Tears started welling in my eyes as I stared at my phone- her question simultaneously reminding me of where I was a few short months ago and bringing me into the present where I am now.
“When will I feel like myself again… when will I feel normal?” she asked.
My heart sank- despite it being over text, I could feel the desperation. The desperation for normalcy and that strong urgency to “feel like yourself” that as a new mom you feel quite often, especially on the hardest days, when the old you seems like a much better person to be. A less tired person. A more assured person. A less fearful person. A more sane person.
I thought about not responding, out of dread that the answer might not be well received. I honestly didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to answer. I wanted to be positive and uplifting but I didn’t want to discourage her, if in fact, she never felt like herself again.
I hemmed and hawed and then finally responded: “I don’t know.”
She was a few months postpartum and I was about a year and the truth was, I still didn’t feel like myself. But what I didn’t tell her, and I should have, was that it was OK to embrace exactly how she felt in that moment, love it or hate it because we all feel it.
Sure, I had days where the glimmer of a previous version of Lauren appeared- it was usually doing something for myself like working out but it never lasted long because I didn’t have the same time to focus on me and in reality, I had changed. My body had changed. My emotional resilience had changed. And, my thinking had changed. There was a new normal. I was a mama now. Not in the sense that I never showered or never did my hair or makeup, because, I do have those days. Something had changed inside me.
And yet, I couldn’t really put a finger on what exactly had changed. My thoughts, fears and worries were all amplified because of the baby, but why did I feel so different in every fiber of my being?Why did I feel so vulnerable?
And then I started thinking.
I had never understood the sheer exhaustion that being a new parent brings and that it wasn’t from lack of sleep, but from worrying… about EVERY- DAMN-THING… including sleep.
Now I understand.
I had never understood the true meaning of the word busy. I knew friends with kids were way busier but I didn’t quite get it. I mean, doesn’t the baby just lay there? No, not really, at least not my kid. And, it’s hard to explain to someone when they call that you’re busy because you have baby crap all over you and you’re holding the baby like a hot poker because you don’t exactly know where to like them or, that your toddler just stepped into the dog’s water bowl and not only do you have to change him but you have to mop the floor… for the 2nd time today.
Now I understand.
The emotional changes. I had NEVER even thought about the emotional changes. So obviously I couldn’t understand them. But man, hormones… those things are a bitch. I have cried more times in the past year than the previous 35. I have cried out of worry, out of fear, out of happiness, and mostly, out of love- all because of this perfect little person that I’m lucky enough to call mine.
Now, I understand.
I guess because I wasn’t really sure I would have kids, I never anticipated how much it would change me. It’s likely also the reason I assumed I would just snap back into feeling like the pre-child version of myself. Now, I understand why that might take a long while to happen, if it ever really does.
Those women, the ones who say that having kids didn’t change them are anomalies to me. I don’t get it. I give them kudos for holding onto their pre-child essence so well, but I don’t get it because having E ROCKED MY WORLD. I actually don’t know very many in person. Most of my friends or, people that are honest with me will tell me straight up how much it has changed them and how different their “new normal” is.
So, for those of you wondering when you’ll feel like yourself: maybe tomorrow or, maybe in 5 years from now or, maybe never. And, guess what? It’s OK not to feel “like yourself” because chances are, you have changed. You’re a mama now.
And, for those of you who are old hat at this mama-ing thing: when someone asks you this very loaded question, be honest, be real, and tell them that it is OK.