I gave up a lot of things during pregnancy. Alcohol, sushi, doing backbends during yoga, surfing, running after 6 months, and towards the end of my pregnancy I gave up wearing anything that wasn’t stretchy.
Since Star was born I’ve been enjoying more and more of the things that I used to do before pregnancy. Some of these are trivial, like being able to sleep on my back again, and having a sip of champagne or a cold chicken sandwich. Others are things that I feel make me “me” and which I hold very sacred, like the sound of my runners pounding the running track again. On the weekend, we took Star, now 2 months, to the beach for the first time. As I heard the sound of the pounding surf and caught my first glimpse of that wide expanse of beach and the foaming sea, I felt something well up deep inside of me. “I remember this!” it seemed to say. “This is part of me. I’m coming back”. The question is, Am I still the same person? And am I just the sum of my parts? And underlying that are the questions of what identity is, and who am I really?
The first few weeks of parenthood have the ability to completely wipe out your sense of who you used to be – you know, the independent, capable, high-achieving person who contributed to society and had a full night’s sleep every night. After that you have to gather up what’s left of the chaos and start to piece yourself together again. I know I will never be the same person again. Physically I now have a Caesarian section scar, my boobs are huge and will eventually become floppy when I wean my baby, and I am not sure if my jelly belly will ever completely go away. But when I look at myself in the mirror that’s when I see the change the most – in my eyes I see a different person – some nights a desperate exhausted mother, other times confident, mature and knowing.
I don’t expect to return to the old “me” as I used to be. I know I am now responsible for a tiny human being as they grow and develop, and that responsibility will never cease. For the rest of my life I will consider someone else’s needs as well as my own. But I do wish to restore those parts of me that I felt made the most difference. Physical fitness and challenge, time-out while running, easing into a yoga pose, paddling madly to catch a wave. It will take a bit more planning to be able to incorporate these into my life as a mother, but if I don’t make the effort I fear that large and vital parts of me will disappear and I will be left an empty shell. And an empty shell cannot make for a good mother.
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