Me, since motherhood.
Motherhood is a constantly shifting and mercurial state for me. It changes often, its demands and necessaries are both constant and transitory. A story-teller, a sleep-whisperer, an entertainer, a clown. A safe space, a food source, a cleaner, a laundress. A snot-wiper, a tear-kisser, a cook and a knight.
Recently, 15 months in, I’ve been finding myself looking in the mirror, shell-shocked and unsure of exactly who that is. Eye bags, hair unkempt and brows untouched. Not me. Around a year, around the first birthday, I felt myself slowly shutting down from survival mode, turning on and awakening parts of me that had been shut down for over a year. And found when I awoke a bit there was a tangled knot inside of me, parts of me; mother-me and old-me and interested-me and work-me. These parts of me that were all mixed up and confused and unsure, blinking in hazy sunlight after being asleep for so long.
Clothes were always my biggest identifier, they were my vice and I would get so much enjoyment out of getting dressed. I have clothes in my drawers that I brought, six weeks after giving birth, in an attempt to be more ‘me’ again that I now hold in my hands and feel confused by, they are uncomfortable, two sizes too big. I relate to the clothes that I owned before, the ones that brought me joy in putting them on, but feel unable to wear them now, because I am Mother. The very rare occasions I shop now I feel defeated, unable to choose anything because none of it feels good.
I feel the different parts of me tugging in separate directions, someone who wants a purpose, to work and create and thrive, and the mother who feels an acute sense of sadness when their daughter is elsewhere. I thought motherhood would be entirely fulfilling, that a career was arbitrary, time wasted until I had that baby in my arms. But I also don’t regret the moments before motherhood that I didn’t use to create this path, I needed that journey to take me where I am now. I feel myself filling those holes now, I don’t want a 9-5 but I need purpose, and a voice, and to create connection. But right now I can’t find my way there, sometimes sapped by tiredness, or self-doubt, or just the simple fact that I don’t where there is at the moment.
It almost feels unnecessarily cruel, filling mothers with huge amounts of creativity, when they are at their most time-poor and sleep-deprived. Yet it has been a true test of my own intrinsic self-motivation, the amount I can get done in a two hour nap time is often more than I would have done in a day before.
There’s a little person who is sapping me of my time, and sleep, and love, and yet filling me up so entirely. I struggle in my relationships with others, I feel desperately sad for my husband sometimes, when he gets the knackered and half-arsed version of me at the end of the day. Most conversations revolve around her, and when they don’t she sits in the back of my head, ready to come out as soon as I get my opportunity to speak of the brilliantly funny and magical thing she did that day. I crave time to myself, time to do things without half of me elsewhere, yet when I get it I count down the minutes until she is back with me again, and then feel cheated when she returns, like I squandered the precious alone time away.
This shifting identity is hard. It feels intangible, and when its like I’m there again, it so quickly changes, and then I’m not. I’m still untangling and re-arranging, looking in the mirror is sometimes like looking at a person that you almost recognise but can’t place, despite looking at them everyday. I keep placing expectations on things to bring me home, a new haircut or a pair of boots or a book. And then feel disappointed when they don’t. The fleeting moments of me are often in the evenings, alone when it’s just me and a sleeping baby upstairs; those rare nights neither one of us is working, or too tired or distracted, watching a crappy movie; or the times when we are out and about for the day, no messy house to worry about or naps to work around, when things just happen. I feel more whole when in the company of those who knew me before, those separate ages, the linear timeline comes together and sits entwined. A day spent with an old friend recently felt so good that I cried when I got home.
Is it the expectations we place on mothers to “bounce back”, to be themselves but bigger and better and with more things to do? It usually feels more that I am a full person, displaced into a new reality and spread thinly until I feel parts breaking away, drifting like breaking continents. I don’t have an answer, I feel like maybe I won’t ever. But for now I’ll drift, and grab those pieces when the opportunity arises, and likely find some new along the way.