You lose yourself in motherhood very easily. But you can view it as a beginning rather than an ending. Read this mom’s experience.
by Nicole Meyer
That familiar feeling hit me again. Lightheadedness. It alerted me that I had not yet eaten today.
My beautiful daughter had eaten. Again and again and again.
I had nourished her. Again and again and again.
Played with her. Again and again and again.
Changed her diaper. Again and again and again.
Yet, once AGAIN, I had completely forgotten about myself.
I was used to this narrative. It had begun ever since I first held her in my arms in the hospital.
My angel baby who had survived the traumatic birth with me. I was going to do whatever I could to make her life easier and to have her feel loved. So much so that I neglected myself entirely in the process.
The Day My Worth Changed
From the time I left the hospital, my worth changed. It used to be felt by engaging in symbiotic, cherished relationships with my loved ones, accomplishing goals at work, reaching greater heights in my poetry, and simply knowing that I was more than enough because of how much I had survived in my life and how throughout it all, I was still smiling every single day.
After my daughter was born, my worth started and ended with her.
I was worthy if she was happy. I was worthy if I responded instantaneously to every single need she had and met it tenfold. I was worthy if my mother noticed that I was an amazing mother. Not a good mother, an amazing mother. I was worthy if other mothers noticed I was an amazing mother.
I remember reading the books for the first year of her life to prepare myself for everything I needed to absorb and learn that was foreign to me about a newborn.
Her first smile, laugh, steps, foods and milestones.
There wasn’t a reference manual for MY firsts as a mother. My first smile, laugh, steps and milestones.
Look, there I go again forgetting food. My first meal as a mother. There wasn’t a reference manual to let me know it was okay if I fed myself before I fed her.
If she was content and wasn’t crying, it was okay if I took my first bites before giving myself to her for her meal. That I needed to nourish myself before I nourished her because her food literally came from me.
Everything centered around her. If she was happy, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t showered, eaten, or gotten outside that day. If she was fulfilled, it didn’t matter that in most of those beginning days I changed out of day pajamas into night pajamas.
It didn’t matter that the house was a mess, or that I was a mess.
Postpartum Doctor Visit
Here’s the thing though. The doctors don’t ask you about that specific mind mess. Shortly after she was born I remember going into the doctor’s office for an appointment that was supposed to be about me. Before the appointment, the receptionist gave me a form to fill out that asked me a ton of questions about post-partum.
No, I wasn’t depressed. No, I didn’t want to cause harm to myself.
Where was the box where I lost myself? Where was the box where you check yes or no if you had eaten that day? Where was the box you checked if you always, sometimes, or never, tended to your baby’s needs before your own?
The doctor looked at me physically and said that I had healed just fine, but she didn’t think to ask me about myself because the form that I had filled out told her that I didn’t have depression or ill thoughts so I must be okay.
Taking Time for Self-Care
It was heart-wrenching when my mother told me that I needed to take time for myself and that meant that I had to be okay leaving my daughter with her father, my mother, or my sister. These were the only three people that I trusted with my angel.
I couldn’t fathom what there would be to do without my baby. I knew the entire time I was away from her I would repeatedly think about her and be concerned if she was being cared for the way I would care for her.
I begrudgingly did so and each time the excruciating gnaw of letting go got easier and more manageable.
When my daughter was two years old, I remember finally having a moment of awakening.
Two years after she was born, I remembered ME.
I needed to get back to who I was before she existed. I existed before her, I was the reason she existed and I needed to make myself important and meet my old self again.
I missed my old self. I needed to nourish the parts of me that had nothing to do with her. The parts of me that solidified who I was as an individual.
I took a mental day off from work. The first mental day off from work I ever took.
At that point, she was well cared for in a daycare that I had of course vetted meticulously.
I met a friend for a leisurely lunch with her newborn baby. I recognized in her what had been in me in those first days. I offered as much support as I could, emotionally and spiritually.
After lunch, I almost went home to clean the house, but I stopped myself.
Cleaning the house wasn’t about me. Yes, it would serve me, because it helps my mind to be in organized, clean spaces, but it wasn’t what I needed for myself.
I booked a massage. Just feeling whole in my body again, my bones that were mine before she entered my body, was an epiphany all in itself.
Before I was ready to return home I knew I wanted some sort of memento that I could have to remind me to return to me.
That just because there was this miracle beginning of my daughter it did not mean the end to myself. I found a necklace with a semicolon etched into it.
The perfect symbol. Not an ending; a new beginning.
After this day of awakening, I went home and wrote a poem about it. A poem I could read to remind myself of myself. It is included below.
Teaching By Example
I wish I could say that now that she is four years old this tired narrative never creeps in, but it still does from time to time. I do still put her needs before my own, but I am also very careful to make sure that my needs are being met as well.
She needs to know that mommy is important just like she is. If mommy needs time to exercise, she will learn that health is important. If mommy needs time to spend with her friends, she will learn that relationships are important. If mommy needs time to write, she will know that hobbies are important.
Every single thing that we do every single day is teaching our children. I hope to embed in her the files that I never got to read before she was born. The files that she will refer to if she loses herself in her child or another aspect of her life.
She will refer to the file titled MYSELF and make sure to make herself a priority. She will know that she is worthy WITHOUT anyone or anything. She is worthy because she loves HERSELF.
I used to be
I took care of my heart
I took care of my soul
I knew exactly HOW to feel whole
Then there was you
You became my everything
I poured ALL of myself
So much given I ran out of cues
Cues to still remember me
Who I was before, when I was free
My every blink focused on you
I forgot I needed to live for me too
Cues to still remember me
Now I’m back to myself
Now I can see
I can still be a wonderful mother
while not forgetting ALL that was covered
So brilliant daughter of mine
let me teach you the beauty of time
Certain things don’t have to end
just because something else begins
A semi-colon you and me
A new beginning wild and free
Nicole is a doting mama and former teacher. You can find her poetry on her website and Instagram @poetrynikkibits. Visit her site here https://nikkibits.wordpress.com/.