Nothing prepares you with how you will feel after your baby is born nor can you fully prepare, predict or even guess what it will truly be like. Sure, there are plenty of movies, television shows, reality shows, books, doctor appointments, and even some funny stories from friends and family, but the true reality is different for every mother. I won’t say that my friends’ stories, mother’s advice, or a paragraph in one of the thirty “What to Expect” baby books didn’t influence me in some way. I could collect advice, tips and tricks about my baby until I was blue in the face. THAT was something I could handle and felt I could somewhat prepare for. What my baby needed. What I wasn’t prepared for was how my own world would change and how I would feel about my new role as a mother. I was never warned that going from a life of 100% me to 99% my baby would be so challenging.
Where is the life that you loved and what life have you been thrown into?
I will admit, I had 36 years to get very comfortable in the land of “Me” before my daughter was born. Living in the city, on my own, working on my career, and doing what I wanted, when I wanted was my normal. My free time was filled with relaxing on the couch on a Saturday watching “Sex & The City”, traveling with girlfriends, staying out late, and sleeping in later. On Sunday I’d take a walk along the lakefront, grab coffee at the local coffee shop, find a comfy couch, and read the paper… alone. I could make a last-minute decision to work out and not ask for permission or arrange childcare. TGIF actually meant something, and the weekends were cherished. All this sounds a bit self-centered, but this was the time in my life when I could do these things with ZERO GUILT. I didn’t have to rush home, feel guilty for being gone too long, feel selfish for leaving her for a night or weekend, or check in to make sure everything wasn’t blowing up.
What’s really going on mom?
I self-diagnosed myself with being uber-nostalgic with big changes in my life. However, there’s a big difference between being nostalgic where you talk about the “good times” versus holding onto the past to where it paralyzes you. Nostalgia can be a very healthy emotion that can positively connect you to your past, people of your past, and learn from your past to create an even better future. However, the other side of living in the past can keep you stuck and prevent you from connecting to the life you should be living RIGHT NOW. Even though I warmly reminisce about certain events and people of my past, there have been times where certain changes brought on debilitating anxiety inside of me because of my fear of the future and how I would handle it. So if nostalgia is supposed to feel all “warm and fuzzy”, why did I seem to have a nervous breakdown and latch on to the past when a big change was in front of me? It was safer and comforting for me to long for what was rather than what could be. It was invulnerable to go back to a life that was established, somewhat predictable, and a life I had pride and confidence in. When I became a mother, I basically went into a mourning state of my past life, disconnected from my present, which prevented me from moving towards the future. I never had a funeral or any sort of closure to be able to say goodbye to that life and recognize that I was in an entirely new one.
What you’re searching for
Feeling safe and secure about your future is a basic human need that is probably amplified when you become a mother. It’s a natural human behavior to avoid pain and to seek things that will give you pleasure. The safest and most secure state to live in is a life without change. I’m sure you will agree though, it’s an impossible way to live. If change is bound to happen, how are we navigating through this huge change into motherhood and at the same time, feeling safe and secure about our new life? This desire can motivate us to figure out our new world with excitement, but it can also create situations where you end up altering your life to avoid anything new coming into it. Let’s figure out how you can welcome this change and figure out your own expectations, desires, and dreams so you can be certain that this is the life you’re meant to live.
Changing your expectations
A challenge I see for new mothers, and I experience this myself, is avoiding the reality of the new life and new role we have when we become a mother. We first need to end the shame and acknowledge that becoming a mother, whether it’s the first time or fourth, is a massive change and takes time to adjust to. Maybe years. You need to find courage admitting that at times you may feel regret, nostalgia, frustration, and there may be days where you don’t want to be swallowed by the chaos.
For some reason, the outside world feels it’s their duty to tell us we should be grateful and happy to be mothers. “WHO SAYS WE AREN’T?!!” is what I want to shout back at the world and all the people that think they need to tell us how to feel. These outside voices, whether they come from your mother, friend, book, podcast, colleague or a social media post, need to be blocked from entering your brain. Get that filter out, my friend! Sitting in your unique spot, finding those feelings, acknowledging them, and talking to them with someone you trust, is what will fuel your soul to figure out how these changes can fit into your life. Never push them under the rug. Just because one person tells you she didn’t feel that way, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or your feelings aren’t real. They exist and are alive and you need to take care of them. Perhaps your career is still an important part of your life. If you miss traveling with your friends, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be with your child. Your lazy Sundays on the couch with zero interruptions were heavenly, let’s be honest. What’s awesome is you’ll either get these things back eventually, or you may not want them back at all. Remember that you already had these experiences, so you already know how to get them back once things die down a bit. It’s perfectly OK to put them on a bookshelf while you focus on the human you are raising. If it gives you anxiety simply thinking about fitting in something you used to do, honor this season in your life and that it may just be the wrong time for it. This season of your life is unique, so honor and nurture it, versus holding on to something just because it was part of your past. Remember, you may not be saying goodbye to certain things completely, you’re simply saying “Until the next time, my friend.”
This is an exciting new story for you, and you have the pen and power to create your own unique life. Don’t run from it, this will only take you further from the joy that awaits you. Don’t hide your feelings, this will only take you further from your healing. Be proud of your past but remember to connect to what is going on RIGHT NOW in this moment so you can be the creator of your future. As a mother.
To dive deeper into this, take a listen to The Honest Mom Podcast’s Episode 8, “Mourning Your Life Before Motherhood”: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mourning-your-life-before-motherhood/id1596159988?i=1000549188155