But I didn't even get to say goodbye!
September 4, 2008 8:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm pregnant, and having a horrible time coming to terms with this new maternal identity. I know having a baby changes everything, etc., etc., but is it possible to become a mom and still stay, well, yourself?

It's eight weeks right now, and while things have been pretty average in physical terms, I'm having a really rough time emotionally. The pregnancy was planned, but despite wanting kids I was never one of those women who was dying to be a mom; now that everything's taking on some physical reality, I'm kind of feeling as though I've been secretly replaced with another person entirely, one who's at present essentially a bloated, miserable fetus-incubating machine and who can only look forward to life as a faded appendage to Whomever that fetus grows into.

I think I was prepared for some change, but not for the suddenness or thoroughness of the switch-- right now, it feels like waking up in an entirely strange place, far from home, every single day, and I basically end up alternating between numbness and periods of gut-wrenching grief and longing for the person I used to be, before I was just Somebody's Mom.

I'd chalk this up to first-trimester hormones and try to soldier through, but it really does seem as though mothers, in many cases, end up losing themselves-- physically, emotionally, mentally-- in their babies, so I'm not sure there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I've read this thread, but I guess I'm just looking for some more specific perspective or reassurance on the whole identity issue. Is there a time in the future when I can expect the beloved old Me to come back? Moms, did any of you manage to maintain continuity between your pre-baby and post-baby selves? And if so, how?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I am pregnant also, and while everyone's experience is somewhat different, I can tell you that I am already feeling like myself, and I'm only 15 weeks along.

Those first trimester hormones are AWFUL sometimes, and I spent the first 9-10 weeks feeling VERY unlike myself. I honestly thought that I was never going to get over it, and that first trimester lasted forever. However, in the past several weeks, things have gotten much better, and I've begun to feel like myself again. I definitely chalk it up to hormones, combined with the need for an adjustment period to come to grips with the fact that I'm going to have this new person attached to me for approximately the next 18 years.

Hopefully, things get better for you soon!!! I really hope that your experience is similar to mine, and that you don't have to struggle through with too many negative feelings for too much longer. Hang in there! Remember, crazy hormones combined with an emotional readjustment of sorts can lead to VERY unsettled feelings...
posted by I_love_the_rain at 8:44 PM on September 4, 2008

I think it is really a matter of your own perspective. I've got a couple kids and I don't really think of myself as a "Mother" primarily, I'm just the same me who happens to be wrangling babies all the time. So I don't feel like my identity has been taken over. I think the first few weeks after giving birth are a rough adjustment. If you can try to take a bunch of time for yourself doing things you enjoy now, it might make you feel better when your free time vanishes.
posted by gnat at 8:56 PM on September 4, 2008

Oh man, I just want to give you a hug! I promise promise promise you it's hormones. The first trimester FUCKING BLOWS. I'm one of those people who cannot deal with hormonal birth control and pregnancy hormones just absolutely fucked with me. But your body and mind will return to a more even keel as the pregnancy progresses.

I feel like I am 100% back to normal and better than ever. My son is 32 months old now. I hated being pregnant and giving birth and I felt disconnected from the baby I was gestating, but the instant I saw my baby (c-section, BTW), I was madly in love and it was totally worth it, of course.

After about 2 weeks after birth, you may start forgetting that at one time you didn't have a baby. For example, you might reflect on a vacation from a couple years back and think briefly, "Where was [baby]? Oh, yeah, not born yet." It's like he was always there.

I think the one year mark is a good post-baby milestone for moms. At one year I was completely comfortable with the daycare situation, working, etc. This summer I even completed a 16 week training program and then a sprint triathlon. I was always scared to try one even though it sounded awesome, but after you have a baby you realize you can do anything.
posted by peep at 8:56 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

My kid is 1.5. I'm certainly not the same person as I was before I got pregnant, but I still feel like myself.

I do not define myself solely as mother. I work. This is a big deal. I have had career success and made a substantial job change since my kid was born. Those achievements are all mine, and have nothing to do with motherhood. I work in a male dominated environment. I don't say much about my daughter at work. I have lunch with the guys and talk about all kinds of things. It's not all kid all the time.

Not to say that I'm not an engaged parent, I do my best on mornings, evenings, and weekends. I have caved and started singing kid's songs. But I still manage to have my old sense of humour. I'm still interested in books and media that I liked before. I'm still a bit sarcastic and cynical. My personality wasn't totally transplanted.

