I’ve always been attached and connected to things that others may say goodbye to in an easier way. I felt bad if a stuffed animal wasn’t played with enough, I am ultra-nostalgic about trips, college, and apartments I’ve lived in. I reminisce about times in my life that others may not even remember or prefer to let go. Not that I live in the past or feel I live like Billy Hicks in “St. Elmo’s Fire”, but I just value & appreciate certain things more than others. No right or wrong in this. It’s very personal. Listen, there’s no way I want to go back, but there are times I miss time periods and experiences.
One time period that I had a hard time saying goodbye to was the 15 years before I had my daughter. One thing that I realize is I married later than most of my friends, and had my daughter even later. I had a bit more time to get a little too comfortable in the “me time” world. Living in the city, on my own, working on my career, and doing what I wanted, when I wanted. There was nobody to answer to but me, and technically my boss. Relaxing on the couch on a Sunday watching movies or “Sex & The City”. Traveling with girlfriends. Staying out late, and sleeping in later. Grabbing coffee on a Saturday and reading the paper… alone. Taking a walk on the shore of Lake Michigan on a whim. Bringing a book on that walk, stopping to sit in the grass, and actually read without interruptions. Playing music so loudly your neighbor knocks on the wall. Working out and not having to arrange childcare. TGIF actually meant something. All this sounds a bit self-centered but this was the time in my life when I could be with NO GUILT. This was the time I didn’t have to check with my husband to see if it was “OK” for me to meet up with girlfriends for a drink (never has my husband said “no” btw). I didn’t have to rush home, feel guilty for being gone too long, feel selfish for leaving her for the weekend with my husband or parents, or check in to make sure she was doing OK.
Listen, it’s perfectly normal and SANE to tell people that you LOVED that time in your life. It’s OK to tell people that you MISS it at times. Be proud that you had an amazing time before you had a baby. Whatever you accomplished, the memories you built, the laughs, culture, exposure, growth, strength, and creativity you created should all be CHERISHED. These years have shaped you into a strong woman and hopefully confidence to match. The years & experiences before you became a mother have all prepared you for the mother you are meant to be.
Let’s make you feel even better with something that took me years to believe. It’s absolutely healthy to admit that you wish you had some of those things back. Maybe you don’t want all of them back, but you can say it out loud and remember that you should never feel guilty for admitting it. There are some roadblocks that you’ll need to get through with this though. Some may tell you that you chose this new life, they may even say “Well, you had 9 months to prepare for this”, tell you that being a mom is the best part of life, that you should be grateful, how they never felt the way you did, they don’t even think about their life before baby (I mean, unless you have amnesia or no fun before baby came, I don’t understand how this could even happen), they are even happier now (which is definitely awesome but don’t let this make you feel YOU need to feel this way), they love being a mother (and you don’t?), and all the other BS that is simply their opinion. That’s it, they are only opinions. They are their experiences, interpretations, meanings, and stories that literally have nothing to do with your life up to this point and beyond. I had to learn and try really hard to filter the advice and comments I would get on a daily basis. There is definitely room in my head space for advice, and I’ve taken some awesome tips and hacks with me along the journey, but I had to filter the ones that didn’t fit my life or my family’s needs. There’s nothing wrong with politely saying “Thank you for sharing your opinion” and not doing anything with the advice. They’ll never know.
So my journey to motherhood probably started the moment my best friend and her husband said to me “We have someone we want to set you up with.” I had been single for a couple years after a very long-term relationship and they had never attempted to set me up with anyone during this time, which intrigued me. Why now? “So, who is this guy? Please don’t tell me it’s one of your friends from high school.” We all grew up together, my friend & her husband are high school sweethearts, and I immediately thought of guys we went to high school with. “No, it’s no one you know,” as he laughed and knew where I was going with that. “So how do I not know who this guy is? Is he one of your secret suburban friends?”
Getting married: He was divorced; I was open to it because honestly, divorce was the LEAST of my worries after all the dating stories I had. They told me he had 2 children. I actually wasn’t nervous about that at all and thought it was a huge positive that he was an active dad. Then they told me he lived in the far western suburb that they lived in. NOPE. “Why not?!” they asked me. “How and when am I going to see this guy when I have to pack a weekend bag to visit you two?” I replied. I didn’t have a car, I worked long hours, traveled for work, and loved living in the city. I was one of those women that proudly exclaimed she was never leaving the city and will be raising my family in the city. No negotiations. Note: Never exclaim you’re going to do something and never say the word “never”. Most of the time you bite your tongue and it’s actually harder to adjust to the change. Instead, I am trying to still have my beliefs and stance but also tell myself that I don’t know what the universe has in store for me or where I’ll be in 10 years with what I want. So to enjoy what I’m doing in the present but to also be open to things changing.
