Before having my first baby, I was an independent, autonomous woman. I was a freelance writer, accustomed to making my own schedule and calling my own shots. As an introvert, I appreciated the vast amounts of quiet time that filled most every day. When I became pregnant, I realized my days would change and my solitude would be disrupted. What I couldn’t predict was how much that would affect me.
I remember one evening a few weeks after my first child was born, I needed a mini-escape. It had been a rough day when the baby cried a lot and slept a little. My husband returned home from working all day and I told him we needed something from the store. Thinking he was being helpful, he volunteered to go get it. I nearly cried. “No,” I said. “I need out.” I don’t even remember what it was that we “needed” and honestly, I don’t think it really was an immediate need. What I really needed was to have a few minutes to myself. The trip took about 30 minutes. It wasn’t a long escape, but it was important. It gave me some room to breathe, but it also made me realize just how much my life had changed; I was no longer the autonomous woman I once was.
Though we don’t always talk about it, the transition to becoming a mother isn’t always an easy one. And, it rarely happens overnight or in the immediate, euphoric moments after birth. There is a period of adjustment that is necessary, and let me just say that nearly seven years into this motherhood gig, I can say adjustments continue to happen. I still remember my pre-child independence and days of peace-and-quiet. At times, I long for those days. I’m still getting used to always being needed, always being touched.
If you are like me, perhaps you will find yourself relating to this quote from “The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Our Lives and Why We Never Talk About It” by Susan Maushart:
A woman accustomed to taking autonomy for granted may find the experience of newborn motherhood strangely claustrophobic as she struggles to fit two people into a space formerly reserved for one. “In a very profound way, a woman who gives birth to her first baby is not ‘herself’ for a very long time afterwards,” writes Nina Barrett. “No matter how much you wanted the baby, no matter how much joy you felt in her arrival, no matter how much household help you have, you still must, at some point, shed the skin of your old individual self and grow a new one with enough room for this small person-who-isn’t-quite-an-individual yet.”
During our journeys to motherhood, we often focus our attention on things like nursery decor or creating a gift registry. We might read a few books on birth options and develop a birth plan. Maybe you even studied up on newborn care, so you would know what to expect when caring for a newborn. In our preparations for becoming a mother, we find ourselves nesting in a variety of ways, doing our best to welcome our little one into the world. But, often we forget about how giving birth isn’t just bringing a new life into the world. It also means creating a new role and identity for ourselves. And the truth is, adjusting to that new identity can take more time than we ever imagined.
So, tell us about your transition to motherhood. Was it what you expected? How long did it take you to adjust to your new role? Or, is that still a work in progress?