On Motherhood and Losing Yourself


Losing a piece of 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.

Path


 

Comments

  1. Beautifully written. I can relate. I didn't have PPD and I had a hard time, so I don't know how you did it. Bravo you.
    My recent post Of a lizard- strawberry sours and a flute

  2. I can related to yours too. You're definitely not alone in these feelings my online friend. :)

  3. I absolutely relate. In a way I am fortunate that I had PPOCD, because it was those symptoms that finally drove me to seek treatment after ignoring my nearly debilitating PPA for a good long while.

    I am also fortunate that so many women before me have been brave enough to tell their stories. <3
    My recent post Weigh In 1

  4. I love your post! It reminded me of one of Mama Kat's prompts this week which was to vlog about the title of your blog. I love learning why people chose the names they did.
    My recent post Speak Up!

  5. Wonderful post, Robin. Your writing really is lovely.

    I am struggling with this right now, actually. I'm coming to realize that people (friends, former friends) who I faulted for completely losing themselves when they had kids probably couldn't help it. I didn't realize all the ways that having a kid changes you. I'm seeing a lot of what I didn't like (or thought I didn't like) in those people in me. (Granted, a lot of what I didn't like was tainted by the miserable jealousy I had for anyone who was so easily able to have children…)

    I accept that I'm a different person now that I have a child. My reference point for absolutely everything has shifted. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But at nearly a year since I became a mom, I'm starting to wonder when I will feel like "Sarah" again, versus "Kieran's Mom." Is it even possible that I'll feel like me again, or has the last 20+ months made that an impossibility?

    Don't get me wrong, I love being Kieran's Mom. I dealt with PPA early on after he was born and have come through on the other side – I can't imagine what it must be like to try to find yourself when you're still surrounded by darkness that threatens to overwhelm. But I miss Sarah. I imagine Paul misses his Wife. (I'm trying there too, really I am. But I haven't really figured out how to go back into "Sarah-Wife" mode while the kid is under the same roof we are.) I don't want my friends to wonder where their friend went. Being Kieran's mom is great, but I want to be more than that. And honestly right now I have no idea how to do that – or when there's time to even try.

  6. Thank you for sharing this here. I love hearing how blogs were named.

    And as always, hugs to you as you gracefully, openly and honestly fight this battle.

    My recent post What I Love About Being A Mom

  7. Hi! Found your blog via the Red Dress Club. I can really really relate to this post. when I had my first one 9 years ago I felt a sort of death I can't really explain. I wrote about it here: http://www.renegademothering.com/playdate-in-my-t….
    Anyway I didn't come just to shamelessly self-promote, but I really related to the sentiment of this post and thought you might appreciate mine. Anyway, I'll definitely be back. Cheers.

  8. I love the story behind this name. I always kind of assumed that is basically what it meant, but fun to hear the story. I agree on the "you won't get things done" item on the list. I remember before I had my first telling people that during my maternity leave I was going to read all these books, organize the house, etc. – how much work could a baby really be? Pffff! Silly me, once again.
    My recent post Happy Easter!

  9. You have captured the loss of self that accompanies motherhood so well. I may have cried a little reading your post, but I also cry watching movies like Tangled, so there you go.

    I have also found marriage a great strain on my SELF and have had a few moments where I worried that I have to choose my marriage or the life/person I need to have/be. Standing up and saying/telling him what I needed was so hard, but so helpful. They don't always listen, but crying (which is easy for me) seems to help get their attention.

    I love being a mom, but I love writing, being creative, having time for myself, etc., too. It is hard to manage both, but I am trying my best.

  10. logyexpress says:

    I'm so impressed with your openness about this. My husband and I don't have children and luckily we don't get a lot of push back most of the time, but few parents who have ever discussed this with us give a picture of the hard stuff. That is such a disservice to those really trying to decide.

  11. Lady Googoogaga says:

    I love this! I could almost cry – because its so true and so sad that our former selves were so clueless and naive…lol!

  12. Great writing. I know I don't comment as much as I should, but I always read your posts and I'm proud of how far you've come. PPD is real and scary and if Tom Cruise is ever in my vicinity, I will punch him in the face. For you, for me, for every woman who has lived through it and come out the other side.