Just keep working and keep engaged in the world beyond kids. You'll be fine.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:04 PM on September 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

Congratulations on your baby to be! Wrapping your head around your first pregnancy is HUGE, regardless of how much you wanted it. You should give yourself a pat on the back for being honest about your feelings and working through it.

First, the physical truths of pregnancy: it's going to happen. You can't unring that bell. For 32 more weeks, you will have be carrying a parasite (I say that affectionately, but hey, it's pretty much the truth). Then, on-call breastfeeding. Basically, for the next 18 months or so, your body will not be truly your own. Every bite of food, every chemical you put in your body, will need to be second-guessed for the welfare of your kid. This is horribly disconcerting, especially if you're someone who likes to have a glass of wine after work, or, you know, take something for your headache. But, resistance is useless here. You may find that you feel better if you just give in to that side of things. Drink the Kool-Aid. A 60-inch waist? Awesome. Cankles? you bet. Gross stuff during delivery? Bring it on.

But will you get back to normal? YES. It will be OK. It really will. Seeing your body resume its shape will be a big lift for you (breastfeeding helps with this). Having a support system will help. Thinking of your pregnancy as a cool science experiment, rather than hugely portentous and earthshattering event, or worse, as pathology, will help. Pump your breastmilk and inform your partner that they will be on baby duty because you deserve to sleep straight through the night.

I had similar heebie-jeebies upon learning that I was pregnant. I stopped reading 'What to Expect' and the ilk because they stressed me out. I bought really big clothes and went for walks with girlfriends. I breastfed for six months and actually, the hardest adjustment was going back to work after maternity leave. Now, my son is 18 months old, and I feel like myself again. I actually weigh less now than I did before my pregnancy. I ran my first marathon 53 weeks after he was born. I have maintained my friendships, gotten a promotion at work, and am embarking on new projects (for me, not my kid). This is not to say that things haven't changed. Things are squarer at our house and eight o'clock bedtimes tend to limit social engagements. But we don't altogether limit ourselves. Our kid has been to Vegas with us three times. We just keep him away from the slots.

Best of luck, and take a deep breath. You're going to love the ride!
posted by oceanmorning at 9:21 PM on September 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

The process of pregnancy and becoming a mother does mean some changes to your identity. I've got two kids and I even felt a bit of an identity change with the second one. But that doesn't mean you have to sucked into some sort of "mommy" abyss. It's part of your identity -- not all of it, unless that's what you want.

You may find it really rewarding to join a prenatal class of some sort. Yoga, aqua fit, prenatal fitness, etc. This is because it will give you a chance to connect with other pregnant women and to see the wide range of women who have babies. Yes, some will embrace their mother identity and forget all else (perhaps for a while, perhaps forever). But others will show you many other sides. When I took my prenatal classes, I was so thrilled to meet other people from my community who were doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists and scuba divers, skiiers, mountain bikers and writers, photographers and Wikipedia gurus. Later, when I had my baby and started going to parent-infant groups, I loved being able to connect with a range of people. It actually did wonders for my networking. I met my now best friends, who have allowed me to explore new sides of myself and to improve a lot of things and to indulge my very self -- while balancing that with having kids and being a wife and mother. One of my now closests friends has really pushed me to do new things with my business, career, personal development and physical fitness -- and not by actively pushing me, but instead through being a great influence and role model. At the same time, I've helped her along with her business and personal life. Even though we met because we have kids, we spend most of our time talking about other things. I also met many other moms who have a wide range of interests. We all connected because we had kids or were pregnant, but that is not the end of who we are. It's really just the beginning. I guess it's because pregnancy and parenthood are a shared trauma, much like being in college or a war. You have a good bonding opportunity.

But let your family doctor or mid wife know what's going on. This may just be the identity transition or some hormonal fluctuation or something that might require a little more face time.You might even want to talk to a therapist about how you're feeling. That's not an uncommon need. You might need help in coming up with ways to maintain your identity -- and to head off anything that is triggering fears of identity loss.
posted by acoutu at 9:23 PM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hipmama.com. You're in very good company.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:56 PM on September 4, 2008

Pregnancy, childbirth, and new motherhood was, for me, a progressive loss of control. However, for me, this was a good thing. Events and paths in my own life that I had previously believed to be set and inevitable were so tossed apart by the whole motherhood experience that I realized that anything I wanted to be different, could be different.

