I was prepared for the sleepless nights, the overflowing diapers and the shrill newborn cries. I read blogs and books to prepare for my motherhood journey, and googled names. I gushed over tiny newborn onesies and cried at the lovely scent that lingered on them after the wash.
But I wasn’t prepared to lose her; the girl who danced whenever she heard a catchy melody, the girl who was fluent in sarcasm; the one who never turned down a beer at a party or an invitation to a book club or workout class. I longed for her with every aching fiber of my being even as the stitches were removed and the milk dried up. I didn’t know where to find her, and after 3 years, I was unsure if I ever would.
When I spoke to other moms about this feeling, they all said the same thing: We understand. They too were struggling with loss because they too didn’t know who they were anymore. Their lives revolved around sleep schedules and bottles. They spent their days in stained sweatpants and nursing bras, while their children sported the newest styles. They became obsessed with perfection; a perfect house, healthy well-rounded meals, and strict schedules. Many didn’t return to work, like me, and became stay-at-home-moms during the pandemic. Others put their dreams on hold for other reasons, resulting in resentment. Most importantly, they didn’t have the freedom to be themselves. They couldn’t do their beloved activities with a child in tow. They didn’t have babysitters or a village to help them. And at the end of the day, they were tired; Tired from the sleepless nights, and the work, and the cries, and the never-ending housework.
I would be lying if I said motherhood was all that I thought it would be. Most days, I am just surviving. Childless friends call and I don’t know what to talk to them about. When people ask what I am up to, I don’t know how to answer because my life revolves around the small humans I created. When I look at my children, their sparkling eyes glistening with great love, I feel guilty. How can I feel like this when I know how much I am loved? I am so loved that my daughter wants me to watch her poop. I am so loved that my baby wants to give me slobbery kisses all over my face, or the other wants to show me the drawing she made while I was busy unloading the dishwasher clenching my jaw with frustration.
But I have to remember that I was a person before I had them, and I will continue being a person as they get older. What then? Who will I be if I let myself dissolve into the role of the mother, and that role isn’t left for me anymore? I fear that more than anything in this world.
That is why we as mothers need to take charge of our own lives. Go to that spin class with friends even if it means missing a lazy morning breakfast watching cartoons. Sign up for that improv class even if it scares the hell out of you and someone else needs to put them to sleep. Watch Bridgerton on repeat under the covers with a glass of wine instead of meal prepping for the next day just because you can. Because the only way to get your sense of self back, is to remember the person you were before kids and try to lure her out again. Remember too that it may look different and take a lot more planning. But the important thing is to get out there and do it. Your future self will thank you. And your kids will still love you just as much.