Becoming a mother is a life altering, soul warming and heart expanding experience. I always knew this would be the case but never realised just how deeply it would infiltrate every facet of my being.
While I was pregnant people warned me of the sleepless nights, the poo explosions and the never-ending pile of laundry. Others gushed over the cute smiles, the chubby baby thighs and told me to relish every single newborn cuddle.
But no one let me in on this secret – as soon as your baby is placed in your arms, your every thought and waking moment will be consumed by them, especially in those first few weeks.
Even my sleep is filled with thoughts of Rory. I dream of feeding him. Every night. Usually more than once. So much so that some nights I need to remind myself that I haven’t actually fed him yet as I hear him stirring beside me.
Being so in love that you’re obsessed with your new arrival isn’t a bad thing.
It’s what gets new mamas through those middle of the night wake-up calls and through the messy nappy changes. It’s why I kept persevering with breastfeeding when my nipples were sore and cracked.
It’s why he takes most of his naps on my chest, even though the health clinic nurses discourage this for babies who are more than 6 weeks old.
It’s why I can’t stop staring at my baby, even when I know I should be sleeping. It’s why I need to check on him when he does actually nap in his bed, both when he’s loud and when he seems, unnervingly, too quiet.
It’s why it’s normal for most women to sleep only a few hours on their first night as a mum, because we have an undeniable urge to constantly make sure our baby is still breathing.
But this all-consuming love is why my sense of self initially became so blurred. It’s also why it’s so important to rediscover and redefine my sense of self.
As soon as your baby is born you take on a new role. You immediately have more responsibility than you’ve ever had before. Part of your heart now lives outside of your body.
You are now, and always will be, a mama.
In the first few weeks I barely had a moment to myself. I was feeding every two hours during the day and was up multiple times at night. And even though my partner was home too, I barely wanted to put Rory down. When he was in Luke’s arms I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him either.
Taking a shower felt like a monumental achievement. And even though I knew he would be fine with Luke I still thought I could make out the sound of crying over the sound of the running water. (The sound of crying was usually only in my head and Rory would be fast asleep whenever I rejoined my two guys in the lounge room).
The newborn rinse-and-repeat cycle of feed, change and sleep continues even when your partner’s paternity leave ends. This meant that after four weeks I had less time to myself. Unless Rory was taking a rare nap in his own bed, showers were no longer part of my ‘me time’. It’s not very relaxing trying to clean yourself as fast as you can as your baby sits in his bouncer next to the shower.
Becoming a mum stirred up lots of thoughts and left me questioning so many things about myself.
Who am I now that my life is not just about me? Who am I now that so much of my time, and so many of my thoughts, are devoted to my baby? Who am I now as both a woman and a mum?
These questions weren’t about the kind of mum I would be or the parenting style I would follow, but were about something much deeper. Something more fundamental to who I am.
Instead, I was asking if I still felt like me now that I didn’t have time to do most of the things I once enjoyed? Did I still feel like myself when my life suddenly looked completely and utterly different?
I sit here writing this with my 8 week old baby asleep on my chest and honestly I’m still learning. Every day is an experiment in maintaining my me-ness while looking after my little man. Through trial and error I’m learning how to give all of myself to another person while still connecting into my sense of self.
In becoming a mother my experience of
self-love and the appreciation I have for my body has increased so much. My body grew and bought a life into this world, and that is pretty damn amazing. Birthing my son showed me just how beautiful and powerful the female body is.
This increased self-love unfortunately hasn’t been met with extra time to devote to myself. The morning routine that was once the staple to my day is long gone. If I have any spare time in the morning those hours are going to be spent sleeping and not down at the beach meditating. My self-care practice, once an integral part of my day, is now limited to mere minutes or the time when my partner is home (and when Rory doesn’t need to be fed).
Despite these changes, self-care and finding pockets of time for stillness is still a priority. I need these things so that I don’t get swept away with all the tasks that otherwise fill my day.
These practices look completely different now but I refuse to let them slip completely.
I meditate with my babe in my arms, more often than with my hands on my legs. I take time to be still and simply be. Whether that be sitting in my rocking chair, feeding Rory and watching the sky slowly lighten. Or whether that be enjoying the feel of the water washing over me while watching my little man kicking in the bouncer.
Some days, it’s simply taking a few deep breaths in bed before I drift off to sleep. Other days it’s working on staying calm while holding a baby whose mid-meltdown.
Often my self-care involves putting a few drops of essential oil in my moisturiser and massaging it all over my body. It means taking time to eat food that nourishes me, rather than the sugary, quick-pick-me-ups that I want to grab. It’s taking an afternoon nap or getting back into bed in the morning to try and get 8 hours worth of sleep in a day.
I see mums online, often with older babies, doing the things I once used to. They are meditating, exercising and catching the sunrise each day.
And maybe that will be me in a few months time. Maybe it won’t. Either way I know I’m figuring out this parenting gig while also trying to not lose myself in the process.
It might not look pretty and I might not always succeed. But showing up as me and simply trying is enough.
Motherhood, especially in the early weeks, is an experience of love, tenderness, exhaustion, awe and responsibility unlike any other. And while I may be losing touch with the person I used to be, I’m also getting to know myself on a deeper level than ever before. And right now, that is all I need.