When you haven’t slept for months, are covered in baby spit-up, are carrying extra pregnancy weight, pee every time you sneeze and your breasts are leaking milk, it is super hard to feel attractive. It is super hard to meet your single best friend- who is already insanely beautiful- out for a coffee and not feel dumpy, frumpy and old.
And when night after night you need to go to bed when the kids do – because who knows how many times you will be woken up this night?! – and are too damn exhausted to go to any social outing, you stop getting invited to as many parties and events. Your social life starts to revolve around the small golden window between 3-6pm when the kids have all napped and are happy, minimizing the possibility of public meltdowns.
I have lived through this glorious chapter of life. And, yes, it actually IS glorious in many ways, but in many other ways it is sucks. And is hard. REALLY, really hard. There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used for torture.
FROM “COOL” TO “MOM”
Before motherhood my past identity was attached to, and caught up in, being young, cool, attractive, social, etc. Transitioning to “mom” status was not easy for me. First, to go to “married”, from single and independent…then to go to “yoga teacher” (not so cool) from professional dancer (super cool in my young eyes)…to move to the South from NYC…and then to go to “mommy” from young and free.
There were a lot of blows to my ego. A lot of disintegration of the identity I had carried during my 20’s.
And then I started to age on top of it all.
What did all this mean? Did it mean that all the superficial stuff I had based my life and identity on were being revealed for what they truly were? Not very strong, not very stable….
WHAT IS AN IDENTITY?
What are “identities” anyway? They are attributes, negative or positive, that we assign to ourselves or others. And, guess what? All of these identities are not Truly who we are. Yes, they are roles we play: the career woman, the SAHM, the wife, the daughter, the fiery-temper one, the low self-esteem one, the teacher, the student, the funny one, the shy one, etc. Yet these roles need not define us. They do not encompass ALL we are, and when we are attached to our identities they actually hinder us from expansion and growth.
THE LET GO
For me, I needed to let go of the roles I identified with before I become a mother (super social, dancer, student, etc.), to Fully embrace this new chapter in life. NOT that these parts of me were gone, but I did not need to feel like I was a “nobody” without them. NOT that I could not pick them back up later, or learn how to integrate them into my new responsibility as mother, but recognizing and accepting that, guess what? Right now I cannot fully be the mom I want to be if I go out dancing until 1am too often. I am too tired the next day, they will wake at 6am anyway, and I lose my patience with them. Right now they need a momma that is as rested as possible and Present for them. Right now they need a momma that wakes up before they do to set a Peaceful tone in the house. Right now I want to be a momma I am proud of, doing my personal best with the current tools I now posses. Right now I want to be a human that my children can emulate, loving and taking care of myself and my family in the best way I know how.
So, how did I ACCEPT this new identity of “mom”? Very slowly. Probably too slowly. After my first child I denied it and resented my husband who was still “cool” – out playing shows with his Latin band. After my second child was born I was determined to dance again, at least for fun! So I went out dancing with friends at Play, the local gay club, a few times. But my boobs would hurt because I was still breastfeeding, so I’d have to come home late and pump. Not so sexy and carefree.
By my third child it had all started to settle in for me and I RELISHED AND ENJOYED every second of his infancy. I didn’t want to be out and about as much. I wanted to drink in every bit, every new discovery that he and his siblings were growing into. I know it may not take most moms this long! But for me it was a long six year transition to move from “Maiden to Mother” (as mysticmama.com calls it).
And what did accepting the identity of “mother” mean to me? I have accepted this role of nurturing and teaching and loving my children into secure, kind, aware little beings. I have accepted that this is a HUGE gift, a HUGE honor and a HUGE challenge. I see how drastically my mood affects their day, how my words affect their psyche.
I am 100% in the “mother-thing”, now, although I still have my own identity outside of the home and, for me, that really helps. I am still their #1 caregiver, but I also don’t mind sharing the responsibilities with others so that I can continue my “other” life-purposes and vision. It’s still super, de-duper hard at times (like yesterday), but I am sooooo grateful to be a mother!
The Joy, OH! the joy that comes when we embrace this new reality, this gift and calling to be a mother. It is a Rite of Passage of the most enormous magnitude. We grow to (somehow) embody more love with each new little one that arrives. We become more whole and wise human beings, realizing that we are not the center of the Universe, but we are each an intricate and essential part of it all. This evolutionary Right of Passage also brings us to into our power as creators of the New Earth.
So when you feel the sense of loss from your old identity passing, whether that takes 6 weeks or 6 years, know that you are now moving into a greater expression of yourself. You are stronger than you know. And the Grace that accompanies motherhood will carry you through. From the most intense pressure comes the the greatest growth and transformation. Motherhood is a spiritual practice. What I have learned through these very intense early years is greater than any spiritual workshop, class or training I could have taken.
So, breathe, mama, breath. You are in one of the greatest training periods of your life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bethany is a Pre/postnatal Yoga Therapist and the mother to three magical children.