I feel like all new parents go through a period where we lose our identity in the blur of having a newborn and trying to find our feet living our lives with a new tiny human. I don’t doubt that for some it can take a while to “find yourself” again once you get into a manageable rhythm of parenthood. But after 17 months I am still trying to figure out who I am. It’s almost like I’ve been on autopilot and when I stop to take a moment to think about the last year and a half it’s like I’m watching on a projector screen from an empty room. Like shit, did this all just happen without me?! I know it has all been real and I have grown and learnt so much but I look at myself now and I just can’t figure out who I really am other than a mother.
I haven’t shared Chloe’s full birth story but it was traumatic to say the least. It was quick but so quick that I feel like I was watching from outside my body. I was alone and terrified, everything happened so quickly and before I knew it I was holding my precious baby in my arms, in a room by myself (and one midwife who I never even got her name) being stitched up from a tear that I had been more nervous about than giving birth. Did I mention I was alone?! Giving birth is so life changing (ah derh Sami – pushing a baby out of you hoohaa isn’t exactly an everyday occurance), it’s supposed to be this glorious occasion when you connect with your partner and cry tears of joy as you both look deliriously lovingly into your new baby’s eyes, my experience was so far from this so I think I’m still coming to terms with how it all went down. I never made a birth plan but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting at all so it has shaken me and still feels so surreal.
The whole deepest of deep loves for Chloe didn’t come right away and I thought that my mummy switch was broken. I didn’t know if I was just traumatised from her birth or if my motherly instinct would ever kick in. For the first year I didn’t love being a mother, I resented it. Everyday I would go through a wave of feeling helpless, then guilty, then undeserving, then sad and it would just keep circling. I felt like I just didn’t deserve to be a mother, I didn’t know who I was anymore and I didn’t know when I would ever feel normal again. I wasn’t a good mother (or I didn’t feel like it) and I was far from my former pre baby self. I was lost in a haze, trying to be a good mother, a loving wife and still trying to maintain my own identity but it was slipping away so quickly. I was, and still am, so focused on being a mother that I stopped taking care of me and lost who I really was. I know am I still me, the quiet one but the one that will say what is on her mind (not in the way of offending others but just not always filtering to be more socially demure), the one who craves deep connections but only has a handful of close friends, the one who wants for big adventures but is afraid to leave her comfort zone, the one who is slightly over dramatic but finds humour in the strangest of things. I’m still me but I’m lost in a shadow, like I’m not the same as who I was but not quite who I want to be.
I didn’t have a lot of support when Chloe was a baby, my husband worked FIFO and my parents were travelling over east. I have a sister that lives in the same city but she has 3 children of her own and a partner that also works away so I didn’t want to rely on her all the time (although I know she would be here for me at the drop of a hat if I needed her). I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help from friends, this was my life now and I needed to learn how to do it myself. I’m not stubborn, I just struggle to ask for help as I didn’t want to bother other people. I went to such a lonely place, I didn’t want people to know how much I wasn’t coping so I just hid away. So many of my friendships changed, it was like I didn’t know how to be happy anymore so I didn’t want to fake a smile and hold back tears around people if they asked how I was doing. I’ve always been introverted and quiet but I secluded myself so much over the last year and a half that I sometimes struggle to make connections when I meet new people. And the connections that have now faded are ones that I know I will never get back but I miss them so deeply.
I’m still somewhat unfamiliar with the person I see looking back at me in the mirror. I still look at her and think “Wow – you have been through a lot, you’ve been so close to breaking but you are still here. Your daughter is beautiful, yeah she’s a handful on the best of days but you’re doing it when you thought you couldn’t. You’re doing ok babe” (I don’t actually stand and talk to myself in the mirror, I’m not that crazy..yet). I am still learning and growing, still trying to figure out what kind of mother I am, what kind of friend I am and what kind of person I want to be. I can only hope that I find peace with myself soon so I can be the strong, courageous and wise teacher that my daughter needs to guide her through life. Maybe I am closer to finding “me” than I think, as a non-New Years resolution (I don’t believe in making New Years resolutions, I feel like they are just promises you make to yourself that you will likley break – yes, I am the eternal pesamist) I want to practise more meditation and gratitude so maybe I will find my peace through that. Or maybe I will one day recognise that woman looking back at me in the mirror as the beautifully imperfect woman she is.