After my last post on Life lessons, I thought I would go with something lighter but this ended up becoming something that’s very personal to me. I was invited to two virtual baby showers over the last few weeks which is the inspiration behind this post. It got me thinking about something I always had in mind but never shared broadly. This is my story of motherhood. There was no research done, no references listed, just me bringing my story to you.
Let me begin by saying this is a story from many years ago. My son is now 11! Certain experiences you don’t forget, they become turning points in your life and this is one of those. I was at work when I found out I was pregnant. I ran down to CVS at lunch break and bought the test. We were delighted. I felt like I had some sort of super power! I can create a baby. Why was this so down played? I poured myself into all the child development books. I was the first in our friend circle to have a baby. I was clueless. I wasn’t around too many babies as a young adult so didn’t have much knowledge. I did what most do. Created an account on BabyCenter and started monitoring growth.
I had a fairly easy pregnancy, only mildly uncomfortable towards the very end. My husband and I welcomed our son into this world in 2010, a milestone year for us! All that child development knowledge went out the window when he was born. I remember looking at my husband and saying I don’t know how to hold him. I was lucky he had more experience in this area because of kids in his family. He taught me how to hold and hug our child.
Ready Or Not Here Comes Motherhood
I was 28 when I became a mother. As part of Indian culture, everyone is in a rush for that next big step. Marriage and then babies. I saw my best friend have a child on one of my trips back home and I thought I want one of those! No one really prepares you though for what it is like to be a mother. It’s not like you were taking notes on parenting when you were a child. I was this career oriented young woman working on proving myself, volunteering for the causes I believe in, a long distance runner who loved going out to movies and restaurants. So naturally when my son was born I was completely lost!
I didn’t know who I was anymore since I didn’t get to do any of those things I loved to do. I am a first generation immigrant so my family wasn’t around for us to get any break. Our baby was always with us and we didn’t want it any other way! I had my lactation consultant on my speed dial and I was doing everything that’s best for him. My son was thriving. I on the other hand was slowly withering.
I didn’t know who I was any more without all of those things that made me. I felt like I had an identity crisis. I went back to work 4 months later and figured out I didn’t really belong any more. When you realize your co-workers have figured out their way around without you, you don’t feel valued. I didn’t have any mentors that could guide me to other opportunities. I couldn’t see any growth and I was constantly torn to have to leave my child at home. I was sleep deprived, extremely stressed and decided to quit my job. This felt like a huge relief at the time but now I had gone to being a fulltime mom. I was sort of a perfectionist so I was pouring all that work energy into motherhood. I realized I am also someone who likes stability and control. All of which are usually lost for new parents. Fast forward 2 years I was so deep into it that I realized that I lost all decision making skills. You could take me to a store and I wouldn’t be able to decide if I wanted a blue or a white shirt. I became extremely dependent and the stress took over. I remember spending an 8 hour flight to London in extreme physical pain, all of it due to psychological stress. I didn’t know at the time I had postpartum and that I should seek help.
People don’t really want to talk about these things. I wasn’t the woman that I am today then. I had neighbors with children of similar age and we all pretended like we had everything in control and never showed any vulnerabilities to each other. In fact, one of them opened up to me very recently and shared some struggles she was going through then. This is almost 10 years later! I mean imagine if we had relied on each other. What a world of difference it would have made!
What I have to Offer
They say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. This is an experience I always come back to when things get tough in life thinking if I can get through that I can get through this too. So here I am telling my story so you don’t make the same choices I made. I always felt guilty for not doing much to help others in the same situation. Here are some words of wisdom which I hope you find useful:
- Work very hard to cling to who you are and your identity of what makes you, YOU.
- Find time to do things you truly enjoy. You can’t do all so pick ones that bring you the most joy.
- Try to find a community of moms that you can rely on. There is something special about going through life’s milestones together.
- Invest in your mental health, your own system for balance. That few minutes of calm among chaos. I always think of the ‘Wear your own oxygen mask first’ analogy. Your children can’t be happy if you are not!
- Find quality time with your child. For me this was reading to my son since he was a baby.
- I can’t stress this one enough. Split your tasks with your partner. You don’t have to be territorial here. You have equal responsibility in raising the child, changing diapers, feeding, bathing, buying clothes, everything!
- Find alone time together if you can so you are not just viewing each other as a parent but a life partner (I can write a whole post on this topic, maybe one day!)
- Do what works for you. There is no right way. Simple goal – Keep the baby healthy and keep your sanity!
- To continue working or quit your job – most women contemplate this! If you can afford it and have the support system, do all you can to keep your job. I am a big proponent of financial independence in women. There are so many companies offering remote jobs, you may want to consider preserving energy in the first year. I came back to tech 5 years later (I explored other career options during my gap), it’s not hard to come back if you do decide on a break.
- Make a list of things you aren’t willing to compromise on and things that don’t matter to you. Revisit it regularly so you aren’t wasting your precious mental space on things that don’t matter.
Being a mother is the most amazing thing you will ever experience. You are responsible for an entire being! It won’t come naturally to many like it didn’t to me. It’s hard work. It’s unconditional love like you have never known before. This post is dedicated to all the mothers and mothers to be and my Kryptonite, my son.
I would love to hear your Motherhood story if you are willing to share.