I am willing to admit that new motherhood left me grappling with a bit of an identity crisis.
I remember looking at my darling new baby and thinking, "Who am I?" and "Is this my reality?" People told me so many times that my whole life was about to change when I became a mother, but hearing those words and experiencing those words were two very different scenarios.
In an instant, motherhood turned my reality upside down. All of the elements of "self" came into question: my body had changed. Relationships were changing. I questioned my place in society, my work, contributions, decisions and balance.
I would lie awake at night and examine the course of my life: its twists and turns, ups and downs. My thoughts and emotions entered uncharted territory, and strangely enough, all of this upheaval seemed to be naturally part of the process.
Three years later and postpartum doula training underway, I came to the understanding that for some new mothers an identity crisis is completely natural. This is motherhood doing its work—destroying the ego and birthing the heart.
Motherhood forces a woman to question her identity because truthfully her identity was never her entirety; this identity she is grappling with, it is a persona, an ego, a limited version of self that she is now outgrowing. The unwavering truth of her being lives beyond these falsehoods of identity—motherhood brings a woman past the dimension of the ego into the realm of an awakened heart.
She moves into a place of love, and in that place exists the female capacity for compassion and wisdom.
This is not to suggest a woman must abandon her worldly aspirations in motherhood, but more to say that becoming a mother may impact her contributions in some capacity. It would be unrealistic to think that a transformation as powerful as motherhood would not in some way change a woman's approach or offering to the world.
Navigating the identity crisis of new motherhood is a personal process, but in retrospect, there are a few things I wish I could tell my pre-mom self before going through this 18-month postpartum adjustment.
1. This will take time.
A woman becomes a mother in an instant, but the transformation into motherhood is gradual. You do not need to have all of the answers at once in this phase of monumental change.
I would tell myself to try to take as much time off as possible postpartum. There was no way I could anticipate how I would feel as a mother, and I needed plenty of time to sort out my new reality with minimal pressure to return to my outside responsibilities.
2. Appreciate the silence when you get some.
Hear the still silent voice within. In the silence of your own heart, you'll find your unique calling, your balance. No one can answer your questions but you.
3. Find your mom village.
This is tricky because I just told you to be silent, BUT—communing honestly with other mothers can help bring to articulation or validate some of the complex feelings you'll experience postpartum.
4. Learn about your authentic self.
It is going to be crucial for you to be unapologetically honest and comfortable with your decisions. Authenticity seemed to be the only route that would not bring conflict into my life. If you are not honest with yourself, all your decisions are going to be laced with either guilt or denial which will ultimately bring conflict.
5. Accepting your “new normal” will happen.
It will be easier for you along the way if you accept this new reality, your "new normal." Not instantly, but over time.
You'll need time for adjusting, but try to be cognizant of the fact that you are adjusting into your present life and not trying to hold on to your pre-motherhood self. Motherhood is all about growth.
6. Aim to be in alignment.
Use the time, silence, communion, authenticity, and acceptance to begin to recognize what it feels like to be in alignment internally. When your internal is aligned, your external will mirror. In authentic alignment, the right circumstance will present themselves to you.
7. Don’t be afraid to course correct if needed.
Don't be afraid to redirect if a scenario you thought may work, but clearly isn't going to. Motherhood holds the potential for major growth—and in growth we must expect change.
8. Remember to breathe.
Take deep breaths. They are meant to fill you. They are always with you. Free and available. Invigorating and calming. A reminder that you are life and you are living.