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A MOTHER: identity

Another topic which was mentioned quite a lot during my search for honest mothers was Identity. 

Becoming a mother is a huge life change and the way you live your daily life alters forever, you as a mama put yourself second and with that comes sacrifice to the normal things you may have taken for granted before, which made you feel like 'you'. 

With body, hormonal and skin changes etc, the body you once knew and accepted is completely different. I'm not talking from a bounce back/visual point of view but how you feel - maybe the scar from your emergency C-section you never thought you would have, the skin changes like me which were brought on from hormones and left me feeling really low about myself and the way i looked during the first few months of Otto's life. It can have a huge impact on the way you feel about yourself and cause that sense of loss. 

We're dropping a new post each day, which covers a different topic like mental health and balance etc, so please check out yesterday's conversation about loneliness and pop back tomorrow to read another! 

Lou is Mama to 5 month old baby Wyatt and has been really honest about her journey into motherhood and her sense of identity since becoming a mother and how it's changed for her. I really hope you enjoy reading this conversation, it may even shed light on why you feel or felt a certain way like it did me!! 

 

 1. Pre-baby, would you say you felt secure/happy in yourself and your identity? 


Before becoming a mum, I had never really considered what my identity was. Well, not since I was an awkward teen trying to figure out who I was. I'd had years of just being me. I was content with who I was and the life I had, and didn't think too much about what it was that made me 'me'. It's only since becoming a mum that I've realised what some of those things are and how much I took them for granted.  

 

2. What about your identity changed? Was it your body image, sense of style, confidence, independence?

Before having my son I knew I might struggle with my changing body during and after having a baby I'd seen it spoken about a lot online so felt I was prepared for it and tried not to put too much pressure on myself to get back to 'pre-baby body'. I even did a pregnancy shoot because I knew one day I'd want to look back at that bump and remember how amazing it was.

 


What I didn't hear about as much and wasn't prepared for was not the change in my appearance but a change in my identity as a whole. I was excited about the new addition of 'mum' to my identity but wasn't prepared for the parts that I would lose too.  

For me, it's not one thing that made me feel like I'd lost my identity. I had enough items of clothes that were baby-friendly to still feel like 'me'. I've changed job roles and felt out of my depth so many times, so I knew I would get there and feel more confident in this new role in the end. And whilst losing my independence has been new to me and super challenging, we've had two years of not being able to do what we want when we want, so I had some practice of that too! Instead, I think it's all of those things happening at the same time that made me feel like my identity was being attacked from all angles. 

 

 3. When did it feel like your identity changed?

For me, that changing of 'everything' happened once Wyatt was born. Whilst I had been able to keep hold of some aspects of my identity when I was pregnant, as soon as he was here everything was different. For a while my body felt purely functional, I wasn't working anymore and socialising/seeing friends was completely different - so much harder and more complicated.

Things I didn't realise made me who I was had changed and suddenly I was realising what made me feel like 'me'.  

 

4. How did it make you feel? Did it affect your mental health? Did you feel lost, confused, lonely, guilty, sad? 

The toughest time for me was the first two months. My body was still healing and felt alien to me. When it didn't feel broken, it felt like it was simply there to do a job for my son. As he wasn't latching, we had decided to feed him my expressed milk in a bottle, so my days had a pattern of express, feed, burp, repeat. It was never-ending.

I was jealous of my husband who got to go to work and have another life; a non-baby life. Somewhere to talk about other things, even mundane things like TV or weekend plans. I felt trapped in the house, in a monotonous routine and with no one to talk to other than a baby who wasn't great at holding a conversation! And because feeling all that wasn't enough, I'd feel guilty too. Guilty that I wasn't loving my life with my new baby. Knowing I should be making the most of those early days and not wishing them away.

In those two months I literally counted down to my husband coming back from work so I could hand the baby over and have some time to myself. I snapped at him more times than I'd like to admit, mostly out of jealousy that he seemed to have it so good (he of course wished he was at home more...the grass isn't always greener and all that...) 

 

5. Do you think part of it comes from society's expectations/social media?  

Social Media can be so misleading. I've received so many comments on photos saying I'm 'crushing motherhood' or 'look fabulous' and I know the photo is from the only day that week I'd managed to wash my hair, wear clothes that aren't stained or pyjamas and put some make up on. I think because the photos we're happy to share online are the most polished version of ourselves it can easily look like we're exactly the same person as before. To everyone else you look just like you but now with a new mini-you in tow. But that's not how you feel at all most days. 

I don't think losing your identity is BECAUSE of social media but I also think there is a side to motherhood that isn't seen there. Not many people want to post photos of themselves having an identity crisis... 

 

6. Can you describe how your idea of identity has changed since becoming a mother? Have you evolved with your new identity, tried to 'find your way back' or just accepted that things have changed?

Since having my son, I've slowly realised that the me who existed pre-baby has, in some degree, gone. Part of me mourns the loss of that version of me but I also know there has been other versions of me that have come and gone before (looking at you 'teen Lou' and 'uni student Lou') and whilst they were fun stages of my life, I can look back at them fondly and not want to have that identity or that lifestyle now. There are some parts I'm happy to let go of and other parts that feel so fundamentally 'me' that I want to find a way to keep and make work alongside being a mother. 

 

7. Did your loss of identity affect your relationship? The way you felt about your partner? 

There was definitely teething at the start where I was feeling frustrated and lost, and tried to communicate what I needed. Having those conversations when you're sleep-deprived is HARD! It often comes out in a way you don't intend and when you are feeling your lowest/most frustrated. As time has gone on, we've got into a groove a bit more and my husband knows that I need a bit of time now and then. He is always offering ways that he can take the reins and give me a breather. It's hard not to use that time to tidy up or do some life admin, so I'm trying to find ways that I can use it to focus on me/doing something that will make me feel myself again.

 

8. What has been the most challenging part of losing your identity?

The hardest part for me has been deciding what are the absolute necessities for me to keep as part of 'me' and what I'm willing to let go. How important is work to me vs how much time I spend with my child? How can I still go to gigs/festivals/events but also make sure we make memories as a family? Can the foodie in me still enjoy a meal out with a toddler...? I feel like there will be a perfect balance where I can still feel like me but also not have huge mum-guilt. I just need to find it! 

 

9. If you could go back in time to those difficult days, what would you tell yourself?

I'd tell myself to be honest with my husband about what I need from him. He isn't going to know unless I tell him. And I'd also tell myself to not put pressure on feeling 'me' so quickly. Not everything has to return to normal straight away and just because it hasn't, doesn't mean it never will.  

 

You can follow Lou on instagram here

1 comment

  • Really resonate with this one! Thank you Lou for being so open and honest. Identity has been a huge challenge of mine in motherhood. My little one is 9 months now so we’ve definitely found our groove for including her in the things we used to do, like eating out, travelling and festivals! It’s actually pretty special having her share these things with us now and I can’t imagine her not being part of that. So much so, I never actually want to leave her with anyone else and much prefer to take her along for the ride! So please know, you can still enjoy those pre baby activities and I would suggest it’s actually way more fun as a family! I hope you find your groove along the way and can enjoy making lots of precious memories in your new identity as a family!

    Jasmin

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