From the moment your bub makes his or her appearance in the world there is so much to learn – not just about babies in general, or your bub in particular, but also about yourself. As a new parent, you may face any number of challenges, and these may lead you to recalibrate your priorities and values or face deep truths about yourself and your relationships. At a minimum becoming a parent throws up questions about how you define yourself as I discovered with the arrival of our firstborn almost four years ago.
I wasn’t completely naive; I had an inkling that becoming a parent would be a game-changer. I had anticipated a major shift in my lifestyle – although perhaps I’d not fully appreciated just how seismic that lifestyle change would be. Certainly, however, I had no clue that it would shift my whole sense of being.
In the space of 24 hours – the length of my labour and oh, how much fun that was! – I went from being a footloose (albeit 40.5 weeks pregnant and somewhat limited in my mobility) independent woman to being a mother. Some might argue you have 40-odd weeks to wrap your head around this concept, but I found it wasn’t until I had a small human in my arms, screaming her every need at me, that the magnitude of this life change set in. Every waking moment from then on, I lived and breathed my relationship with my baby, and along with losing my independence, I am pretty sure I lost myself a little too.
I recall my first social outing without my daughter clearly. I had decided to join some friends for after-work drinks. I’d washed my hair, squeezed into some pre-pregnancy clothes and even added a dash of make-up to conceal the toll of sleep deprivation. Damn, I was looking fresh! But though I might have appeared the part – more or less, anyway – I felt like an interloper. I tired quickly of the chatter about work and weekend plans and holidays, carefree states of existence that now seemed so foreign, and my mind drifted home. Was my husband coping with the baby, or was she wailing the place down, outraged to have been offered a bottle rather than the breast? Did my daughter need me? Possibly in that moment, I needed her more.
Throughout that first year I couldn’t bear to be separated from our baby. I felt removed and awkward in social settings whenever we were apart, despite orders to just enjoy myself and reassurances that she’d be fine. I was conscious of not wanting to bore others with my new favourite subject either – our darling baby girl – miraculous for me and my husband but a tad mundane for those less invested. Often I elected to keep my mouth zipped in conversation, for fear of sending my audience into a coma with talk of the minutiae of my life as a stay-at-home mum. What hope did I have when even our dog found this new me dull, judging by the sidelong looks and long sighs she now gave me? (On reflection, if she was unimpressed with me, she was even less impressed with the new addition to the family, although I’m pleased to report that they’re great buddies these days.)
Slowly, month by month, I got more sleep, grew more competent, and began to look outwards again. As I ventured beyond our four walls together with my daughter, I discovered new places, new interests and, importantly, new friends. I reconnected with old friends I’d neglected for much too long. Finally paid some attention to my husband. I began working again – freelance, for the first time in my career, and loved the flexibility and independence that brought. And every time I left the house, with or without my daughter, I gained a small piece of my identity.
Four years on, and now with two toddlers to wrangle, I have a rich and busy life. Motherhood has brought great joy and great challenges too, and I know it will continue to do so with every stage. And with it has emerged a different me – one who is more tolerant, more open-minded, more honest, more vulnerable – and that’s just fine.
More from Ginny:
Cookie Cutter Kids: How can we teach our children to celebrate diversity?
Running in Circles
Allergies: What’s all the fuss about?
The Early Days
Not water – Tears
No Judgements, please
Triumph or Trauma
Riding the Merry go Round
Friends, Near or Far
When is Enough, Enough?
My ( Child’s) Kitchen Rules