I became brave: I looked in my lap at this completely baffling, autonomous stranger who I was recklessly in love with and I wanted to impress him (like any new love). I set a time frame to quit a career I had been increasingly unhappy with but had previously thought myself trapped in. I started volunteering in a completely different area. I learned new things that, before, seemed too hard or somehow too cool for me. Now, I am getting ready to move across the country to start school in a totally different field, and I'm giddy. Freaked, but happy.

Everything did change, my two-years-ago self would hardly know this person I am. But, oh, she would envy her. It's normal, it's just the new normal.

What the other mamas have said above is all true, too. It's important to get support and talk these things out with your healthcare provider and to share them with your partner and friends. Think now about lining up postpartum support because these feelings can come back in that period and intensify with sleep deprivation and a lack of self care. Be as vigilant about setting up a way to take good care of yourself and to be taken care of as you are now with being a healthy pregnant lady.

Give yourself time and lots of deep-breathed patience and a year or two, and remember that the biggest thing to look forward to is that you are going to get to fall in love, which was this big scary, fun, crazy surprise for me. The teenage love-coaster is such a trip, and not what one prepares for, but explains why mamas are mamas and have a tendency to make other people think that all we think about and are is mamas doing mama stuff (just like we think teenagers can only think about themselves and other teenagers, when actually, they can be pretty cool).

Also, it sounds like you should give yourself a little extra love right now. Ask those that care about you to give you the time or support to do somethings that really make you feel good and like yourself. At the end of the day, I remind myself that what my baby really wants is a happy mama (much more than a perfect one).

Congratulations! And, btw, there are some awesome mamas right here on mefi that have helped me a lot with their advice and insight--keep asking questions!
posted by rumposinc at 10:08 PM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hang in there. You will indeed, and always, be yourself after the baby arrives.

Of course you're going to learn and grow and change from having a baby. You've done a lot of learning and growing and changing through your life already, right? This is just moving off into a new phase of your life. You'll still be you.

I was never dying to become a mom either--in fact, quite the opposite, for many years. I didn't expect to ever meet and thoroughly trust someone the way I do my husband. Stuff happens, things change, ten years on and we've got two great kids. My life is definitely not the ride I envisioned when I was 22, but it's pretty freaking wonderful (and even if we never had had children, now at 38, I don't really think I'd want the life I envisioned at 22 anyway!) Anyhoo--you're not alone, and just because you haven't been drooling over tiny outfits your whole life doesn't mean you won't be thrilled, happy, and a wonderful mom.

It's normal to be freaked. It's freaky. But it's also pretty amazing, a phenomenal learning experience, an existential thrill ride par excellence.

Hang on to your hat, commit the Serenity Prayer to heart, and remember whenever things get really weird or stressful, that untold billions of people have gone through whatever you're going through and you can make it too.
posted by Sublimity at 10:17 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I promise that the real you is still there, she is just under siege from crazy hormones and the feeling of impending life-change and responsibility! I will be blunt here, I can't stand those "omg I always wanted to be a mom! its my life's goal! awww babies!" type women. That was never me, and thank god I didn't turn into one either. You won't if you don't want to.

I'm pretty sure I'm still the same old me in here but just with exciting new bonus skills, like breastfeeding, breastpump operator, being functional in the early morning, able to dress a squiggly toddler, etc. There's definitely a limbo period soon after the baby is born where you aren't anyone except a sleep-deprived zombie, but that soon passes and you discover you are still the same person after all.

Hang in there, and I second the advice to go on vacation while pregnant, preferably in the second trimester. You'll be back to feeling you again, I promise! Actually I second what everyone else has said, I can especially relate to peep and crazycanuck.

Oh and congrats :)
posted by Joh at 10:20 PM on September 4, 2008

My kids are 16 & 17 and I promise you, I am more me than I ever was before. There was a bit of a glitch in the middle when I did the stay-at-home thing which I was not suited to, but apart from that, I'm fine.

I never cootchy-cooed over other people's babies and find it difficult to do so still. With my own, I knew I was supposed to talk to them but I just couldn't do the baby talk, so I would ask them what they were up to, what did they think of the weather, all sorts of normal stuff that they just didn't answer.

