A few weeks ago, I discussed how Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, coupled with the obvious changes that come with Motherhood, changed my own perspective and identity at work. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting more because this week is Maternal Mental Health Week. Thus, I thought it would be fitting to post how PPD and PPA has affected on my self identity overall.
Work took a lot of my time, and as I said, it was how I really defined who I was. The time I spent outside of work was filled with boxing, Muay Thai, shopping, reading, meeting up with people, etc. I could do what I want, when I wanted. I could plan my life as often as I wanted, or I could do things on a whim if I felt like it. If I wanted to have a lazy day, I did. Though life could have it’s stresses, responsibilities were different. Life was different.
Everyone always jokes how your life changes once the baby is born. Things won’t be the same; you won’t be the same. Despite that, the old you won’t be missed and it won’t make a difference, because life will be better. You’ll have the baby, and that’s all that matters. How I wished this was true for me.
After the first two months of being consumed by motherhood, I had convinced myself that there wasn’t any part of the old me left. I already had to deal with the fact with my work identity being gone. I felt as if I was stuck in an in-between. I struggled as a mother, so I didn’t think I could define myself as that. All those things that I used to enjoy seemed so far away and foreign. The life that was once lived seemed like a long time ago. I had friends, but I didn’t talk really know how to tell them what I was feeling. After all, I was afraid of people thinking that I didn’t love my child or knowing that I was an inadequate mother.
Things that were enjoyable to me before seemed so hard to do. I couldn’t leave my child behind. I couldn’t go anywhere on my own. If I spent time doing something for myself, then I felt guilty for not spending it with my son. Slowly, over time, this avoidance of self-care began to deteriorate my ability to think clearly and enjoy the new life I was leading.
I found myself being envious of people. I was jealous of the friends who could still box and go to Muay Thai practice and fights. I was sad that I could never get past the first chapter of a book because I’d be tired. I couldn’t catch up on movies, because it meant being away from my son. Even if I tried, I’d fall asleep from exhaustion. If someone called or wanted to hang out, I wouldn’t want to because of the way I looked and felt. I was saddened every time someone posted a travel picture – because I thought that I’d never go anyway again. By all definitions, I felt that life was over.
It’s strange, because so many people talk about how their life really began once they became parents. Things were so much clearer and happier for them. Yet, here I was saying the opposite – I remember my old life. It was amazing. I loved it. As a new mother, I mourned for it, because all that’s left is an empty shell of who I used to be. The happy mother who was supposed to replace my old self didn’t exist, and I doubted that she could ever be. I wasn’t mother material, and my old life is gone – I felt lost.
It took a while before I could allow myself to really accept these changes. I had to learn that while the old me wasn’t exactly around entirely, pieces of me were. In place, new and exciting things had come along to explore and learn. It’s still a work in progress, and I find myself still trying to figure out where all my interests fall in. There are days where I put too much into a single day, and others where I wonder what happened to my life. I’m still learning about balance, which I think is something that will keep changing as my life does. In any case, the silver lining of it all is that I have come to a point where I can say that my identity is not loss, just reformed. I love being a mom, and I love incorporating my new family life into some of my interests. I still try to get some of my old life back in (heeey boxing, looking at you!). So, things are coming along. Now if only I can get my work issues together….
If you’d like to participate in bringing awareness to Maternal Mental Health, it’s not too late! All social media tools, especially Twitter and Facebook, are useful in spreading the word. Check the Maternal Mental Health Coalition on MMH Awareness Week, and download a toolkit today!