I’ve been reflecting on “stuff” during these last few weeks of pregnancy with my third baby in 4 years. In my 31 years of life, I can’t think of a more life altering, ground shaking experience than becoming a mother.
I look back on pictures from 8..7..6..5… years ago and am honestly shocked at how different I am. I look different. If I thought I was “fat” then, then where the hell does that put me now? I’m wearing make up, my hair is blonde and is blow dried in beachy waves. I’m probably on the train headed to the city with my (then) boyfriend for a $500 night of food, drink, friends and music. How can so much change in such a short time?
When we decided to have a baby, my husband and I were actually standing in a crowd of young, drunk, loud, and annoying people in NYC waiting for a show to start. We kind of just looked at each other and said, “wanna go home?” We were just over it. It was like a new chapter was screaming to be written and it was time for us to make a big change. Along came Zephyr’s pregnancy.
I remember crying pretty hysterically during the drive to Christmas Eve at my in-laws, passing all of the lights and decorations. I didn’t know exactly what triggered the tears, but I thought it must be my crazy hormones at 2 months pregnant and there was nothing to worry about. Tom insisted there was something more than hormones at play (he’s so smart) and we had a long talk in the car in the driveway. I was mourning. The idea of this year being the last Christmas we spend as a couple rattled my heart and soul. We weren’t going to be a couple anymore. Our life is literally perfect; what on Earth am I doing changing that? Why did we think change would be a good thing when I’m so happy now? I like casually waking up when we feel like it and spending days off together, day drinking, shopping, boating, beaching, eating out, going on random winery trips and whatever the hell else we felt like doing on a whim. The thought of changing “us” was really sad to me all of a sudden.
Of course, those feelings faded back, and those of excitement, joy, and wonder of this new life came to the forefront for the rest of my pregnancy. We became parents to an Earthside baby months later, and life certainly was “different.” My birth itself disempowered me and made me doubt myself. I wasn’t in charge of anything, and I looked everywhere but inside myself for validation that I was “doing it right,” or “is this normal?” Someone else was the authority of this experience I was having, and the only reason I was there at all was because I was the machine to crank out this little human that would soon be separated from me for hours to be “cared for” by more qualified staff. Read Zephyr’s full birth story here. I went on to endure a less than ecstatic post partum time with my first son. I was overwhelmed, in shock of how drastically my life had changed, exhausted, emotionally scarred by the torturous genital mutilation I consented to for my perfect baby and the care and pain it required for weeks after, anxiety over having anyone else touch him, fear of him being saddened and confused by my absence should I steal an hour to myself doing God knows what (probably shower or something.)
Oh, Malarie from 4 years ago, you are not alone. So many moms feel this way, and there is a good reason for it. (Partners have their own unique experience during this time, and again, I will definitely delve into that further in the future!) The intensity, overwhelm, strength-testing, reach-to-the- bottom-of-your-soul-to-get-to-the-next-minute roller coaster that is CHILD BIRTH is meant to prepare you for your next phase of life. It is not supposed to be easy, or painless because motherhood is not easy nor painless. No one can make decisions for you in the middle of the night when your judgement is the only one that matters. No one loves your baby or has better intentions than you do. Your carefree days of Maidenhood, consumed with self centered play, work and rest have morphed into this insane world of Motherhood that feels so heavy with responsibility, fear, doubt and love. When you give birth, you are also born. You have birthed the mother within you, and you will never be the same.
No wonder I look different in those old pictures. I am different. There is no such thing as “bouncing back,” or “getting my old body back,” or “pre-pregnancy shape,” and all of that other bullsh*t that you see on social media. You can be healthy and still have reverence for your body, the vessel that crafted your children and birthed them. You don’t have to transform into this super human who never had an 8 lb person inside of them. There is no such thing as, “you should be happy because all that matters is a healthy baby and mom!” or “don’t worry about not being able to breastfeed, there is always formula,” or enjoy this time, it goes by so fast!” or “these are best days of your life.” People mean well, but these comments are so dismissive. Sometimes all a newly postpartum mom needs to hear is, “how are you feeling/adjusting?” and “I know how hard this is,” and “you are doing an amazing job,” and “let me bring you dinner tonight.”
I’ve learned that my fears of life change were warranted because it surely did change. I sacrificed my work, my independence, my time, and my body for my babies… but life didn’t end. It just changed. Malarie, the Maiden, had gone, and the Mother emerged. With Motherhood came a practice of mindfulness and awakening that I can only credit to my first child. My life has changed for the better in every way. I learned what real difficult decision making looks like. I learned what real research looks like (it isn’t google or our stellar governmental recommendations.) I learned how important the communication skills my husband and I fostered way back at the start of our relationship would be once we had a baby.
I suppose I could continue rambling on about this, but I want to leave you with encouragement and support. You are not alone in this, your feelings are valid, there is nothing wrong with you, and your real friends will understand and be there for you even after you fall into the black hole that is new motherhood without shaming you for it. After all, this change also teaches you about the greatest joys and love that you will ever know. Its a trip.