I never defined myself as a mother foremost. Perhaps I am selfish, and self-indulgent, but while mothering my babies was important and rewarding, I still thought about other things, and did other things. I had a terrible habit of reading while breastfeeding because, seriously, I couldn't do the continual non-stop stare into the baby's eyes thing that is "normal". I started a new business when my first was 4 months old, spending hours working on business plans and research. The day I came home from the hospital with my second child, I went back to completing a design job that she had interrupted with her early arrival.

Just like the Pussycat Dolls are not an accurate representation of young women today, neither is/are the television or media representations of mothers. I've got more to say on this topic, but the 16yo has just come to chat. BBL
posted by b33j at 10:35 PM on September 4, 2008 [7 favorites]

You're going to be okay.

The first trimester is HARD. The first three months after the baby is born are crazy and so difficult.

One of the outlets that I have really enjoyed is my MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group. You can have a newborn or a 5-year-old -- they will welcome you. I love MOPS! It has really made me feel like I am normal; that a lot of women are sharing my struggles. It is faith-based, but not over-the-top. You don't have to belong to a church to join but the meetings usually take place in a church. I should mention that they usually offer free childcare and that you get a couple of hours to eat breakfast, drink coffee, listen to speakers and hang out with other moms that are a lot like you. I work from home, so sometimes it does get a bit lonely. MOPS has saved my sanity and offered me a chance to connect with people in the same situation.

Also, I took my baby out to museums, the zoo, state parks, etc. I was lucky to live in St. Louis at the time where most of this stuff is free. Just getting out and exposing the baby to different experiences was rewarding.

I also joined the YMCA. They have a nursery! I dropped the little one off and worked out, while catching up on podcasts.

Having a child will change you forever. But, you can still do date nights with your man, read or surf while feeding the baby, hike, camp, whatever. We took a 3,000 mile road trip with our 2-year-old and she loved it. We did a 7 mile hike to the top of Harney Peak in South Dakota. Really, the only limit is you. Kids are adapatable!

My daughter makes me see holidays in a new light. She demonstrates SUCH enthusiam with things that most adults would consider mundane: bugs, books, stirring eggs for cookies, coloring - she makes me appreciate the little things in my life as well. She is such a treasure, and my husband and I can't imagine life without her. You probably can't imagine what life with a child will be like right now ... after you have your child you will wonder how you did without.
posted by Ostara at 10:56 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

i don't have much else to add, just wanted to throw my two cents in. i was not all that happy during the first trimester (a little shocked and a lot exhausted), the second and third were much better emotionally, but really the mothering high took over after the birth and i've not looked back since---all seven months of it. so i would think you might be feeling better about the whole experience in a few more weeks.

as far as allowing myself to hold onto the old me, i feel i've retained the good bits and left the other stuff (impatience, arrogance, jealousy) back in the past. so mentally and emotionally i really am digging how motherhood has affected me. as far as the physical old me, i can't lie to you...my butt is way bigger than i'd like it to be. however, the act of giving birth itself gave me more self-confidence and pride in the awesomeness that is my body than i ever could have imagined.

not that there's a lot of extra time after a baby is born (and when you get some, you should be sleeping), but i joined a 365 group on flickr that was my own little project while i was pregnant. all it involves is taking a picture of yourself everyday. and if you join the group, you can follow along with other 365-ers, giving you access to people (not necessarily baby oriented people) on your timetable. full disclosure, i quit doing it after about 200 days because all my photos seemed the same, but i'm really glad i did something that was just for me.

hang in there.
posted by ms.jones at 11:07 PM on September 4, 2008

Yes, you can become a Mom and stay yourself. Pregnancy and hormones and all that aside, once the baby is born, you will wonder why you doubted yourself. Good luck to you. I'm envious. I loved being pregnant. Feeling the baby kicking around, wondering what he was going to be like and look like. It's an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. It's good. It's fun. Really.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:20 PM on September 4, 2008

I raised my now-19-y/o son on my own. I grew up in a large family, I did craploads of babysitting as a kid and as a teen, I'm very comfortable and familiar with the love and care of small people. But I can appreciate that the life change for single-individual-you is kind of trippy.