    • Carri, thanks for the comment and for letting me know you read. I\’m with you on Tom Cruise – every so often I think about squishing that stupid little man and it makes me feel better ;)

  13. Amazing writing, once again. You really have a way of capturing and articulating the experience of motherhood, with or without PPD, that is honest and sensitive at the same time. Love your posts.

  14. Finding your blog has been like finding a friend. I’ve been struggling with PPD on and off for 5 months, in my case it takes the form of a horrible, simmering rage that threatens to bubble up to the surface in intense, angry bursts of frustration and shouting, generally at my partner or, far worse, our infant son.
    Knowing that I am dealing with a chemical/hormonal/life imbalance doesn’t make things any easier or allow me to feel less shitty and awful about it, but knowing I am not alone and am not evil or the worst mother on earth does.
    I knew the meaning of your blog title before reading your beautiful post about it, and am looking forward to this stranger I’ve become receding further and further into the distance. I hope you are having a successful journey leaving your own stranger behind and are finding more and more happiness and less and less rage and frustration in your days.

    • Thank you so much for that beautiful comment, Ellen. I don’t know if you saw my posts on rage, but that was my issue too. It’s so incredibly difficult. I hope that stranger moves on soon.

  15. Beautifully written piece. I do understand what it means to “lose” ourselves when we become moms. I can’t remember the last time I got a full night’s sleep in the last two years since becoming a mom. Though I didn’t have PDD, I did have a hard time in the first few months, especially when I had to battle mastitis. I admire you so much for being able to look at motherhood so deeply and meaningfully, even though it’s not an easy road. Good on you!

  16. Powerful! I love the name of your blog and the meaning behind it that you’ve shared here.
    The whole last section is written so beautifully,
    “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.”
    You have such an ease to your writing! And your gift that is displayed so well here is most certainly a help to others.

  17. And may I just whisper that it happens again when the kids leave the nest? A BIG part of you is left behind because you’ve been mothering and loving it so long. It’s taken me a while but now I celebrate the joys to be found when I have “me” again and time to explore “my” passions. Motherhood tugs at our hearts all our lives.

  18. Motherhood is a sisterhood- being part of the blogging world (although I am very new to it) has opened my eyes to that more than I could have imagined. I have posted about the person I once was and said goodbye to. You are not alone in this crazy thing called motherhood!

    http://www.secretsofamomaholic.com/2012/01/artist-formerly-known-as-24-hour-tara.html

  19. I don’t have kids but I can relate to changing throughout life and losing your “old self”, but that is just growth, I think it’s a good thing, a new chapter. :)

  20. This is great! I’ve long complained (& so has my mom) about the lack of THIS reality being talked about in our society. I was sooooooooo grateful for my mom, who prepared me.

  21. I first experienced PPD twenty years ago – seems impossibly long ago yet just yesterday. I had a variety of levels of PPD with all three children, yet as I learned to negotiate it (and my version of “her”) it was much easier. What a blessing to be a member of supportive bloggers as well.

    Brava on a story well lived AND well told!

  22. Journee Karpri says:

    I can so relate to this, I just wrote a guest post about the exact thing. It is so hard to deal with, when you have to find who you are all over again.

  23. Some of those changes are definitely hard…difficult…and sometimes feels like you just can’t do it. But, what you gain in return is so much more. In retrospect, you will see it. I promise.

  24. Since I have struggled with depression for most of my life, I expected to battle PPD. I was very fortunate that I did not.

    How amazing you are, and every woman is who struggles/struggled with PPD. To fight depression at the same time as such a difficult, major life change, and to come out the other end. Congratulations.

    I love the line where you say the person you were isn’t coming back and you’ve had to accept that. With my health issues, I’ve faced a similar adjustment. I believe there is power in accepting it and redefining who we are. Thank you for validating that.

  25. Well said.

    {{ stopping by from SITS }}

  26. Thanks for sharing this! I’m three months away from being a mommy and the thought of losing myself scares me. I’ve already changed so much by simply being pregnant and that freaks the beejeezes out of me. Although I have changed, I have to agree, I’ve said farewell to my overly busy self and I think I like the slower pace of life for a change.

    Vonae Deyshawn
    http://www.myvirtueplace.com

  27. Beautiful on target description of motherhood, with or without PPD. I thinkI will forward this post to a friend. And just so you know, this post makes you seem really strong. I am guessing it is true.

