As a new mom, I have been fortunate enough to find a group of other new moms that meet every week. We congregate, sit on cushions on the floor with our babes, and talk. And we talk and talk and talk about everything. I’ve said before that stepping into motherhood has brought me to my knees, made me cry more than I ever thought I would, and has sent me on a doozy of an emotional roller coaster. For all those reasons and so many more, this community of women has been invaluable to me. It has allowed me to share my insecurities and questions without fear of judgment. Each week that I go and sit on the floor with Lucy next to the others, I leave feeling a little more reassured in my work as a mother.
Recently during one group visit, a Mom brought up the idea of identity. She was struggling with figuring out who she was post-baby, and Kathy, our ingenious and fearless leader, asked the rest of us how we were dealing with this idea of identity. I didn’t say anything, but left considering my new space in this world.
I know logically I’m still me, but even knowing this, I sometimes have a hard time fitting all the pieces together to make sense. A friend from work texted me the other day and asked if I was enjoying my time with Lucy, to which I replied “yes, very much,” but also that right now I “can’t imagine going back to work in March and having to turn on my teacher brain.” How will I quiet the new mommy brain I’ve acquired in order to turn on my teacher brain again? It seems impossible because as of the moment, my mommy brain is what occupies 90% of my life. Then, a few days later, something happened that made me realize the former me is still there and eventually, it will all fall back together again – I got my period. Seems like a minor event, but it wasn’t in the sense that it was a clear reminder that even though I’m now Lucille’s mother, I’m still Ilene.
The best way for me to understand this new identity that I have, or rather than new, let’s say revised identity, is to liken it to a prism. Some time ago, a dear friend of mine was traversing dark days. She sent me an article she found in an online journal which stated that we, as women are always “in flux, [we] are changing, [we] are flowing in a new way, and this is an incredibly powerful opportunity to become new again: to choose how [we] want to put [ourselves] back together.” It is a powerful idea to believe that we have the choice how we want to see ourselves and not let anyone else dictate that for us. The article also goes on to talk about how we are prisms, and why diamonds are as beautiful as they are – because they are fractured. Consider a diamond with no cuts, no facets. It would be dull, no? In order to help myself along this journey, I have taken to thinking of myself in these terms. I am a work in progress. The me that I knew before this baby is still there, but stripped down/fractured. Right now my waking life consists mostly of caring for my daughter, but slowly, the pieces of me that were, are returning.
Like a choreographed dance, I am learning one movement at a time. I had a baby. My cycle returned, and in a few months, I will go back to work adding another piece to this dance. Eventually I will add back things like photography, exercise and cooking meals from new found recipes. Each movement adds another dimension to the self, another step in choosing how I put the prism of my identity back together again. Right now that idea of "normal" appears to be far fetched, but I remind myself to be patient. Patient that in time I will find some kind of new normal and be able to do these things again.
I know it won’t be smooth sailing all the time, and it will never be perfect, but it will be me.
And that will be okay.