I always wanted to be a mom. I told my mother as a child I wanted to grow up to be a regular mom. Whatever that meant. I didn’t realize at the time that my mom was a hardworking, often solo parent, while sitting on various volunteer boards and continually being an advocate in our community, amidst working full time and raising two girls! She was my hero. Still is.
What I didn’t know about motherhood was how it would come as a surprise to me. I hadn’t romanticized motherhood as an adventure with my new little best friend, I think I had a pretty realistic expectation, but motherhood found me earlier than I intended. My husband and I laugh about it sometimes. Our daughter came into our lives like a little energetic whirlwind. We had a plan. I had an IUD, and it migrated… and failed. It happens sometimes, we learned. We also learned not to make five year plans, and that’s become a running joke between him and I!
I had just started my career as a social worker, and was looking forward to establishing myself and making a name for myself as someone to be trusted, and turned to. The reality is, I worked a short 7 months, secured a mat leave, and entered a totally new role – mom.
Pregnancy had some really lonely days, as much as my husband cheered me on and was a huge supporter, he couldn’t feel what I felt, emotionally or physically. And at the time, I didn’t have any mom friends to connect with. There were some tears, in both pregnancy and postpartum, for sure!
I remember lying awake one night crying, and thinking about the loss of identity I felt. I knew others must feel what I felt. I think I googled something like “loss of identity in motherhood” and came across the term matrescence. No one talks about how when a child is born, the mother is born too. A new identity, and we try to reconnect pieces of the old us, and sometimes find they are lacking continuity. I felt so far from my old self.
It was around this time that I also found the work of Sophie Ebrard. She expressed the feelings of loving her son, but rejecting the uncool image of motherhood. She didn’t want motherhood to own her, or ruin her. I felt that. I also felt alone. I remember doing things to minimize the image of motherhood for myself. I didn’t want to push a stroller, I often wore a baby wrap. As if I could hide my little babe, or hide the way she transformed me. There is no going back, and I’ve come to appreciate that. I have grown into being a mother, much like the experience Sophie describes in her work and photography: https://www.sophieebrard.com/projects/didnt-want-mum/
Shortly after having Leighton, I found the Ask Mum community. I remember chatting with Mandi and commenting to her that I didn’t know any other mothers at the same stage as me, at all. She was visibly shocked, and in that brief kind interaction I realized this community was for me. She was creating a place where moms could feel heard, and understood, and talk about the kids, or talk about really anything else at all. I had many conversations that lifted me up, at events following that first one!
The first year of motherhood was tough. Lots of beautiful moments, and lots of exhaustion. Due to working in the health authority previously, I put a lot of pressure on myself to exclusively breastfeed. I remember feeling that anything else was a failure. But I kept these thoughts to myself, except for sharing this with my husband. I have to say there were times I’m sure it compromised my mental health. I would be at my wits end trying to hand pump so I could go out with a friend. I remember the first time I left my baby, I attended a bachelorette weekend where only one other woman was a mother. Everyone was so confused and worried when I disappeared for a while. I had to go pump, but they didn’t know that. It hadn’t occurred to them.
I have become so grateful for other moms in my life. My mother, my mother in law. More than ever before. My girlfriends who mother, and understand how I’m feeling with just a look. I can say “Toddlers, you know??” And they do.
I don’t have it figured out, not by a long shot. But I have fallen into the rhythms of mothering, and parenting. There is so much joy in watching my baby grow. My husband continually supports me, and partners with me in the best ways. We have our patterns about who tends to what tasks, and share the work equally. Most of all I am thankful. Thankful for one baby, to take me by surprise, and another, to come along during a pandemic, of all things! I am counting down the weeks to meeting our little baby boy.
Motherhood is such a journey, and I’ve only just begun, but I’m so grateful for the challenges it has presented to me. I have challenged myself and grown individually, and pushed myself into so many unknowns career wise, socially, and emotionally. Motherhood taught me to dig even deeper for strength within myself and to unashamedly ask for help when I need it. Something that is very humbling, when I’m used to thinking I can handle it all. I am so thankful for community, and for other mothers. We need each other. And together, we’ve got this! Thanks Ask Mum for creating a place for us to share and come together.