The only thing that’s constant, the only thing you can be sure of in this life, is change.
When you become a mother, immediately after, you are a squishy ball of instinctual, exhausted, love. I remember feeling outside of myself but so sure of myself at the same time.
I knew exactly what I needed to do for my baby. That was my job. That was the only thing I was sure about, the only thing I was good at. Family, husband, friends, household, outside world, self-care, were all pushed aside.
Everything, except caring for my newborn, went right out the window. I didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye.
Once the dust settled, I remember feeling a sense of loss. I had gained so much, felt so incredibly blessed and happy, but in the same instance, during the most influential process of my life, felt a sense of loss, something that I just wasn’t prepared to feel.
Your body feels tender and sore. Foreign.
There is an ache in your womb where your baby once nestled, connected safely, intertwined with your very being…an ache that can’t be ignored. Your adored baby, your heart living outside of you now, held delicately in the security of your arms, suckling at your sore, cracked, bleeding nipples and laying against your hard, engorged and tender breasts. It’s a miracle; it’s raw and beautiful; it fills your eyes with tears, your heart with overflowing love, your mind with uncertainty.
It changes you.
Who am I now? I remember thinking. What does this all mean for me now?
My life became consumed with nursing sessions, learning my body and tailoring to meet the needs of my little miracle. Learning how to survive without sleep but remain tender and loving, while healing myself and my bleeding, aching body.
Did I switch breasts last time? Do I start on my left? How do I get my body to produce less, without stopping altogether? Is he getting a good latch? When did he last poop? Did he pee enough today? Is this pain normal? I’m still so weak. I’m hungry but food is so unappealing to me, but I need it to sustain my child, myself. I need rest. I need people to understand, I need people here, I need people to go away, I need a friend, I need silence, I need my husband, I need my sisters, I need a hug, I need to cry. I need myself. I need to remember who I am.
I remember thinking I wouldn’t get me back.
The things I used to laugh about, I didn’t want to anymore. I’d never be funny again, carefree. I’d be this obsessive mommy who never leaves her baby (still half true) but not know how to separate that identity, or should I say blend that identity with who I was, who I will be, who I want to be.
I wanted to be funny again. I couldn’t laugh yet that it had been days since I really looked in the mirror, or joke about the fact that I had only half brushed my teeth or not at all because every time I finished peeing, treating my hemorrhoids and then changing my adult diaper, the baby would wake or I’d get dizzy from the lasting anemia from birth.
It wasn’t funny that I was too exhausted to explain myself, defend myself, tell others what I needed.
It wasn’t funny when I learned what the midwife and nurse meant when they said you sweat out everything as your uterus returns to normal size, that you sweat profusely and you smell foreign to yourself and you just can’t help it at all.
It’s funny now because my son was born a year and a half ago, but it wasn’t funny at the time, and it wasn’t funny when my husband laughed at how I smelled, like its funny now if we obnoxiously blow our morning breath at each other. That’s funny. Looking and smelling gross is funny. But not after birth.
I was consumed. I didn’t know who I was anymore….and here’s the craziest part of it all…I was still so incredibly happy. 100% painfully happy.
How can that be? I never lived in a world where I felt both extremes so intensely.
So much change, so much at once, so much physical ache and pain, so much love in my heart, overflowing out of every part of my being. So much happiness I didn’t know what to do with. So much stimulation. So little sleep.
For me, my identity crisis came like a freight train. I didn’t know how to be 24 and be a mommy. How do I be 24 again? What does that mean?! All my friends were partying, traveling, carefree, dating, not dating, casually dating. I was married with a baby and wondering if my butt would ever be the same and if my face would always look this tired.
Once I was ready to see friends, I didn’t want to only talk about my baby, but this is what consumed my life now. I wanted to talk about the joys and the struggles, the change in myself, but how do you describe all of this when you are still trying to understand it yourself?
Come back to you. Give yourself time. Who were you before all of this? Try to think back.
Motherhood is a beautiful beast that takes control of you. You learn to defend yourself, to defend your boundaries in a way that you never did before. It’s a new power you possess that you realize you need to learn to control. It takes strength in being gentle with others as you adjust, and like any other exercise, strength comes with practice. And with time.
Go back to basics.
I visited my sister who has four kids, and after each one, to me anyway, always got herself back. She was still funny and sarcastic and could have that rolling laughter and glimmer in her eye as she joked with me about things completely politically incorrect. She was woman and she was authentic. She was mommy and herself. She was both.
I had to be around that. I needed that. I had to laugh with someone and sit with and observe again, now as a mother and not an outsider, part of this club, with a woman I admire. A woman I feel safe with. Safe to be completely vulnerable, safe to be raw. Safe to say, “This is hard. It’s so hard that I’m scared I’ll never find me again.” A woman who knows me. Knew me at every stage of my life. A woman I couldn’t hide from any sort of facade.
I talked daily with my other sister who lived across the world, who a million miles away could comfort me and bring me back to myself. Who could metaphorically kiss my emotional boo-boos and help to guide me through this transition. A transition all of us women go through. A personal transition that is guided through love.
Surround yourself with those people. A million people will offer, but go to the ones that when you hear their voice or see their name or see their face, you crumble and cry and say “This is who I am, but I don’t recognize her. Help me remember.”
They will remember. They will help you remember. They will nurse your wounds, the emotional wounds, even if just for a moment. They will tell you “This is normal.” You are you.
The lotus grows from the darkest places. It opens its petals one by one. And so will you.
You’ll wake up and not be so sore. You will shower and put on make up and take selfies with your baby. You will feel beautiful and powerful. You will latch on that baby and not have to think about it. You might pick up some toys that day or spend an entire day folding one load of laundry. You will feel good.
You will look around and smile and you will laugh and you will say, “I am more me than I’ve ever been. even if I don’t know what that means yet.” You will laugh with old friends and say, “I don’t want to talk about me. Hold my baby, this is my world. Now tell me about yours.”
You will listen. Just listen. And laugh, and cry and laugh about the times you remember, reminiscing of the times you still lived that life with them.
You will remember. That girl is still there. That heart, those jokes, that style, that sexy, confident, independent, WOMAN still lives in you.
But right now, in those first weeks and first months of motherhood, it’s okay to let that woman take a back seat and instead learn who this new woman is as well. You can have both. You will have both. Just like so many women have done before you.
Welcome to the club. It’s nice to have you. You are wonderful and admired and you are doing just fine. You are woman. And you are loved.
This post originally appeared on Crunchy Kisses.