Hmm. I might be leeching off your first trimester hormones because my response is less happygiddyjoybaby and more mmm,well. I am no marathon runner. When I raised my son I had no partner, worked two or three jobs at any given time, lived in a studio apartment on a bunk bed (he was more flexible so he got the top bunk), and was about as far from mommy track as a gal could get. [I'd be curious to know if and how the experience of getting to be yourself after having a child depends somewhat on a mother's coupled status.] I so don't want to be the Debbie Downer here, but I'm also not going to pretend it wasn't the hardest thing I ever purposefully set out to do. Really trippy, really hard, and totally totally totally worth it. I raised a terrific man.

The answer to your question, I think, is yes. And no.

Once baby is born you will continue to be that person you have only ever known yourself as, but you'll also discover little new branches of yourself growing along with each of your child's growth stages. Some of the stuff you used to not care about you might find yourself suddenly caring a great deal about. Some of the stuff you used to care about, you might discover, eeh, no great loss to let it go. More fun to play on the swings at the park with an energetic toddler whose hot neck smells like sweet vinegar. If you do it right you'll be your old self melded with all kinds of new and interesting additions. I like who I am much more on this end of my child-raising career than the person I was at the starting line, and I thought I was generally okay back then, y'know?

Like the Dr. Seuss book ... oh, the places you'll go.
I hope the first trimester's hormonal chaos settles out for you, you'll feel much better I bet. Congratulations to you and best of luck. : )
posted by mcbeth at 12:35 AM on September 5, 2008

"I promise promise promise you it's hormones"

Really? I had those kinds of feelings and I'm a man.

"is it possible to become a mom and still stay, well, yourself? "

Depends what you mean by staying yourself. Obviously there is a thread of continuity. You are always yourself because otherwise the whole notion of self is shit - if you're not yourself, then "self" must be an external ideal that the current you aspire to but is not you.

But being a parent changes you. You can't do anything about it, and you might as well go with it. Over time, some of those changes reverse, and some of them intensify.

It'll work out. Congratulations.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:11 AM on September 5, 2008

oceanmorning: "First, the physical truths of pregnancy: it's going to happen. You can't unring that bell. For 32 more weeks, you will have be carrying a parasite (I say that affectionately, but hey, it's pretty much the truth). Then, on-call breastfeeding. Basically, for the next 18 months or so, your body will not be truly your own. Every bite of food, every chemical you put in your body, will need to be second-guessed for the welfare of your kid. This is horribly disconcerting, especially if you're someone who likes to have a glass of wine after work, or, you know, take something for your headache."

You can unring that bell. I'm not saying it's the right thing to do or that the OP should, but it can be done. Secondly, you're making a lot of assumptions that this woman will be breastfeeding and for how long. I am aware and believe that breast is best, but it is ultimately her choice to make. Thirdly, you can take Tylenol and some other OTC drugs. There are women who have had an occasional glass of wine during pregnancy with no bad effects. The reason I'm pointing this out is that if I was the OP and you were saying this to me, I would feel more scared.

To the OP: You say this pregnancy was planned but do you think you really were ready for it? You're probably having cold feet along with your hormones going crazy. It's okay to have doubts and to be scared. I'd be scared about losing my identity too. You might consider a heartfelt discussion with your partner, your friends, or your mom about how you're feeling. If you don't start feeling better in a couple of weeks, or if you feel badly enough now, you could consider some short-term therapy. I hope you feel better soon and wish you all the best.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:26 AM on September 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

I've been a mom for nine weeks. I also had terrible feelings of ambivalence and weird feelings about my identity and specifically about having very little maternal instinct of the wretched modern mommism variety. I wanted to shoot myself in Babies R Us, for example. I didn't have a shower, and we worked very hard to incorporate baby needs into our grown up house and tastes.

Also, for the record, I drank wine when I was pregnant. I never got so much as buzzed, but it made me feel in ownership of my body and very civilized and she's just fine, very alert and very strong and eight pounds at birth. Your tolerance of risk will vary, of course. I just wanted to put it out there because the assumption that all pregnant women feel the same about this isn't true, but people sometimes present it like it is. (To fend this off at the pass, I'm not talking about a Janis Joplinesque SoCo binge here. I'm talking about a glass of wine with dinner.)

