off and we developed the routine that is so necessary (but difficult to achieve) I found myself feeling adrift. A little bit lost. Everything had changed, and even though I was over joyed to have this tiny, adorable, gurgling baby to spend time with, I morned for things that I thought I had to leave behind in order to move forward in my role as a mother. It was easy for me to start defining myself as only a mother. This is pretty dangerous territory I think, because while being a mother is a huge part of who I am, it does not define me, and if you have children, it doesn't define you either. I was putting so much unneeded pressure on myself in devoting all of my energy into only mothering. My faith suffered, my marriage suffered, my body suffered, my friendships suffered, my heart suffered, my confidence suffered. There would be days when it seemed like no matter how much I nursed Julian he would still be hungry, and after five or six feedings I would realize I hadn't eaten anything myself! My husband would come home and I would be too exhausted to be emotionally present. I would forget to call my friends back, and for a few months I didn't knit a stitch! (which is a huge deal for me!) I would get so upset with every shower, where I could not escape the reality that pregnancy was not easy for my small frame, and feel so sorry for myself. I would tell myself, it's ok that I feel this way, "it's just a part of being a mother."
I don't remember where the breaking point was, when I realized that my whole life was completely off balance. Julian wasn't asking me to give up being myself to be his mother, and I certainly couldn't give him the best version of myself if I was neglecting my own needs. I could still be me, I just needed to regain balance, which meant dealing with the issues of guilt and inadequacy that was the root of my constant striving to "be a good mother". For some reason as soon as they laid that purple wrinkly porker on my chest I thought I had to be perfect, or he would suffer in some way. In my fear of
"ruining" this adorable little creature, I lost that solid sense of confidence I had spent years working so hard to find. That confidence that even though I knew I was far from what our culture defines as perfect, my this was too much or I didn't have enough that, sometimes I would laugh a little too loud or say the wrong thing, I was quirky and different, I didn't want to strive to be something I wasn't. Becoming a mother had put me back into that place where I was so terribly unsure of myself, and I thought I had to fit a certain mold. Once I realized that I couldn't, and more importantly, didn't HAVE to be perfect, I felt a lot more freedom and was able to treat myself a little better. I didn't feel as guilty if I spent a little more time in the mirror doing my hair (something that I used to take For-Ev-Er doing), or slept in a little on the weekends. Gradually, I started to regain balance. I found that my over all mood, and productivity improved, I felt more creative, more spunky, more "myself".
Sometimes I still struggle managing that fine line, that balance. I know now that the thing that Julian needs the most, besides food and shelter, prayer and love, is a happy, confident mama, not one bogged down by her own silly and ridiculous expectations. Taking care of myself well, doing the things I loved doing before Julian came along, like knitting, reading, trying new recipes and even having an occasional glass of wine with a friend helps me regain that sense of self, outside of motherhood, which helps me be a better mother. Yes, having a baby changes everything, but it doesn't have to change in the way you may think it does, or that way I thought it did. Viewing motherhood in this light actually makes me appreciate my role more, and how it has helped me grow into a more confident woman, a more compassionate and humble, and less judgmental person. I encourage you, if you have felt or feel how I felt, to take some time for yourself and try to regain that balance. It could be as simple as a latte or a new book, do it, you deserve it and your family needs it too.