Becoming a mother was the easy part. I fell in love with this nice bloke and we decided to have a baby. No problem! Not that falling pregnant was that straightforward but lucky for us it did happen and then hey presto, this little baby boy with huge brown eyes suddenly appeared in our house as if he’d been there all along, invisible and quietly waiting off to the side until someone came along with a fat crayon and coloured him in, rendering him real and vivid and squally.
Fast forward six years and there are three of them now. Another brilliant boy and a steely-eyed girl closing in fast behind. I’ve carried, birthed and breastfed them all and now that the youngest is almost two, my perpetually puffed shut eyes are beginning to prise open. There’s even a rumour my brain might be growing back. Yesterday I remembered the word for cake (important).
So when the dust settles and the children loosen their stranglehold just long enough for oxygen to reflood your brain, what then? Who the hell are you anyway? You catch sight of yourself in the mirror, which is startling. You bear the weary countenance of a shell-shocked war veteran, and someone much older than you remember. You squint continuously now, even in a dim room. You are slow to respond to basic commands, many you ignore completely. Some say the damage is permanent.
Reanimating from this state is no simple matter of course. But for those of you still battling it out on the frontline with newborns and toddlers, mad with fatigue, wearing elasticised pants, living off fish fingers flung from the high chair and feverishly googling early-onset Alzheimers at three am, this message is for you.
It won’t happen overnight. It may not even happen for a few years (in fact let’s face it, depending on how many children you have, it could be quite a few years). But it will happen.
Your brain will grow back. You might be missing some words now but don’t worry, you will make up new ones.
The ideas will return.
And let me tell you, they will be good. More than good. They might actually be the best goddamn things you’ve ever thought of, not just because your standards have dropped but because they have been percolating away in the backroom, aging like a fine wine, waiting patiently for their moment in the spotlight. They’ve had time to gestate (sorry couldn’t help myself).
You might have been good before. Hell you might even have been very good. But you’ve never been as good as you will be post motherhood.
Your creativity will fire back up, roaring like a fiery… um fire thing. And your will and drive to succeed will only be stronger and more powerful than ever before. Because now you have an extra incentive. Now there is this in-built little audience watching and modelling from the front row (no pressure of course), their eyes wide with love-struck awe and admiration, as you, Mum of Total Awesomeness, knock that shit right outta the park.
This is not just about surviving those early pummelling years of parenthood though, which as far as I can tell only get replaced by middle and later pummelling years of parenthood. As a weathered old Texan rocking on a front porch once told my mother, “You never stop parentin’!”.
This is more about what happens when we become mothers, that sense of self that slips away, or gets folded up and put aside, or like something we stepped out of in haste and left in a heap on the floor as we threw ourselves at this all-consuming thing called motherhood.
At some point you will need to come back to her, that innate sense of who you are. You will need to make the effort to find her again, to dig around in the back of your now cluttered and jammed mental and emotional cupboard, take her out and shake her off.
Don’t lose her. That wonderful sassy badass who has carried you through your life right to this point. She’s still there, feet up on the couch, drink in hand, eyebrow arched, just waiting for the deluge to pass.
Note: I’m not there yet. This is not exactly some golden-hued beam of enlightenment from up high. I’m still changing nappies, hunting for lost dummies and hovering helicopter style as my youngest insists on teetering inches from death on playground equipment. I’m still perpetually tired, frequently cranky and often unwashed (though sadly mostly through choice these days) but after three kids in quick succession, I can finally sense a shift. Something is ticking back to life. Someone.
I am writing. I am thinking. I am planning.
The Great Post Motherhood Identity Recalibration has begun.
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