As I prepare to clean out my closet and finally part with bins upon bins of clothes that simply no longer fit (nor, more importantly, bring me any joy), I’m reminded of who I once was. Apart from being two pant sizes smaller and full of endless energy, I was a much different person than I am today. Not better or worse. I was just . . . different.
Motherhood has inevitably changed me in some ways. Even more, it’s allowed me to fully and finally step into who I am at my core. I had my first baby over a year ago. And you know what? I’m still not “back to normal.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’d ever want to return to the “old” me — the pre-kids me. This isn’t because I didn’t enjoy life as it was then. It’s because there is so much to honor, cherish, and treasure about life as it is now.
My Old Normal
Before I had my baby, I had all the time in the world to set up my daily schedule to prioritize my wants and needs. This included:
- Daily workout sessions at the gym with nobody to rush home to
- Outdoor fitness classes on a whim with friends
- Leisurely strolls through the grocery store (and fresh produce I could spend my sweet time washing and cooking)
- Walk-in mani/pedi appointments on the way home just because I could
- Quiet evenings on the hammock listening to podcasts
- Catching up with my best friend over an hour-long phone call
- Late nights spending too long getting ready (all for a spontaneous date night out that is quite literally impossible to come by these days)
My New Normal
Then suddenly (okay, at 41 weeks and a day), I had my daughter. I spent months preparing for an unmedicated, low-intervention birth hoping to bounce back as quickly as possible. Yet even still, I found my anxious, naive self strapped to the operating table for an emergency C-section following a wild, day-long, intense-beyond-all-belief labor. At ten centimeters dilated, fully effaced, and two hours into pushing, my daughter’s heart rate started dropping (among other complications). Despite being reassured that she was almost out and I was so close to achieving this textbook birth experience I had envisioned, I had no choice but to set down my pride and lay down my body to be cut open for another.
That evening, everything changed. A hopeful (albeit chaotic) labor ended in a terrifying, traumatizing major surgery. It led to my baby girl being oxygenated for the first eight minutes of her life. These things changed me forever (and also quite literally scarred me for life). But far more importantly, a beautiful new human came into my life. I forever credit my precious daughter for being far braver than I was on that unexpected February night. The biggest change of all, though, was me.
Life After Having My Baby
While I certainly didn’t expect life to simply resume and return to how it once was upon bringing my new baby home, I also didn’t anticipate the challenges that would present themselves along the way. As a first-time mom, nobody prepared me for everything that tends to get in the way of bouncing back. Nobody prepared me for how difficult breastfeeding can be. It was all-consuming physically, mentally, and emotionally, and certainly not seamless for every woman as it can often be portrayed.
Nobody prepared me for two months of non-stop appointments postpartum (we’re talking three to four weekly) for both baby and me. Lactation consultant visits, newborn weigh-ins, pediatric chiropractic adjustments, scar recovery treatments, trips to the children’s hospital to monitor suspicions of a rare congenital disorder (urachal remnant, if you’re wondering), and so many other details I must have missed on the new mommy memo. Nobody prepared me for the very real possibility of my labor and delivery resulting in a cesarean. The excruciating pain that would come with every sneeze, cough, or delicate attempt to sit upright was more than I could take. The hard work that would have to be done for me to simply stomach looking at my incision in the shower was exhausting.
Nobody prepared me for the “village” everyone speaks of that seemed nowhere to be found. Nobody prepared me to lean on my husband – a new, exhausted, overwhelmed first-time parent himself – as 95% of my village. To be entirely on my own with our new tiny human upon his return to work a mere two-weeks postpartum was isolating. I was also still in pain, still bleeding, and still aching.
Adjusting to the New Normal
Nobody prepared me for any of the above, and I’m still not “back to normal.” That’s okay, though, because they also didn’t prepare me for all the good that would come from discovering this new inner strength and power within myself—my mom self. My “not bouncing back anytime soon (if ever)” self. Through all of the changes and surprises that motherhood has made way for in my life thus far, I’ve been met with a beautiful type of self-acceptance that I imagine only comes from becoming a mom.
When I look at my scar now, I see strength and survival. When I realize my body is once again stretching and growing to make room for the sweet baby boy I’m due to welcome soon, I’m reminded of how incredibly capable and amazing my body is. And when I’m forced to (once again) decline plans that might give me back any sense of the social life I once had, I don’t let the guilt get to me. Instead, I thank God for giving me nights at home with my precious daughter. My little sidekick. My mini-me, a carbon copy of myself at her age. Who often opts to only fall asleep on my squishier-than-ever belly – only after giving her growing, kicking baby brother a kiss, of course.
The People Who Matter Most Love Us as We Are
My baby girl, who loves me for the only me she’s ever known, is invaluable. She loves her mama – a mom with a keloid scar, C-section shelf, temporary baby bump, and bags under her tired eyes. Despite all the exhaustion, the fun I have with my family every day is priceless. Finding joy in the chaos, simplicity, and monotony is beautiful. The new me isn’t going anywhere. Just onward and upward into this precious journey of becoming so much more in my motherhood.
These days, moms are expected to bounce back and get on with their old lives. Like they didn’t just bring a whole new human into the world. The thing is, in the process of giving birth, moms don’t just bring whole new humans into the world. We become whole new humans in the process. Days, weeks, months, or even years later, we are still not “back to normal” by society’s standards. That’s not something to feel bad about. It might just be something to celebrate. It may be hard at times, but it can also be so very beautiful if you choose to make it that way. My new normal is all my child has ever known. And what a wonderful blessing it is to live it out together. No going back.