Let’s discuss how motherhood changes you. We can talk about how motherhood changes you in wonderful ways, but you probably already see that everywhere. As I mentioned in my last article, Embracing Motherhood: Challenges and Struggles, I’m here to share the difficult parts of motherhood, the ones that make you feel like you’ve lost yourself.
To quote the amazing Rupi Kaur: “What a relief to discover that the aches I thought were mine alone are also felt by so many others”.
It’s my hope that by sharing the darkness that I’ve found in motherhood, it might bring some light into the darkness you find when you discover how motherhood changes you. I want you to feel a sense of relief as you listen to this, realizing it’s not just you. That you are not alone in these struggles. Motherhood is hard. It is transformative. And as with any transformation, there is a sense of loss and a sense of gain. It can be both good and bad.
I left off my last post talking about filling your cup. It’s all too easy in motherhood to give all of yourself to your baby, to your partner, to your employer, your house, your family, friends, etc. The list goes on and on. With each part of you that you are giving, you are emptying your cup a little more and more. Until there is nothing left.
It can be a hard and frustrating concept to accept at the moment. I am certainly guilty of trying to continue pouring past this point and not understanding why my brain, body, or emotions are no longer capable of doing what they were just doing. It’s not because of a lack of capability, it’s because you no longer have the capacity to give.
If you don’t fill your cup or give back to yourself, you will feel empty. I know, days can go by without a true break. I don’t know about you but that puts me in a dark place. Questioning who I am or even feeling like I messed up my life by having a child.
My shame of this honesty is sneaking in. Again, I feel the need to tell you that having my baby is what I have wanted more than anything. And I would never want to change that. But let’s be honest though, we all have moments where it gets to us and you fantasize about your life before motherhood. That life allowed you to wake up when your body wanted to wake up or when you didn’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. *Sigh* The good ole days.
Pay attention to that feeling creeping up. And I know there are times where you can’t avoid it. Life has needs, your partner has needs, work has needs, and sometimes they all need things from you at the same time. Your needs might have to temporarily be set aside to support your loved ones.
But this has to be temporary, it’s not sustainable long-term. Giving and giving to others will drain you of your resources, energy, and brainpower. Sometimes it even makes me feel as if I’ve been drained of life. I feel empty. And deep down, I know I’ve lost myself. This is where the darkness starts for me.
Losing Yourself in Motherhood
Because this is an open and honest space, let’s talk about those challenging times when you feel like you have lost yourself. The times when your cup is empty and the world still needs more from you. When you look at yourself in the mirror and wonder if you’ll ever feel like “you” again. Those feelings are valid. That loss is valid. You have lost a way of life. And a way of being in this world.
How Motherhood Changed Me
Your entire routine is thrown off, your body is changed, your relationships are changed. And at the root of it, you no longer know who you are anymore. After giving birth, I wasn’t myself. I didn’t feel like I could be a good mother, a good wife, a friend, daughter, sister, or employee. These roles in my life felt impossible to fill. I was already stretched so thin. And giving so much of myself to my responsibilities that anything beyond that, even simple or fun, felt too much to handle. I had nothing left to show up for myself, as an individual.
That darkness would consume me. There were days I felt like my son and husband, and everyone really, would be better off without me. In my worst moments, I didn’t want to exist. But I also knew that my son needed me. He needed my milk, my comfort, and my patience. My husband needed my support, my partnership, and my tenderness. They needed my love. Somehow, I felt like nothing and everything all at the same time.
If you have these same thoughts and feelings, please seek help. I did, I was in therapy. It takes true courage to admit your deepest, darkest thoughts. And strength to admit that you need help. We all need help from time to time. You are not alone in that. And you do not deserve to be alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273-8255. Search for a therapist on Therapy Den and find someone to support you.
My husband was the first person I talked to about these thoughts. It was terrifying and embarrassing. What if he left me? Or looked at me differently? What if he realized I wasn’t the perfect, unshakable, and always fun version of myself that I was trying to be? None of that happened. In fact, he loved me even harder after letting him into my darkness and being vulnerable. Sharing this with him felt like letting a little light into the darkness.
To this day, no one else knows this. Besides you. Sharing this on a public platform is scary. What if you think I’m a horrible mother? Maybe you’ll look at me differently? Or what if this helps to speak light into your darkness? By sharing my darkness with you, I hope that it can make yours a little lighter. And give you the courage to pass that gift along to other mothers. This is how it starts.
Peanut is a really great (and completely free!) app for making mom friends. It matches you with other moms in your local area based on if you are trying to conceive, your stage of pregnancy (or the age of the child), and your personal interests. I’ve made some wonderful mom friends through that app.
