From Maidenhood to Motherhood
Most mothers will tell you they are not the same person as they were before they had children. There is something about motherhood (or parenthood in general) that inevitably and intrinsically changes a person. It's not necessarily a loss of one's self, rather, a re-molding or changing of one's self. When a baby is born, their mother is born too, not in the physical sense of course, but emotionally and mentally. The changes made during the transition to motherhood may be perceived differently by each person, since we are all unique and have different desires in regards to mothering. Regardless of how the change is viewed, however, it can still be difficult to reconcile one's former self with the new version of themselves. Change is hard, and this change is monumental. It is also a change that isn't much talked about. When women birth babies and become mothers, society expects them to take all the changes in their life in stride and with a smile on their face. In reality, mothers often mourn silently for the loss of their old lives, and that's okay. A person can be simultaneously in love with their child, and ecstatic to be a parent, while also experiencing normal feelings of loss, and maybe even regret. Giving yourself permission to feel less than positive thoughts about the transition into parenthood does not make you a bad parent, it just makes you a human, and humans typically react fearful and uncertain towards changes in their lives.
One of the first striking thoughts or changes that come a long with becoming a parent is, you are no longer only responsible for yourself. Not only do you have another person to care for the rest of your life, from now on, your own needs will come second to your child's needs. It's not to say your needs are no longer important, because they are, however, the majority of the time, the needs of your child will take precedence. This is what they call maternal instinct, I suppose. How heavy and anxiety inducing is that realization? I'll never forget the first time I witnessed a new mother tap into their maternal instinct to put their child first. I was completing my labor and delivery clinicals for nursing school and my patient had to have an emergency C-section. She was a first time mom and she was very scared. Her baby was not doing well once delivered and had to be taken to the NICU. The mother didn't even hesitate to send her husband with the baby, leaving her alone to finish out the surgery, even though she was terrified. It seems like something very simple, but it felt very profound to me. Under any other circumstances she would have kept her husband with her for support, and her husband would have stayed to be with his wife. Once a child is in the mix though, it's just natural to want to do what's best for them, even at your own sacrifice. Scenarios like this play out everyday across the world, small and simple acts of parents putting their child first, no matter what the cost. Even though maternal instinct may come naturally, when you've spent the whole rest of your life putting your own needs and happiness first, as most childless humans do, it's a world shaking change to have someone else to consider all of a sudden, and, at times, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Yes, it's true people have at least 9 months to prepare themselves for the change, but often, the reality of such a change doesn't really hit home until baby arrives. It can feel very harrowing to know, you'll never be as carefree as you once were and you'll always have someone else's life and happiness to consider. It's important, however, to acknowledge and accept the changes within yourself and to your life, and the accompanying feelings, because once you've processed through your emotions, you can move forward and discover the joys of your new life, and the new strengths and abilities you possess. For, it's my opinion, while you may be a different person than you were before, you're likely a better version of yourself by being a parent. I believe children help us discover greater purpose in our life, and facilitate our change and growth into the best person we can be. After all, not much is as inspiring to be a good person as being a role model to your children. It really is a very beautiful thing to watch a woman process through, and accept the changes that will bloom her into motherhood, for just as a flower in blossom is beautiful, so is a mother who is secure in her new self. How has motherhood changed you? Comment below with your experience of becoming a mother and share on facebook to start a conversation about the realities of motherhood. A struggling new mother may benefit from seeing these words.