To all the moms out there - I see you. I feel you. And I stand with you in solidarity. May motherhood swagger ooze from your pores because you are a total bad ass.
If I could use one word to describe motherhood it would be transformative. The word in and of itself means marked change. For me, transformation can mean many things like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or a seedling becoming a flower - beautiful and natural. In my case it felt more like my entire identity was covered in gasoline, set on fire, and burned to the ground in a raging blistering fire that left me in a pile of dust. Even still after all of that, I am supposed to be a fully functioning member of society. Guess what? I’m not. I felt isolated and lonely through the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, even though I have a great support system.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have had the labor and delivery I did. We both made it through healthy and relatively unscathed but for fucks sake no one gives you a heads up on all this other shit that comes after. Even if they did, I wouldn’t have fully understood nor believed it. There was no after glow. There was sleepless nights, confusion, and tears that welled up for no reason. I was bruised, broken, raw, exposed and expected to just push on through. There was no time for integration or a gradual ease into motherhood. There was a spray bottle for my lady bits because they could not be wiped. There was cream for my nipples because they like me, they were cracked and raw. Also, diapers for me too because of the intense amount of bleeding that happens after birth. Like all of your periods for the 10 months of pregnancy just gather for one rave of a period. The hail storm that was the after bleeding included golf ball sized clots and intense cramps as my body tried to shrink back down to its new normal. With all the physical aches and pains of afterbirth, we are still expected to push on through. One particularly hard day, about a week after delivery, I laid in bed crying for seemingly no reason. Maybe there actually was a reason: identity death. I was in mourning the life and identity I left behind. I had to now approach life with a brand new identity, one that was much less familiar to me. This expression of emotion was likely the monsoon of hormones raging through my body but it seemed like too much for my family to bare. They required emotional stability out of me. Everyone else’s needs, mostly my precious, innocent baby were coming first and I was just supposed to “transform”.
I’ve had this saying after the birth of my daughter, “mommin’ ain’t easy.” Nothing rings more true. I have never felt more pressure in my life to do and be so many things. I am my daughters meal provider, sole source of food, we feed every two hours during the day and I get longer stretches at night. I have resented my husbands useless nipples at 3am when I look over and he is blissfully asleep. There is a reason babies are so dang cute, so you don’t throw them across the room when you can’t figure out what is wrong with them. I have often felt like, why is this so hard? And more importantly: why doesn’t anybody talk about it?
I think one of the key things I missed out on was continuing to care for myself. The cup emptied and I let it stay empty. I was depleted and tired and I stopped all self care because I didn’t “have the time.” I fell into the trap that society imparted upon me - the “I’m not important enough to make time for self care” bit. This tiny human now took precedence over me. In doing so, I basically was trying to drive a bus with a flat tire. It will work for a while but eventually the rims start to spark and become bent. Sooner or later, the bus crashes. How can I sustain this little life without sustaining my own? I remember the “ah-hah moment.” I was holding my precious daughter and thinking, “why did I even become a mother?” At that exact moment, she looked up directly into my eyes and gave me a huge heartfelt smile. I realized then that I wanted this precious tiny human to understand the value of self-care. What does that mean exactly? I want her to grow up with parents who value themselves enough to take care of themselves. I want her to never feel guilty or selfish for doing what is in her best interest - physically, mentally, and emotionally. I never want her to push through or say yes to things she really doesn’t want or isn’t able to sustain. I want her to know that self care doesn’t mean weakness. I want her to always pour from a cup that is overflowing. I want her to strike “self care is selfish” from the record and proclaim that “self care is SOULFISH.”
It’s been 10 weeks since my girl has come into my life and I love her with every single cell in my body. I love her smile, I love her spirit and she is the single greatest thing to ever happen to me. But now with work on the horizon and trying to juggle motherhood, wifehood, a growing business and being a functioning human, it has again felt overwhelming. I will never be the Dee that existed a year ago, or two years ago and that is ok. Life is about moving forward, growing, adapting, and shifting identities. An opportunity for huge personal growth comes from the struggle of change. With that said, it is ok to hold a place in your heart for the person you leave behind and for the person you were before life became overwhelming. It’s ok and healthy in fact, to grieve that person.
Another one of the key things I have gained from motherhood is understanding. Not just understanding the process, but understanding the choices new moms make. I totally get why someone would want an epidural, a needle in the spine to numb that pain seemed like a great idea when I felt like I was being torn limb from limb. I literally came to terms with dying. That was a pivotal moment of “letting go” and letting my body do what it was designed to do. In my head I said, “if I die right now it will be ok.” There’s a reason for the saying, “It hurts like a mother!” I understand why some moms formula feed babies. Breastfeeding can be a fucking nightmare. Latching issues, destruction of your nipples, and the amount of time it takes to be the sole provider of nourishment are just a few reasons why one might decide otherwise. I get it, new moms, and I’m sorry if I ever judged you because let me tell you, keeping a baby alive is no joke. I have gained much compassion and understanding from this process. So the next time you’re out and you see a hot mess of a woman half asleep carrying a newborn child - partially dressed in pajamas with unwashed hair in a messy bun, and big purple bags under her eyes, smile at her. She probably feels alone and this human interaction is like throwing her a life preserver. Instead of asking her how’s the baby, try asking how she is.
Transformation is like many things in life - a process. As the dust settles on the fire, I am coming back to the surface to start again, but I am not the same person nor will I ever be the same person again. I require grace and patience from people in my life as I adjust to the new responsibilities of mommin’ because let me tell you folks - it ain’t easy.
Shout out to my ghost writer and Auntie extraordinaire - Morgan Dupell. Thank you for all that you do!