  28. As a mom of 4 who also homeschools, I can say that it is SO terribly easy to completely lose ME. I’m hardly ever Jean…I’m mama. Sometimes I’m Honey (wife). But not nearly enough am I Jean. I’m working to change that, though, in small steps. We each have to find what works for us, for our families, for our lifestyle. It may be a college course, a women’s Bible study, a sewing class, a standing date with “the girls”, a monthly shop-till-you-drop, or a book club. It could even just be going to a friend’s to watch a fave show with her every week. Or blogging! But one day, a lot closer than you could imagine, they will be grown up & it will be you, left looking at you, wondering who you are exactly. Unless you’ve been taking the time to keep a hold of YOU. Trust me, I’ve got one who is 18 and on the verge of embarking. It’s got me really thinking these things over. Of course, I still have 3 more, with the youngest being only 4, so I’ve got time. But I’m so stinkin’ astonished at how quickly those first 18 years went by. These will fly too, I’m sad to admit.

  29. I can totally relate, sometimes I feel like I will never figure out what I want to do with myself. I work sometimes… but always feel like I’m supposed to be more than just a mom. Why do we torture ourselves?!?!

  30. I also suffered ppd for just over two years until finally recognized it and sought help. It has done irreparable damage to mine and my daughters relationship. I also had a 2year old son in the home with me and I can see the effects of my ppd in him as well.i commend you for recognizing it and blogging about it openly. I have just started to talk aboutt it with my friends and it’s been 6 years since she was born ans 4years since treatment. We need to talk about this and help other moms feel ok with going through it and allow for treatment to happen sooner. Great job on the blog. I have added you to my list of favorites and will be back often.

  31. Beautiful truth.

  32. So many tears, thank you, it is beautiful and I felt like reading line by line, that I was reading about a part of my own life.

  33. After battling with my 3yo son since 5:00 this morning and my 21mo son has screamed mama all day long. My husband, bless his heart, lingered at church after he was gone all day at work knowing how hard of a day it was I came to the conclusion that I am not melissa any longer. I want to go for a run, eat well, get in shape, donate time, heck read a book but after working a 40+ hour work week and the husband and I having 1 day off together I am exhausted. I finally broke down in tears tonight pleading with myself yo get back together with the girl I once was, just a portion would be great. After reading this I know I’m not alone and that there is hope. Thank you

  34. YES to all of this. One of my friends recently shared a quote and I’m going to kind of butcher it here but it had something to do with birth being a time where the veil between life and death is lifted. When a baby is born, a mother is too. It is a rebirth for us, but on the other hand it is a death for our former selves. Two of my friends and I have started a local writing workshop about this very thing: about the passage into motherhood. It’s a rite of passage that many of us just aren’t guided into. It’s not celebrated. Because it’s all about the pregnancy….once baby’s here–so long. figure things out. you’re mostly on your own. We’re really hoping to change that in our town. And it’s neat to explore it all through writing. I can relate very much to everything you’ve shared here :)

    • Funny, I gave my mom something with the quote about when a child is born a mother is born, but that was before I had kids. I had no idea – I just thought it was a nice quote. But now I understand what it really means.

      Love that you’re doing something to address that in your town.

  35. SUMMER PLEWES says:

    Very much loving this post. Motherhood comes with all sorts of trials and tribulations. I thought I was going to lose myself when I became a mom, as it turns out, that is when I found out who I really was instead.

  36. Amy Heffernan says:

    Nice read. ty

  37. I love your Blog and am a fellow born and raised Calgarian. I was never diagnosed with PDD, but I know had/have it. My only child is 3 and it has gotten better with each day especially now that she is older but it’s hard to say it but it still lingers. I have friends who are on their 3rd child and love every minute. And I am still with my one. What you give up to be a mother is something I never acutally understood. But what you gain is also something I never fully understood either.

    Thank you for sharing.

  38. I, too, suffered from postpartum anxiety after the birth of my daughters. The youngest is just four months old, so I still have rough days. Reading about your experience helps me believe that it’s possible to “accept what I’ve lost and embrace what I’ve gained.” Thank you. (Also, I love the name of your blog. Absolutely appropriate.)

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