Grief in Motherhood
Feelings of grief in new motherhood are valid. It’s normal to grieve your life before your baby. I know that admitting that does not mean you are not grateful for your life with your baby. So you can just go ahead and release that guilt before you let it linger. It’s completely normal to grieve while going through any change in life, let alone one as massive as a new baby. Honestly? Sometimes I stare at people in parking lots or stores and just think about how nice it must be for them to do whatever they are doing alone, without worrying about the tiny, little being attached to them.
Yes, I grieve making an easy trip to the beach or just being able to just go for a quick run when I need to release energy. Those happy hours or last-minute plans with friends. All forms of spontaneity are gone for the time being. You no longer get to choose when you eat, work, or even go to the bathroom sometimes. That is all dictated by that tiny human you created.
Sure, these things that you enjoy doing are all still possible, they just might not be as easy or spontaneous. They might require a babysitter or some more advanced planning than you are used to. Your priorities have shifted, and while some may argue it’s for the best that does not mean it doesn’t still suck sometimes.
Even when you learn to plan for your personal life in advance, life will always show you that you can’t be prepared for everything. Major life events such as the death of a loved one or personal medical issues cannot be planned. Transitions, like a new job or moving, will throw anyone off – let alone someone with a baby. In the past, you may have had the time and energy to care for yourself through these seasons of life. To grieve, heal, or be present and intentional with each moment. That looks very different with a baby.
You are no longer able to be selfish with your needs. There is a child who is relying on you for their needs and those come first. Finding the time to care for yourself becomes crucial. If you don’t you will end up burnt out, broken down, and not dealing with your own mental health issues. Trust me on this one. Motherhood gets overstimulating quickly, especially if you have your own needs that need to be met – but are not. Feeling yourself internally screaming while being actually screamed at is next-level demanding.
Deal with your Issues
I became a mother in a very challenging season of my life. My heart was grieving the loss of my mother, my grandmother who was truly like a mother to me, and my grandfather. On top of that, I was dealing with some medical issues. This fueled my postpartum depression and anxiety. For a while, I tried to push through it and “do it all”. This led to me crashing and burning, on more than one occasion.
I may not have had time to shower, fold laundry, or eat anything other than delivery but I made sure that I went to therapy each week. Please, deal with your mental health. Don’t bottle it up or pretend it doesn’t exist. And don’t keep putting it off or trying to just push through it without additional support. Make time for yourself. You are worth it. Your future self will thank you for the healing and growth that will surely come from it.
Another area of your life that you may find yourself grieving is your schedule. You no longer have the same amount of control in your life as you used to. But, let’s be real, did you ever really have that much control to begin with? Now you’ll find that you are having to run on a completely different schedule. I’ve found it’s much better to go with the flow and allow your child to set your schedule. Sounds easy, but it’s actually really hard to accept. In the beginning, you are having to track every feeding, every diaper, everything. It’s really important to ensure your baby is healthy and thriving. You can quickly become trapped in these schedules though.
Eventually, I found my confidence (and got the ok from our pediatrician) to stop tracking everything. I fell into a new rhythm, my son’s rhythm. It was a relief to not be forcing my baby onto a schedule. Because babies don’t understand schedules. I drove myself crazy trying to get him to nap when apps told me he should be napping, even though all of my son’s signs showed he was not sleepy. Becoming more flexible allowed me to get back some of that sanity.
Grieving control of your schedule is normal. Showering doesn’t happen when you want it. You might not be eating meals when you are hungry. And those meals might end up cold by the time you get to eat. Maybe it’s different for you, but I almost always have a wiggly baby attached to me during mealtime. Grieving a meal without wrestling a baby is real. I can’t even go to the bathroom without my baby having a meltdown because he is in a very clingy stage of his development.
Being Touched Out
While we are on the subject of having a little one climbing all over you, let’s talk about being “touched out”. If you aren’t familiar with this term, consider yourself lucky. Being touched out means that you are overwhelmed by the amount of touch you have been receiving, likely from your children, and that you have reached your limit. It can be a strange concept to grasp.
But, after long days of a baby climbing all over you, not letting you set them down, smacking, pulling, and pinching you during feedings, you might discover that you do have a max limit for physical touch. And that no matter how much you love your baby and their snuggles, we all have our limits.
Even for me, someone whose strongest love language is physical touch, had a hard time understanding what I was feeling, and why. It felt like hitting a wall. One minute I’m ok with being tugged at, stepped on, or even snuggled. Maybe even having fun. And then out of nowhere, I’m not fine with it. I do not want to be touched. It feels like sensory overload. I want my body back to myself and I no longer want to share it with someone else.
A Touching Partnership
Being touched out is a very real thing. It doesn’t just go for your children either, this extends to not wanting to be touched by partners, loved ones, or even pets. As hard of a concept as it can be for you to understand, it can be even more confusing for your partner. It’s hard for them to go from a physical relationship that welcomes affection to hearing you don’t want them to touch you. And seeing you recoil when they do unknowingly. This feeling of being touched out is made more complicated with any feelings of hatred towards your seemingly changed postpartum body.