No one can tell you how life truly feels after your baby is born. Nor can you anticipate what it will be when you find out you’re finally pregnant and during your pregnancy. There are movies, television shows, reality shows, books, and even some funny stories from friends and family, but the true reality is different for every mother. We all have our own interpretations, reactions, feelings, chemical makeup, and history to make our experience our own. I won’t say that my friend’s stories, mother’s advice, or a paragraph in one of the 30 “what to expect” baby books didn’t influence me in some way. My husband had already raised 2 grown children and he had some incredible tips and tricks that had me saying “How did you know that?” His response was always “Well, I just remember from when the kids were babies.” See, the advice, tips and tricks I was OK with… if they worked! What wasn’t talked about was how I would actually feel about my new role as a mother. I was never warned that on my way home from getting diapers at Buy Buy Baby that I would be getting texts from my husband saying “She’s hungry”. Then “She’s starting to cry.” Then “She’s crying really hard.” I’d be panicking in the car, because I can’t get there any faster than I am, and would say out loud “What have I done?”
Oh yes I had huge regrets about having a baby. There were so many changes going on. Too many changes. Not only was my body torn up, burning, squirting, sore, floppy, and just exhausted ALL the damn time but I had let go of so many things.
My career. I was a power suit wearing, control top pantyhose pulling, on an airplane, presenting in front of dozens, wheelin’ and dealin’, making her goals and some pretty nice dough, wining and dining, clicking down Michigan Avenue in her heels kind of woman. What was I now? Well, I was now a waking up every hour, spraying my crotch so it wouldn’t burn, shoving nursing pads in my ugly nursing bra, wearing the same pajamas for 3 days, staring at my baby because I couldn’t figure out why she was crying, social media skimming, asking Dr. Google everything, wondering if I would ever feel good about my body, having conversations about sore nipples, out of any sort of routine, and just plain insecure and confused about the woman I just became and who I may change into.
Even with the visits and texts asking how things were and congratulating us, I was so lonely at the same time. My water cooler conversations at work, lunch dates, drinks after work, dinners with clients, meeting friends out for cocktails, weekend trips, vacations with my husband, concerts, plays, errands with no rush to get home, reading in the morning without looking at a baby monitor, and just doing things when I wanted to do them versus fitting them in and panicking about returning home. I honestly felt these things defined me and I was lost knowing that I would never do most of those again. At least not for a long time. There was no definition of time when it came to doing the things I loved again. It felt that these things would never be a part of my life and that I would have to create an entirely different person with this new role I had.
When I recently surveyed moms on the challenges of letting go of one life for another, I received some very interesting responses. One that stood out was a mom telling me that I should be happy about being a mother, that a career can’t make you happy, and I should be celebrating where I am today. This was inside one of those oh-so-lovely mommy Facebook groups where you get this life-changing advice from someone that has never even met you or knows your full story. We ask for it, so we need to expect that anything can be said and usually is. I responded to her comment, very politely of course, with defending my feelings along with the many other moms that expressed how hard it was to let go of their past life. Maybe not everyone feels this way and that’s the beauty of everyone having their own story. Perhaps this mom that responded hated her job or didn’t really have a life she missed and the most important thing to her was becoming a mother? I definitely can understand that. For me, and many on this Facebook thread, there was definitely huge change and a mourning period. To acknowledge this, especially while you’re experiencing it, is so important for your happiness. I pushed it aside and I truly believe it added to the depression I was already experiencing.
Based on this mother’s comment, it goes to prove that the outside is telling us we SHOULD be grateful and happy to be mothers. Who said we weren’t is my response? These outside voices, whether they come from your mother, friend, colleague or a social media post, need to be blocked from entering your brain. Sitting in your spot, finding those feelings, acknowledging them, and talking to them with someone you trust, is what will fuel your soul to figure out how these changes can fit into your life. Never push them under the rug and just because one person tells you she didn’t feel that way, that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t real. They exist and are alive and you need to take care of them. Your career is an important part of your life. Your travels with friends is an important part of your life. Your lazy Sundays on the couch with zero interruptions are a wonderful part of your life. What’s awesome is you’ll get these things back eventually. Because you already had them, you know how to get to them once things die down a bit. It’s perfectly OK to put some activities on a bookshelf while you focus on the human you are raising. You’re not saying goodbye, you’re simply saying “Until the next time, my friend.”