Why do I feel different now I am a mother?
In the joyous moments of finding out you are pregnant your heart immediately becomes owned by a tiny human. What nobody tells you, is that so does your entire existence.
Mother’s have a different relationship with their children. Not better than fathers. Different.
A dad knows his kid’s like apples. A mum knows the type, colour, and the exact level of ripeness of the same apple that every one of her children likes.
And a mum knows this level of detail for every single thing in her children’s lives.
What does this do to a woman? What becomes of a woman when she becomes a mum?
We know the massive changes our bodies go through. That is no secret. We are overloaded with information from books, and blogs, and forums before we even begin to digest the advice passed down from our own mothers.
What no-one seems to talk about though is how completely you lose yourself as a woman when you become a mum. You are still you of course. You still have your likes and dislikes. You have the same friends and social circles. You have your personality and sense of humour. But now, you also have an extra part of your mind, body and soul that is devoted solely to nourishing, raising and loving your child.
Mirror Mirror on the wall, why don’t I recognise me anymore?
Becoming a mother changes our physical appearance. Our new body is confronting. Flat stomachs bulge, our hair changes, our boobs change, our skin changes, our partner’s still love us and find us attractive, but sometimes it’s hard to see past the changes and reconcile that with the body we used to have. We know we are meant to love our new motherly body because it has done an incredible thing. And then we feel guilty if we don’t.
Our mental load increases exponentially. Time to process thoughts doesn’t exist anymore. Decisions are made quickly and under pressure. The new constant fear and anxiety that was birthed with your child smothers your once rational brain. You doubt things you never doubted before, and trust even less than you thought possible.
Our relationships change. Alone time with your partner is frequently interrupted by cries or bad dreams, kids refusing to go to sleep, loads of washing and the list goes on. And because history and society has decided that because you are a woman, you should and must be able to do it all.
And there is a name for this. Matrescence. Essentially this means the birth of a mother.
While Matrescence is not a recognised medical term, anthropologists understand the transition that takes place when we birth our children. The effects are multi-dimensional and have far reaching consequences on our entire existence. The discovery of Matrescence was made by anthropologist Dana Raphael in 1973. Dr Aurelie Athan of Columbia University recognised the value in Raphael’s studies and brought this concept back to life.
At no other point in our lives do we transition so rapidly. All other changes are slow and managed. Think puberty, think menopause. We know what is coming and we prepare ourselves for it. We are guided by those around us and the details don’t get lost in the excitement of a new life.
Why are we not told that we will lose ourselves? When we are given so much advice, we don’t know what to think or do, no-one says, by the way you won’t feel like you anymore.
Childbirth is the most incredibly beautiful yet horrendous experience a woman can go through. We are fortunate that our bodies forget the pain as soon as we look into the eyes of our newborn. We have an innate skill of doing everything we have to do powered by the love we have. But we need to know as women that it’s ok to not love every single part of it.
It’s ok to grieve for your body, your career, and your freedom. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. We need to reach an understanding that if we miss our old lives it doesn’t mean we hate our new ones.
Becoming a new mum is such a rewarding experience. We single handedly grow an entire human. That on its own should be enough to have us feeling like superwoman for the rest of our lives.
Fortunately, we are becoming more aware of the change’s women experience when they become mothers. For future mothers we need to get more real with them. We need to spend more time acknowledging the changes they will go through, and less time talking about our own horror birth stories. We need to tell them everything we know about the birth we go through.
To all the mothers, we see you, and we hear you.