Me vs Mom: Identity Crisis in the Labour Ward
There I was high on morphine and fuzzy headed with tiredness, a small snuffly bundle in a cot beside me and a husband wide-eyed with anxiety.
Suddenly the door swung open. ‘Well how is mom doing?’ enquired a cheerful nurse promptly taking my temperature while fiddling with my drip ... 'Mom', I thought, 'my mom is here… great she can make sense of all this madness.'
The disappointment when I realised that she was, in fact, talking to me; made me homesick and panic all at once. Our next visitor, the midwife, asked could she get Mom anything. This happened again and again.
Each time I would get a jolt when I realised I was the ‘Mom'
It was as if I had lost my name along with my bump, although I hadn’t lost nearly as much of that as I would have liked. I counted the days until I got home when everything would return to normal… little realising that things would never be quite ‘normal’ again.
Selfishly I wished everyone would pay a bit more attention to me. I had just had major surgery! And now all these nurses and midwives expected me to just soldier on and mind this tiny creature! How unbelievably uncharitable of them! Of course I felt as if I couldn’t admit these feelings to anyone. I remember the first time I was overlooked because baba had arrived. I was limping to the toilet when a sharp stab of pain nearly floored me. My husband, busy with our crying daughter, barely gave me a second glance. Well, that’s nice I thought, thanks a lot, I’ll just die quietly in a corner shall I? The next second I felt like the worst mother ever, our tiny newborn needed him. But, my inner voice insisted, I still need him too.
It was like an ongoing battle between the ‘real’ me and the ‘mom’ me. I felt I couldn’t quite reconcile the two. The ‘real’ me wanted to lie down and let her own mother take charge but ‘mom’ me kept picking me up off sofas and scooting me across the room to check my daughter was okay. I wanted to cry for someone to just notice me but irrationally didn’t like if my tiny girl was overlooked either.
I think many new moms wrestle with this especially on their first child. You spend nine months as the centre of attention, people can’t do enough for you then suddenly you are competing with the cutest baby imaginable and you are always going to come second place (part of you wouldn’t have it any other way).
Those first weeks (months) can be tough. You struggle with wanting to go back to the way things were to not being able to imagine life without this perfect person. It’s like the worst crush in history and your love only deepens everyday.
On top of all this you are struggling with your own identity. Before baba was here you were a mom-to-be, cherished and smug while you indulged in eating for two and foot rubs. Now you are this ‘mom’ person. It’s up to you to administer hugs and milk and nappies. If you stop for one second you might worry the ‘real’ you has gotten lost amidst the giant pile of laundry in your kitchen.
One minute you are elated with your new mommy powers, the next you feel you will never be anything other than puke-covered mom again, stuck forever in threadbare tracksuit ends and a giant t-shirt which covers your saggy middle.
Moving from working full time (or part time) to maternity leave can leave you feeling a bit lost at sea. Even if you hated your job it was still a part of your identity and a place where you were valued for you not just as someone’s wife or mother. Maternity leave can be a strange place.
Some women can be up and flying, taking to motherhood so easily. But some of us flounder in deeper waters where hormones and lack of sleep conspire to mess up even the most together of ladies. You don’t recognise yourself in the mirror. Who is that tired looking person who looks a little like me?
Some days it can feel as if your past has been swallowed up along with your ability to take long showers. Do you even remember that girl who could watch Gilmore Girls’ marathons and stay in bed as late as she liked?
But, don’t despair, I’m here from the other side to tell you that everything will be okay. One day you will wake up and realise that you are still you underneath the mom layers.
You are just the next generation model, you 2.0.
You come with super mommy powers along with all your other fabulous qualities and being a mom is just a part of your identity but not the whole story.
What was your experience of giving birth for the first time? Was there a 'moment' it first really hit you that you were a mom? We'd love to hear.