“Yes, I gave you life…but really, you gave me mine.”
I came across this quote sometime ago and I have no idea who wrote it but it just about melted my entire being when I read it because it describes so accurately how I feel about becoming a mother. It is so absolutely life changing. As I journeyed through pregnancy I had no idea how much meaning my daughter would bring to my life. She made me a mother. How profound! The moment she was born, I was changed forever. She was born and I was re-born it seemed, into a new essence of myself. A new part of me was unlocked and exposed to the world. Everything was different. Every person, every object, every emotion. It was all new and exciting and daunting and wonderful.
Becoming a mom is not just about adding a new component to your identity. In my experience, the role of motherhood completely transforms your personhood. Your identity is molded into a new perspective, a new way of being that gives light to parts of your heart that you never knew existed. Your life is not your own anymore. You have new meaning, a new purpose. Your heart opens up to a new kind of love. As my wise sister put it after having her beautiful baby boy, “your heart breaks open and you realize you can love so much that it hurts.” Is there any other kind of love in the world that feels like that? It is so uniquely beautiful.
My husband always tells me that the way I look at our Luna is different than the way I look at anyone else. I never realized until he told me.
When I look at her, my heart explodes. She breaks my core and fills my soul. I look at every little feature of her and recognize that she is a part of me and a part of her dear daddy. She is us and she is herself. She is my child who I prayed for and waited for anxiously. She is my gift and it’s still hard to believe she is all mine!
I look at her differently than I look at anyone else because she made me different.
The challenging part of this enormous transformation is that I find it hard sometimes to remember my old self and my identity apart from being a mother. I think this challenge is particularly prominent among stay at home moms like myself. Since we do not have a job as an outlet, many of us try to find ways to fuel our passions and interests aside from motherhood, whether it be a hobby, project, social outlet, or anything that helps us stay in touch somewhat with our own selves.
As mothers, we give so much that we often lose ourselves just a little, or perhaps a great deal. We lose our independence because we now have a little person that depends on us completely. We lose our old self a little because we have new priorities and new expectations. We suddenly have to make a countless number of decisions about how we will raise our children. It is quite astounding to be cast into such an extraordinary role and to just try to figure out how to make that feel “normal.” I often have to remind myself that it is OK to do things just for myself. To go out on my own (and not just to do errands!), to read a book that is not about parenting, to have a project that has nothing to do with babies or kids. Because as mothers we often feel we are not doing enough or we are doing something the wrong way. We are incredibly hard on ourselves! Especially in this day and age when expectations of what parents should be doing for their kids are through the roof. We are expected to do so much and in all of that we lose ourselves or at least forget to pay attention to our own needs. We become mom and nothing else. Being a mom is an incredible gift, but it tends to make us sacrifice other parts of ourselves and that can be heartbreaking and confusing. Of course I am not speaking for all mothers, but this is what I have observed and learned through my own experience and through conversation with mom friends.
So as I am trying to be the best mom ever to my daughter, I struggle to care for myself. I struggle to remember the other components of my identity. Something I never knew would happen!
I am still Ana. I am still a sister and a daughter. I am still a wife. I am still a professional. I am still the person that worked her tail off to get a graduate degree. I still love music and singing and writing and poetry. I still love karaoke and wine and impromptu dance parties. I still like hiking and soccer and yoga. I know it sounds crazy but sometimes I have to remind myself of these things because being a mom takes up so much of my mental and physical energy.
So what is a mom to do when she is feeling like she has lost herself? Some things that have helped me find balance are volunteering, exercising, staying in touch with friends regularly even if just by text or video messaging (the Marco Polo app is amazing!), making mom friends, and scheduling time for myself.
I took this photo after my first yoga class since becoming a mom. It took me 10 months to get back to this wonderful exercise that I really enjoy. I felt so proud of myself and so exhilarated from the experience. I was able to do something I enjoyed, just for me and no one else. Not to mention it was basically an hour of peace and quiet with other adults! It was fabulous. I try to go twice a week now at the YMCA where they provide childcare. It is a wonderful way to take care of myself and take a break from mom life, if just for an hour.
Most importantly I try my best to remember that my identity is first and foremost a daughter of Christ. I was created by the Lord, fearfully and wonderfully made. God gave me the gift of motherhood but I am ultimately a disciple of God’s love. That is my mission, that is my life’s calling above all else. That is where my identity lies. He knows who I am. He knows me by name. He calls me His own. That is a glorious thing to be reminded of and it gives me peace when I feel depleted. God gave me this sweet girl and made me a mother. That cannot be a mistake!
The path of motherhood is not an easy one. It is an incredible vocation of utter selflessness. Through each new challenge and each new day I am renewed and more capable of love through what she teaches me. I see the world differently now. I see myself differently.
I may not be who I used to be exactly but I am more blessed now than ever. And while the other elements of myself are still present, I feel I have been renewed. Motherhood has been a challenging but life giving transformation that has made me a better person, and for that I am incredibly grateful.