Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
Isn’t it a wild emotional shift to go from getting ample help and compliments when the baby is inside you, to suddenly being seen as their leaky accessory after going through all the work of getting them out? And sure, there are folks who ask about the birth and tell you how great you look (bless them), but really, most people are all about the baby. This can be nice at times, as you may score much-needed down time while others coo and ooh over the baby, but then there are the times when you crave to be seen as more than a mother — as more than the lady carrying around that adorable creation everyone wants to hold. You crave conversation about that book you’re writing, or that cat-grooming workshop you went to… or whatever your thing is. You want to be honored for being the power-house who grew and birthed a baby while also having all of these other amazing qualities. You’re not selfish for feeling this way.
For the first six months of Hudson’s life I felt completely invisible. When people came up to us, their eyes would immediately lock onto him. If they engaged me in conversation, their eyes would stay on him, and the topic would almost always be his eating, pooping, or weight-gaining habits. I felt like I was his personal assistant. Or PR rep.
A big part of my frustration was that these interactions were a physical manifestation of what was going on in my own head. Almost every thought I had, every action I took, involved Hudson. I could barely remember what made me an individual. While I loved him deeply, I also felt twinges of resentment that he had robbed me of my individuality. Luckily, these feelings began to fade as he grew and became less dependent on me. And of course, because motherhood is crazy like this, him needing me less made me have moments where I missed him needing me all the time. Geesh.
What to do
Remember that in the early days of motherhood it’s so normal for your life and identity to feel fully wrapped up in baby. However, you can create a lifeline to your unique self by making a list:
1. Create a list of all the things that make you feel like you. This list can contain anything, from something as simple as taking a shower or organizing the closet to tasks as complex as creating a graphic novel or starting that business you’ve been dreaming of.
2. Put the items on the list into three categories. The first category will contain the actions that are absolute essentials and should be prioritized immediately (for example, taking a shower every day, and going on a walk three times a week). These are the things you’ll bring to your support system and say, “Let’s figure out who can watch baby during these times so I can do these things.”
The second category will consist of actions that are incredibly important to you but can be put on hold for six months, as month six is often when baby is a tad less dependent and able to be with others for longer periods. My top two items in this category were meditating for fifteen minutes and writing for one hour, every day.
Finally, move the remaining actions on your list into category three, which consists of the things that will come back into your life after baby’s first birthday. By this time, you’ll likely be in your groove with motherhood, sleeping fairly regularly, and feeling comfortable setting up consistent childcare. This is around the time I started teaching HypnoBirthing classes and amped up my writing career.
3. Use the list. Pull out your categorized list whenever you’re forgetting who you are or wondering if you’ll ever get back to that person. After a day of feeling invisible, this list helps you breathe and remember that there will come a time when life settles back into a more balanced rhythm. And no, life will never go back to feeling exactly like it did before baby was born, but it will start being more layered and consisting of people seeing you as a unique woman, not just the person that baby is clinging to. Things will get better.