Identity and motherhood. Losing your identity after becoming a mother. Finding it again after having a baby. Or finding a brand new identity. Or a bit of both. Today I would love to talk about this topic. Of course, men can go through this too, but for this post I am focusing more on a woman's perspective.
Am I right in thinking most people have an identity and image crisis after giving birth?
I can talk about this is past tense now, because now I feel normal and like "me". But for a while I wasn't sure how to dress or cut my hair or what underwear I should be wearing and so on and so forth.
I have always been athletic and slim. I thought that I would be one of those pregnant women that seem to only get a baby bump and retain their toned arms and legs. Even though I exercised almost everyday, I got heavier and heavier. While I was pregnant though, I didn't mind it. There was a baby in there! SO exciting and overwhelming and so so beautiful. I loved my new curves and didn't even care when the first tiny stretchmarks started appearing.
For a few days after I gave birth, I loved my body. I felt amazing and powerful and like a warrior woman. Then when that feeling started fading away and I started settling into normal life with a baby, I started to notice the changes in my body.
There wasn't a baby in there anymore and now I didn't feel like a pregnant goddess, I felt frumpy.
After having luscious locks during my pregnancy, my hair was starting to fall out. My long hair was looking thin and I had no idea how to style it anymore.
There were more stretchmarks than I had hoped that I would get - a little on my belly, but a fair few on my hips and thighs, even a couple on my calves. I couldn't get jeans up past my knees. I felt cumbersome when I walked and weaker than I was used to being. Now in my head I knew why it was like this - I had just given birth! I was meant to feel tired and weak and have some bloating. But I still didn't like it and it bothered me.
I was lucky and didn't suffer from postpartum depression, but the way I looked definitely made me feel a little blue sometimes. I knew it wasn't really that bad, but I didn't look like "me" and that was hard. I suppose it is a shame that it bothered me so much, as my body had already done so much. It had grown a life, given birth to that life and was now recovering the best that it could. All in all, it was a pretty spectacular body, but I couldn't help it.
It isn't all about the way I looked too. I hadn't played piano in ages and I was starting to miss it. I hadn't done any gardening or watched a movie all the way through and I felt like little bits of me were disappearing. I remember my health visitor saying to me, "you must make sure that you keep playing the piano, it is so important". What a wise health visitor, she was so right. After a few months, I knew this had to change and started to make time for those things again.
Stopping work for maternity leave was a big change too. I loved the break and caring for Alfred in the newborn days, I really did, but it was also an adjustment not running around like a lunatic for work. At first, it was hard to just sit there and cuddle him and watch TV. Or just nap. Boy, I really wish that I had taken advantage of all those nap opportunities!
For a while, I didn't focus too much on my clothes, as nothing fit me, or my previously enjoyed extra curricular activities. I put all of my attention onto the little tiny baby, who needed all of my love and care and attention. Those days were exhausting but blissful and exactly how they should be.
As Alfred got older, I had a little more time to think about myself. By this point, I had lost a lot of weight due to healthy eating and exercise and I was feeling much better with the way I looked. I felt stronger and healthier again.
But none of my clothes now seemed right. They were all starting to fit again, but I didn't feel like "me" in them anymore.
I think since having a baby, I have become more brave and bolder and this has expressed itself in some of my recent clothing choices. I bought leather trousers and re pierced the third hole in my left ear. I would never have worn leather trousers before! I gave so many clothes to charity!
This has made me think, for me at least, that while I now feel like "me" again, I am a new me. I have changed since becoming a mother, but for the better. I haven't lost previous interests, which is important to me, like playing the piano and drawing and exercising, but I have also changed and grown. I am more decisive now and more assertive. Being a mother has shown me how to love in ways that I never thought possible. How to be less selfish. But also, very importantly, how to appreciate "me" time and look after myself.
I would love to hear everyone's experiences on their identity shifts after becoming parents! How did you feel about it? How did you work through it or are you still struggling with it? Or did you not notice a change at all?