Who Am I
How Motherhood changed who I am
I’m nine months pregnant scrolling through Instagram and imagining what this little life inside me is going to be like. “I’m going to look like her,” I say to Eric pointing to my screen: a woman wearing her baby positioned perfectly in a sling, immaculate hair and makeup, and the biggest smile on her face is staring back at us. This thought isn’t a new phenomenon, but the difference is that in a world of social media it’s so much easier to only see the perfect, and this makes it so much harder when you’re going through an identity crisis. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pretty picture, but my point is that there’s so much more to being a mother than what I had initially fantasized.
What is identity? Identity is who you are. Pretty simple right? For six years of my life I was: Melissa, the university student, who played clarinet, liked knitting and wearing pretty clothes. Then I graduated, got married, stopped playing clarinet as much, found a new love in home decorating, etc. Basically, my identity started to shift, but nothing like with motherhood. Motherhood isn’t much of a “shift”. Sure, you’re pregnant for nine months, but you’re still “you” -- but with horrible acid reflux and a waddle. Even the changes to your body are gradual, but once baby comes not only do you no longer recognize your body, but you’re now responsible for an entire life. Just. Like. That. You’re now responsible for this tiny human being.
For the first few months I was in survival mode. “I” was put on the back burner and all my focus and attention was put towards that tiny little human. Which now I look back on with awe as I had also just been diagnosed with cholecystitis (gallbladder disease), was waiting to hear back on a surgery date, and had to completely change my diet. A diet where I couldn’t eat more than 3.5 grams of fat per serving and still had to consume enough to breastfeed a newborn. But that’s another story. Alas, figuring out this new normal is such a feat that it’s impossible to put much focus on yourself. So, who am I? What is my identity besides “mom”?
As time went on, and I started to feel more confident in keeping this tiny human alive I started to reminisce of the days when I could “just”. Just go out to dinner, sleep until noon, meet up with a friend, etc. I started to realize how important it was for me to be more than just “mom.” Granted it didn’t come without a lot of guilt. The type of guilt that eats away at you making you think things like, “how could I possibly be thinking of spending a half hour knitting when Theo may need….” The guilt makes it hard for me to connect with who I am besides “mom” and is something I am still struggling with almost a year later.
So, what have I been doing to help reconnect to who I am? I try hard to get myself out of the house without Theo. Meeting up with a friend, or even going out on your own and leaving behind the baby is so important. I know it can be hard and it’s so easy to think that you need to be there even when baby is sleeping. But being able to trust my partner and leave for a few hours has been crucial for me. And I know I’m lucky and some of you may not have this, but consider hiring a sitter occasionally, and even just go somewhere close by. I find that this recharge is so crucial for my mental well being.
Work has also been a great way to connect back to myself. We’re very lucky here in Canada that we get a longer maternity leave -- I can’t stress this enough -- but it also makes it easy for us to focus on only the “mom” part of our identity. Putting myself to work helped me connect to what I loved doing before Theo was born. I started my own business, Mohr Living, and was able to focus some of my energy on things I love like home décor, social media, and photography. I also think that work could easily be replaced with a hobby. If you love knitting then spending some time doing this is such a great way to connect back to yourself.
Who am I? This is a question that I think will be constantly coming up. Especially at only one year postpartum I’m nowhere near the point of saying I’ve found a balance between my old life and my mom life. I don’t think I ever will but being able to recognize that I’m more than just “mom” has helped me to live a happier, more well-balanced life. And that’s better for Theo, my husband, and myself.