A few days ago I was asked, “What’s the most surprising thing about being a new mom? What’s something you didn’t expect?” I quickly answered, “The lack of sleep!.”
It was my honest answer. Of course, I knew my sleep was going to be interrupted by a newborn. I knew I would be getting up every couple of hours to feed her. What I did not know is that I’d nurse my sweet baby, lovingly lay her back down in her bassinet beside our bed, and then she would proceed to gurgle, coo, snort, and wiggle for the next hour, and my mommy super hearing would ensure that I heard every. Little. Noise. Just when baby and I finally settle into a nice deep sleep, her little belly alarm clock would start the whole process again. It’s exhausting on a level I just really didn’t understand before being thrown into the midst of it.
While the lack of sleep is alarming, no doubt, I feel like I need a do-over for that question. There’s a much bigger change I didn’t see coming. It’s one of those subtle changes that builds and grows, and before you know it it’s the biggest change of all…..and it’s me.
No one ever told me how different I’d feel after becoming a mother. Maybe no one ever told me because it’s this ambiguous, incredibly hard to explain “thing” that happens inside of you. People tell you about how there’s no love like the love you have for your kids, and you wait for it. Watch for it. You have the moments like this…
You stare at that little baby in the hospital completely amazed by her. You snuggle up on the couch with your husband and precious baby and somehow feel more complete. You have trouble putting her back down at 2:30 in the morning after you’ve nursed her, because it just feels so right to have her in your arms.
All these things are love, that I’m sure of, but what I didn’t expect was the other side of that love… The less than pretty, confusing, painful side of loving someone so completely. It took me a while to notice it, almost 8 weeks, but when it hit me, it hit me like a tsunami crashing through a city, and when the waves, and the tears, had settled I was someone completely brand new. Love changes you.
No one ever told me I’d have to figure out who I am all over again. After years of struggling to find myself and finally succeeding, one little girl has changed it all. No one ever told me being a new mom would feel a bit like the adolescent identity crisis you conquered years ago. (Crazy hormones included.) I didn’t know I would loose myself to motherhood. I promised I wouldn’t loose myself to motherhood. So when it happened, I was blindsided. I didn’t realize how changed I would be, or how confusing that change would feel. I knew motherhood would be a completely new journey, but I didn’t realize that my identity would also start a whole new journey. I’m now suddenly realizing just how many of these identity crisis moments motherhood will bring. No matter how strong you are, no matter how much you have figured out about yourself, no matter how prepared you are…so much of motherhood changes you.
She’ll stop breastfeeding…and I’ll have to redefine myself.
She’ll go to kindergarden…and I’ll have to redefine myself.
She’ll have her first boyfriend…and I’ll have to redefine myself.
She’ll move off to college…and I’ll have to redefine myself.
She’ll get married…and I’ll have to redefine myself.
She’ll have a baby of her own…and I’ll have to redefine myself.
I’m having to redefine myself now, and I never expected that. It’s overwhelming, it’s scary, it’s hard, it’s painful….and then she farts one of her manly farts, I laugh, and start a 10 minute conversation with her about pooping her pants….and it’s perfect.