Anyway: you won't be the same, ever. But that's not such a big deal. Plenty of things have already happened that you weren't "the same" after--graduating from high school, first broken heart, the day the dog died, etc. You've always been okay--we remake ourselves in little ways over and over again without realizing it. You don't need to worry about this, you can just let it happen. In all those instances some deep parts of us remain the same and some parts change, but we aren't suddenly built out of totally different materials. You're not going to change from a teapot into a sea otter or anything. It's more subtle than that.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:50 AM on September 5, 2008

Also, my pregnancy was planned but seemed to happen too fast, like one month Mr. Llama said, let's have a kid! And the next month I was pregnant, so I felt like I missed out on saying goodbye to my old life, but while there are logistical challenges in my new life as far as going out to dinner and so on, we've managed to do that and a bunch of other things. Grandma Llama comes up once a week so we can have date night--holy God, do I recommend coming up with a similar arrangement with someone who can routinely watch the kid.

That first time we went out we practically ran to the car, we were so excited. I think it had only been a week too. It felt like we'd been in the house ten years. I hung my head out the window like a dog.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:56 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whether the new you is anything like the old you depends on the kind of baby you have and your support network. I have an "easy" 8 week old baby (I'm bouncing her in the bouncer right now with my foot as I'm typing--with BOTH HANDS!) and I read about 3 or 4 books a week while on my maternity leave. I have gone out on dates with my husband and out to dinner with friends--without the baby. I totally feel like myself, and I'm not and have never been especially gaga over being someone's mama. I think my baby is awesome, but that's more about her than about me. Even at 8 weeks, she's very much her own person--she can soothe and entertain herself to a certain extent. I'm not saying it's not hard ever, but the actual baby is a lot easier than my idea of it during pregnancy. And I'm a person who has never been able to keep a plant alive.

If you want to still be yourself and not just someone's mom, plan for it. Get friends to commit to babysitting. Start planning to go back to work a few months after you have the baby.

I do think that pregnancy is worse for some people than dealing with an infant, b/c of the annoying physical stuff. If you can afford to, just treat yourself right during this time. Eat whatever you want whenever you want, get pedicures, fall asleep on the couch and don't do your chores at home. This is one of the few times you'll be able to get away with indulging yourself in this way, and it might make you feel better.

Good luck, anyway!
posted by tk at 5:02 AM on September 5, 2008

My kids are teens now, but I remember going thru my first trimester 19.5 years ago with the constant mantra of "It seemed like a good idea at the time". Things calmed down a bit until my due date where I became an inner basket case, attempting to look all calm on the surface.

Yeah, the selfhood thing comes and goes over the years. Sometimes you can't help but become engulfed in your child's life. If your child has learning issues you become the crazed school mom for a while, some people do it with their kids sports or talents but that's kind of icky. Always keep some kind of job or career going to give you something to pull back to.
posted by readery at 6:28 AM on September 5, 2008

You learn, like we all do, to have a very private part of yourself that is ONLY known to you. Afterall, the heart is many layered and there is the part that the general public sees; the part that only the closest people see and then there is the secret self that only you know and see. That third part is the one to nurture.

Being pregnant and hormones makes your world spin and it continues to spin post-partum. As mentioned upthread it helps to have other things to do and to exert control of your life in little ways. Take all the advice about taking naps when the baby does; get help; set up meals and all the host of advice of having a new person in the house. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

The 2nd trimester is usually the happiest trimester so I think you will start feeling better, hormone wise, when that happens.
posted by jadepearl at 6:56 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm back.

It's funny, but it's not because I'm her mum (though from the outside, I guess that's what people think), it's because of who I am (and who she is) and what we are together, that makes me the perfect person for my 16 yo to talk to when she's stressed. It's because I've done some difficult times as a person, as me, as a student, as a lover, that when she has problems, I can sometimes give her perspective.

Now, the intimacy because of our relationship, that's what makes this sharing possible. I can't tell other people that sure, sometimes I have to turn in a paper that I'm not happy with, or that, yes, once a guy dumped me and I survived by doing this. There's very few people out there in the world that I want to share that with, that would be appropriate to share that with. But when my 16 year old tells me about her life, she's doing it as a human being needing comfort, not playing on her role as my daughter. And when I give her comfort, I'm able to do it, not because I'm her mother (for example, my own mother was shit at that sort of thing), I'm able to do it, because of who I am. The reason it matters is because I'm her mother.

