Transitioning to Motherhood – Experiencing loss of self and regaining your self-worth

Motherhood is a massive task. Even before a baby is born, pregnancy can be completely draining. You go from being your own person, doing everything you want to; taking dance classes, lifting 100kg weights, eating a smorgasbord of shellfish and soft cheeses to all of a sudden realising your body is no longer yours. You become a vessel for someone else to grow, you can’t eat what you want, the thought of the food that you once loved suddenly makes you nauseous, you’re body changes and everything feels completely out of your control.

Despite this, becoming a mother is the most amazing feeling. The first time you hear your babies cry is completely overwhelming in the best way. You suddenly feel this love that you never knew existed and you feel it right through your bones!

Mother and Daughter
Me and my daughter at 1 month old

Once the baby arrives, your life becomes consumed by the new life you have brought into the world. If you’re not feeding the baby, you’re comforting the baby or letting the baby sleep on you because that’s the only time they’ll sleep for more than 10minutes. And even though you’re so tired you feel like you could sleep for eternity like sleeping beauty you still feel like you have to vacuum the house and dust every shelf just to try and keep up appearances. 

Then night time comes and you’re so tired you know you should go to bed early but instead you stay up and watch TV and eat ice cream because you can finally have some alone time! 

Don’t get me wrong, being a mum is my favorite thing in the whole world, but boy it can be a tough gig sometimes and it is easy to lose yourself amongst it all. Whilst your life is still your life, you now have to consider your children’s needs equal to or above your own every single day. 

This is fine and good but it is still so different to what you once knew so it definitely takes some getting used to.

Even some of our brightest stars aren’t immune to this loss of self. 

“And in my pregnancy and through becoming a mother, I lost a lot of myself. And I've struggled, and I still do struggle being a mum — it's really hard. But tonight winning this kind of feels full circle, and a bit of me has come back to myself” 

– Adele 2017

So, almost every woman feels some sort of loss of identity when becoming a mother, so how can we regain our sense of self? How can we get back to being us? Perhaps it’s not a matter of getting back to ourselves but instead a matter of working out who we are now. Things have changed; your brain has literally changed… your priorities have changed… your entire life has changed! Accepting this and focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling on what was left behind is the best place to start.

1. Find new ways to connect with friends 

Instead of coffee dates or regular nights out, perhaps playdates or occasional nights in might now be better suited to your lifestyle. Instead of restaurants and movies try the park or a local playground. If your current friends don’t have kids yet, also try joining a local mothers group to make a few friends at the same stage of life you are so that you also have friends that understand what’s happening in your life now.

2. Have a hobby 

Try to find a hobby that incorporates something you love. Maybe you could start painting, or gardening, going for walks with your new baby in tow, you might even decide to start a blog! 

It really doesn’t matter what hobby you take up or how often you do it, even if you just fit something in once every few months, doing something that is yours and outside of your usual day-to-day chores will help you to take time to yourself regain a sense of achievement.

3. Stop comparing 

Don’t compare yourself to your “old” you and don’t compare yourself to other mothers. This is a lot easier said than done, but try focusing on the wonderful fleeting moments happening right now; cheeky gummy smiles, chunky baby thighs, smooshy baby cheeks. 

4. Get help 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, never fear, every single other mother in the whole world has felt that way, some more so than others, but we have all felt that way at some point or another. So, there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it is incredibly strong and shows that you care about how well you’re able to function as a mother. So if you need it, ask for help, whether you need to hire someone, trade babysitting, beg family members, or just go to playgroups with helpers, do what you need to do. 

5. Take care of yourself

Put bub in the bouncer and take a shower. Even bring the bassinet into the bathroom, dim the lights and have a nice long bath while bub naps next to you. If you loved getting dressed up before, don’t stop now, put bub in the bouncer somewhere they can see you and do your hair and make-up, get dressed in a nice dress, go down to the park or to the shops all dressed up, or just save it for your baby and/or partner, whatever makes you feel best. But take some time to regain your confidence.

6. Remember that you are no longer the same person that you were before becoming a mother and that is OK. 


Do I have postnatal depression or anxiety?

The good times should outweigh the bad times. If your feelings of identity loss don't go away or they're negatively affecting your life, it could be a sign of postnatal depression or anxiety. 

If you think you may have postnatal depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor straight away. PND and PNA or very common and nothing to be ashamed of, there is treatment available to help you.

Where to find help

To look after your baby, you also need to look after yourself. There are plenty of support services that can help, including:
  • Your doctor
  • Your local child health centre
  • Pregnancy Birth and Baby – call 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse (7:00am to midnight AEST, 7 days a week), or video call
  • PANDA – 1300 726 306 (9:00am to 7:30pm AEST, Mon to Fri)
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Comments

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