My advice here is to be direct and reassuring with your partner. It did my relationship a disservice for me to try to push through these feelings, it only led to me being more touched out. And even becoming resentful of my partner for having more needs for me to fill. So, be honest, with both yourself and your partner. When you hit that wall, speak up.
After difficult days or bedtimes, I’ll tell my husband “I don’t want to be touched for 15 minutes”. Reassure them that it’s nothing to do with them, explain why you are touched out, and give yourself a break. Your partner and your relationship will gain from this honesty. This open communication will become important through the transitions your relationship is enduring.
You cannot expect to know all of the ways in which your relationship with your partner will change. You will both be tested, no matter how healthy your relationship is or how strong of a foundation you have built. No one functions at their best when they are lacking sleep, taking on more than they are used to, and not caring for themselves. It’s only natural to have tense moments and disagreements as you both transition into this new, shared role of parenting.
During this transition with your partner, it’s important to remember they are also going through a major life change. Unfortunately, the focus tends to be more on the birth parent and less on the fathers or partners. But no one else can better relate to your experience than your partner going through it with you. Try to maintain a team mindset when tackling your problems. Remember, it’s both of you against the problem, not you against them. If you can remain vulnerable, practice direct and kind communication, and lead with love, you may just find strength and an entirely new respect for your relationship.
Even then, there are days like I mentioned earlier in this post. Days where I worry that my husband looks at me and wishes I was the confident, playful, and spontaneous wife that I was before our baby. I feel like I’ve become so insecure, serious, and cautious since having our baby. And because I worry that I won’t ever feel like “me” again, I also worry that he won’t love me as much. It’s silly, really. When I talk to him about it, he assures me that he still sees the woman he married – even if I can’t.
Our partners understand better than anyone else what we’ve been through. Maybe, just maybe, they might actually look at us with an added respect and admiration for all that we’ve been through. They might look at that body you are ashamed of and see its strength and power. Think about how you view your partner. I look at mine in awe at how he’s transitioned into fatherhood. And have only fallen deeper in love with him after he’s supported and loved me through my darkest moments.
How Motherhood Changes Your Relationships
Leaning on your external relationships for support during this time is necessary as well. Becoming a mother is challenging enough as it is, let alone trying to do it alone or just as a couple. There is a reason for the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. It’s because it really does take an entire support network to love and interact with that child for it to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. But sometimes that village looks different than you expected. Just like you will notice changes in your own life and body, those changes will happen in your relationships as well.
Family and Friendships
Beyond your most intimate relationship, you may find that your other relationships change as well. When talking about how motherhood changes you, you cannot deny that it changes people around you as well. Even some of the most stable relationships can be impacted by a new child in your life. Not everyone handles change the same, especially change that comes along with such love and joy.
Whether or not you are aware of it, there can be a lot of pain surrounding babies for many people. It can be a sensitive subject for those who have suffered through miscarriages, infertility, or those who long for a baby but can’t right now for whatever reason.
I have been blindsided by some situations where loved ones were not as happy or involved as I had expected. It’s easy to take it personally or allow the pain to turn into anger. Learn from my suffering and try to put your focus towards someone who is capable of being happy for you and involved in your child’s life. Send love and light to the person you are hurting over because they might be hurting too. And don’t continue to have unrealistic expectations for them. They are probably giving you all that they are capable of in this season of their life.
Seasons of Life
Speaking of different seasons of life, not everyone is meant to walk with you into this new season of life. Your priorities will shift and your availability won’t be quite the same. Those spontaneous happy hours or late nights out with friends are not as easy to do. That’s not to say it will be impossible, you can certainly find someone to watch your child or you might just have a tiny plus one on your next brunch date.
Cherish those friendships that can evolve as your life does. The best relationships can survive being in different seasons of life. Those people are gems. However, if you do find yourself in the middle of a friendship breakup, check out my post discussing how to move forward after a friendship ends. With a new baby in your life, you don’t have time to linger on that negative energy for long. You likely have enough grief happening in your transition into the new role of mother.
How Motherhood Changes You (For the Better)
Now, let’s shift the focus back to you and meeting yourself in this new season of life. I am not going to just dump all of these challenging ways of how motherhood changes you without also sharing how motherhood can change you for the better.
Because for as challenging as motherhood can be, for as much loss as you can experience in it, it can also empower you. Motherhood can introduce you to a version of yourself that will both surprise and impress you. It will show you just how resilient, strong, and amazing you are. Stay tuned for my next post on How Motherhood Empowers You.
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- Challenges and Struggles in Motherhood