So yeah, motherhood gave me great challenges (OMG WTF and all that from the first morning sickness & quickenings to endless sicknesses, and bratty behaviour, and other stuff you don't want to know about) that I couldn't run away from (unlike other challenges which I chose to), and through that I developed discipline and patience and compassion that I never thought possible in myself. Motherhood changed me, sure. It made me more me.
posted by b33j at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Earlier this summer, my daughter attended Girls Rock! DC band camp. The counselors were all musicians in their own rights, so there were some seriously funky women there--tattoos, piercings, blond dreadlocks, off-beat clothes, all that. Now, my wife and I aren't exactly the Cleavers--I'm pony-tailed and pierced, and my wife would fit in perfectly with the counselors, with large, visible tattoos and a style all her own. But these weren't her parents.

What my daughter learned, or, at least, had strongly reinforced, is that these wild-looking folks were also responsible, hard-working, nice adults. One brought her kid to camp, and my daughter actually ran into one of them at the Target doing back-to-school shopping. I'm talking Ian MacKaye's sister, here.

If these women can maintain their own personalities and still be moms, you can!
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:59 AM on September 5, 2008

Hey, Anonymous, I totally hear you. There is great advice in this thread. I am pressed for time, but I wanted to say, please shoot me a Memail -- my first book was actually about exactly what you're asking here, making that identity shift into motherhood, and if you send me your address I will put a copy of it in the mail for you today.
posted by mothershock at 7:05 AM on September 5, 2008

Pregnancy is not all kittens and rainbows. I was miserable my first trimester. Second trimester was pretty good. But then I had blood pressure problems, ended up in the hospital and gave birth at 32 weeks. My baby is fine now and so am I. She's almost 4 months old and is so much fun.

Pregnancy is a journey of unknowns. That's all I can say. You need to do what you feel is right for you. I was a bump on a log for most of my pregnancy, but I was so tired I didn't want to do anything, and you know what? For the first time in my life, I actually relaxed.

Prior to this, I was a career-oriented young woman. Now, I still enjoy work, but I wish I didn't have the car loans and credit card debt we have so that I could stay home with my baby 24/7. I love my baby and I like being a housewife! And guess what, I went to a women's college--a lot of students there are the antithesis of this. I used to be. But having a baby changed it all. And I had NO IDEA this would happen to me!

By the way--pregnancy was way worse than having an infant. My baby girl is AWESOME and I love her so much. Even when she's crying. Or throwing up on me. I never knew I'd love someone like this! It's truly incredible. I am a raving fan of motherhood!

I guess my point is, don't be surprised if your priorities or interests change after you have your baby. If you decide you want to stay home with your baby instead of going back to work, it's OK. What you think you will be like after your baby may change once you have your baby. And that's OK.
posted by FergieBelle at 7:26 AM on September 5, 2008

This is a great question, and that you are aware of this is such a good sign. I found the difficulty not as much in how I perceived myself as in how I was perceived by society. No matter how you deal with asserting your own identity, and there's some good stuff upthread, you will have a harder time making the world recognize that you are NOT, in fact "anonymous", but are still yourself. The world will start seeing you in relation to your child. Remember that this is actually okay-- the world should consider your child more than it considers you, because the child has greater needs and greater vulnerability. But it's a difficult thing to get used to. (Best line on the subject from pop culture, from "thirtysomething"-- new mother Hope is at a business dinner and everyone, including her childless best friend is ignoring her. Her inner dialog says, "former Phi Beta Kappa, now brain-dead." Which is exactly how it feels.)

Make sure you create time for yourself. Make sure your partner creates time for you yourself and you, plural (English is inadequate, here). In the run of your life, the period where the child negates you for good and bad reasons is short- barely a decade. Raising a child is the most wonderful thing I ever did, and my kids are now the most wonderful adults. It's a great journey, and you sound like you're off to a great start.
posted by nax at 8:05 AM on September 5, 2008

Have you talked to your partner about all of this? I'm 7 weeks into my first pregnancy and I've shared similar-type fears with my husband. He has been really wonderful and comforting and he keeps telling me I'm going to be a great mother and I won't have to become some stereotypical version of a Mom that I keep thinking of. Being a mom doesn't mean you HAVE to get Mom Jeans, you know?

Also, everyone keeps telling me things will get better in the second trimester. I've got all-day sickness pretty bad and I am pretty miserable right now because I feel so physically bad. But I have to say it's getting just a little bit better every day and I do feel pretty confident that in five or six weeks' time I'll feel great.

