You don’t have to be less of yourself to be more of a mother

I recently read something wonderful (I think on the magical Pregnant Chicken) about how we should treat women who have just become mothers as though they have lost someone. Because they have: Themselves.

I love this idea SO MUCH because it’s what happened to me – I lost myself, I lost my shit, and I lost a lot of freedom (as all parents do). Again, this is not the experience of every woman, I am sure. But it sure as shit was mine – and it is the experience of a lot of mothers I know.

Loss and grief are weird things to experience because they are often bound up with feelings of helplessness, fear, anger, resentment, denial, and bargaining (I think I just made up some of the five stages of grief). In any case, loss is a powerful humbling agent of the universe; but it is also a great motivator.

Some women come terms with the loss – let’s say, of varying degrees – of themselves in different ways. I am sure some welcome the change a child brings to one’s life, while others, like me, kick and scream and fight to maintain who they were, even though that person is gone (or, at the very least, pieces of them are).

I always say this cheesy thing to friends and acquaintances about breakups, that is the start of a new life which is almost always better and, at the very least, more exciting than what you’ve just lost. I have not yet had anyone report back that this has not been the case.

And the same is true for having a child. You lose this fundamental footing that you have always had in your own identity, your own skill, your own sense of what the world is and how it works and who you are in it – and then, BAM – an infant is relying on you for their survival and you can barely say words because you are so tired and completely confused about how this thing you have been looking forward to bit you in the ass and took everything you knew about yourself with it.

In my experience however, I was lost, but then, I was found (cue Amazing Grace). I know that I sound like a Mommy Zealot – and maybe I am – but having my daughter in the world makes the possibilities of the world – and for me as a person, a woman, in it – endless. Isn’t that weird? I thought my life was over but, in some ways, it had just begun.

Fundamentally, my daughter made me realize that what I had to give – on so many levels – was not over or depleted, or used up. It was just waiting to be unleashed. And maybe that’s why women who are mothers are so damn powerful. We realize what we can do – and not in some “I pushed/birthed a baby out of my body, so now I am She-Ra, Princess of Power” – but instead in this fundamental way that helps us realize who we are and that we can trust ourselves, no matter what.

Children don’t have to take our identities from us. We do not have to lose ourselves in them and their lives.

Instead, we can stake a claim about who we are in more powerful and deliberate ways than we have ever before.

I refused to be swallowed up by Motherhood as a set of rules or as an institution.

Instead, motherhood is helping me to be the baddest, bravest bitch that I can be.