I stood in front of the mirror, squishy baby in hand. He smiled at his reflection, gurgled happily. My attention drifted up to my face, and with a glance I took in my unkempt hair, my droopy eyes, my pale lips. Three months into this new mom gig and I felt unrecognizable. I kept waiting to feel like myself again, to feel…
Would it be when he started sleeping through the night? When he was walking and talking? Or was this it? Had I, upon entering Motherhood, crossed a line that I could never uncross again? Had I put on a new identity that I could never remove? Am I still me?
You lose yourself in new motherhood for a while. Your focus, your thoughts, your energy, are all turned towards this beautiful, exhausting baby you brought into the world. Your needs, your wants, your goals are put on to the back burner and you’re not sure when you’ll get to tend to them again. It’s no surprise you start to question yourself, to wonder who you are anymore, to wonder if you’ve changed in some fundamental and irrevocable way.
Becoming a mother for the first time is like someone giving you a brand new coat. It’s beautiful, and you are excited to wear it. And once you put it on, you find the zipper is stuck: there’s no taking it off. The coat is very heavy. In fact, you’re not sure you can walk around in it. Sometimes you admire your new coat in the mirror and sometimes you are really uncomfortable. Sometimes, you admit secretly to yourself, you miss life before your coat. In the same breath, you claim your coat is the most awesome coat ever, but you also wonder if it’s stuffed with bricks. Surely wearing a coat can’t be this hard.
The truth is that you are still you.
You are the same person under the coat. Becoming a mother has added a new layer to your identity. It has become an experience that will stretch you, make you learn and grow. Although you will never go back to exactly who you were before you had a baby, over time you will reclaim more and more of yourself. The coat will become lighter; it will become a part of you.
Are you in the newborn fog? The first year fog?** There are three things you can do to feel a bit more like yourself again.
Accept your new normal. It’s not going to be your “always normal”. Babies turn into toddlers, toddlers turn into kids, and kids turn into teenagers. Here’s the good news and the bad news: whatever stage your child is in will not last forever. It’s helpful to recognize what kind of normal you’re living in. It was a difficult but valuable endeavor for me to recognize in the first year of my baby’s life that I would be out in public without makeup, that my house would never be as clean as I wanted it to be, and that I would be tired all the time. It’s okay. Give yourself some grace.
Get some sleep
I know, this is easier said than done. But if there is one thing that will make you feel more like yourself and less like a new mom zombie, it’s uninterrupted sleep. I struggled with my youngest’s sleep habits and it wasn’t until my husband stepped in to help that it got any better. Since he’s a night owl, he took first shift with our son, allowing me five solid hours of sleep until I needed to nurse the baby in the middle of the night.
How can you get more sleep? You may need to put yourself to bed much earlier. You may need to ask your husband for help. You may need to google professional sleep trainers if your baby has specific issues. It’s worth investing time and resources to get your baby to sleep so that you can too!
Make a list
Once you get in the habit of taking care of everyone else except yourself, it can be hard to remember what you used to do for fun. Take some time to brainstorm a list of things you love to do for you, so that the next time you are faced with five minutes to yourself, a half hour, even a whole afternoon, you will have good ideas at your fingertips. Without solid ideas to turn to, you’re in danger of wasting that precious alone time scrolling on your phone which is less than soul-filling.
Here’s an example:
Want to fill out your own?
I’m sending a blank copy of this worksheet so that you can brainstorm your own list! Click here to subscribe, and your free download will be on its’ way!
**Make sure that what you’re feeling isn’t postpartum depression. If you think it is, talk to your doctor. There is real help available to you!