I would say hang in there and talk to your partner and maybe your mom or any other female relatives/friends who have had children. talking to my mom about how miserable I feel has been really nice because she's very sympathetic and she keeps telling me it's going to get better. Good luck!

if you ever want to talk, feel free to shoot me a MeFi mail.
posted by sutel at 8:13 AM on September 5, 2008

You might be paying too much attention to people talking about how much having a baby changes you. I found all warnings and predictions a little off-putting. I never wanted to become someone else, I just wanted to be me -- with a baby. I thought about all those predictions so much that the morning after my first child was born, I lay in the hospital bed thinking "I'm still me. I don't feel any different." This might not be a great analogy for you, but I can recall thinking it was liking losing my virginity. After the big build-up, I thought "Well. I don't feel different." In retrospect, things did change (after both events) but I'm still me. You won't loose track of yourself.

Oh, and -- I think one of the comments I found most worrying was from a friend who said "After the baby is born, you won't remember how you spent your time before." I certainly do remember. I marvel at how I didn't appreciate all that glorious free time, but I don't have any trouble remembering it.
posted by Badmichelle at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

...surf while feeding the baby

Is an interesting mental picture.

posted by small_ruminant at 1:44 PM on September 5, 2008

FWIW, my wife had about six rough months after each of her two pregnancies. But after that, she was totally the same person she always was. She's as cool as ever.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:16 PM on September 5, 2008

Honestly, I am still coming to terms! It is a great question though, and lots of great answers. I have a 8 month old and every day I still think "really? a baby? me? I am a mom?" I am 30 years old for goodness sake, and have had 17 months to get used to the idea and it is still shocking. Life does go on, and it is up to you how you handle it. Some friends of mine are so scheduled they never leave the house and all they talk is baby. Others (like myself I hope!) still do everything the same, just with a baby on board. I do happy hour with friends (no one seems to mind a baby in the bar if it is before 6PM), play softball, hike with my dog, camp, and find time to myself if the hubby is willing.
I was the first of my friends to have a kid, so I didn't have many resources at first to talk to. But, you do become part of this new world where people who looked past you before now welcome you with open arms - momhood! Ask all the questions you can!!! The more questions you ask the better you'll feel.
Anytime I can get away, I take it. A few hours here and there, a night away with girlfriends, does absolute wonders to your brain and gives you a chance to refresh and rejuvenate. It is healthy and wise and I highly recommend it.
Nothing can prepare you for the change in your life - yes it does change - but you will do great. Good luck!
posted by boulder20something at 8:13 PM on September 5, 2008

I'm a new dad (4 1/2 months) so factor that into my advice.

I think that acoutu had some great advice. My wife went to prenatal yoga and met some great friends who she spends time with now and uses as a support system. Don't forget to get their contact info in the class, you never know when someone is going to deliver early!

As for saying goodbye to the old you, of course, it's somewhat inevitable. You can't not be changed by a baby, but that doesn't mean that you change for the worse.

My wife and I love to go out to eat. When we asked our pediatrician about taking the little guy to restaurants, the nurse gave us some great advice. She suggested that we incorporate him into our lives as much as possible. Get him out and do the things we like to do. This has had some very nice affects on our lives. First, we never felt cooped up. As soon as my wife recovered from the delivery, we were out for sushi, to breakfast, walking around the mall, to parks and the beach, even a trip to Maui at 6.5 weeks.

This isn't to say that you aren't slowed down a little. There are considerations to be made and you will forget some things, but you will learn to adapt.

Like others have said, it is still important to take time for yourself. It sounds like you and your partner are planning for this, so let him be Mr. Mom and head to the salon, library, park, or wherever you like to park yourself for a while.

I have seen a lot of close friends have babies in the recent years. Some were totally baby crazy before becoming parents and some seemed more ambivalent about having kids. Everyone adapts in their own way. Collect advice from friends, family, metafilter and apply it to your life as appropriate. Don't feel bullied into acting a certain way because you think that's what is expected from you.

For me, having a son is a bit like stepping into a time machine. I look into his little face and see myself, my parents, my grandparents. Then I think about the future and all the experiences he is going to have. Having a baby isn't saying goodbye to yourself, it's saying hello to the continuing story of your life.
posted by jonah at 8:46 AM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

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