Recently while scrolling YouTube, I came across a video of an influencer's labor story. Curious to hear what her birth experience was like, I clicked play. After she shared how emotional she was when she first set eyes on her son, I started thinking about my birth experience and emotions after delivering. I remember feeling a lot of nothing and wondering why women would want to give birth repeatedly.
I had what would be considered an easy first birth. Aside from my son pooping inside of me during delivery (yeah . . . it's pretty uncommon — only occurring in 12 to 20 percent of deliveries), there were no complications. After about four hours of pushing and screaming, my son finally came out. I was glad to meet him but couldn't wrap my head around the fact that somebody thought I was capable of taking care of a child.
The first two years of motherhood were very practical for me: feed the baby, make enough money to take care of him, and survive. I think I spent so much time obsessing over how I would create financial stability that I found it hard to emotionally connect. If I'm honest, I didn't like motherhood very much, and it didn't feel like second nature to me.
Looking back, I was experiencing grief that I was too ashamed to confront. Pre-motherhood, I was a free-spirited, bohemian, butterfly chick, and now I was struggling to breastfeed and changing diapers at odd hours. It wasn't until recently I realized I was grieving my freedom.
I was desperately trying to hold on to my pre-motherhood life; I didn't want to accept things were different now. There was no more traveling on a whim; I couldn't even go out without pumping first. Leaving the house without carrying a truckload of baby items? Yeah, that was also a myth. So I buried myself in work. It didn't help that I never had an official maternity leave. I had a freelance writing job where I turned in an average of 10 500-word articles a day. To this day, I'm not sure how I pulled that off as a new mom. I'd leave my son in his carrier to watch TV while I'd churn through my articles, cook meals, and tidy up when I had a few free minutes. It's safe to say I was stressed every day and doing nothing for myself. I loathed the idea of being a "supermom" because there was nothing fun about it.
I felt trapped, specially as someone who enjoyed solitude and alone time. I saw no escape from the repetitive life of motherhood. And I had 18 more years before I could have any sort of independence — and that scared me. Many days, it also made me sad.
The turning point for me was finally, finally slowing down and finally practicing self-care. I had to accept that my life was different and redefine what freedom meant. I realized that just because I couldn't do many things alone anymore, that didn't mean it was impossible to carve out time for myself and retain my identity. Setting realistic timelines for my goals helped, too. Because I no longer felt like I was racing against time, I was able to spend more quality time with my son and appreciate the small joys of motherhood.
Slowing down also gave me time to process the gift that was entrusted to me. How lucky am I to raise a child and watch him blossom? To be everything to my son until he knows anything else? I now look forward to shared experiences with him, be it camping in the backyard, painting on Saturdays, or canoeing. Most importantly, I've mastered the art of keeping some things for myself so I can retain my identity and still feel a sense of freedom. Scented candles before bed, date nights, and solo birthday trips are just a few ways I've managed to do so. Learning how to help these two sides of myself coexist has been such an important turning point for me.
Although I don't want any more kids, the older my son gets, the deeper in love with motherhood I fall. I recently opened an email account for my son to share life lessons, write him poems, and just let him know how much I love him. As much as I'd like to be with him forever, I know one day I won't be here anymore. I want him to know that I love him with a timeless love, and I didn't take being his mother for granted.