In my work with new moms, what I hear over and over again is, “why do I feel so empty?” There is a myth out there, perpetuated by our media, which sells us the idea that motherhood is bliss. That in bringing new life into the world, we will be happy, the perfect mother, and finally feel full and fulfilled as if the new baby was the missing piece to make our life complete.
It seems that what our culture really lacks for motherhood is more ritual for these HUGE transitions in a woman’s life. Yes we have baby showers, but the festivities tend to center around the baby. We need more ceremony to honor the changes a woman goes through when she transforms from a childless woman to a mother.
So let’s talk about the loss that comes with motherhood.
-The loss of your freedom: the ability to be spontaneous and go have lunch with a friend whenever, to stay out 30 minutes longer to finish up an errand, to easily get a work out in without having to orchestrate a huge plan of childcare.
-The loss of self-care: long gone are the days when you showered daily, shaved your legs, and washed your hair J, and now finding time for massage or pampering feels like a guilt-inducing mess you don’t have time for!
-The loss of your body: our culture focuses so much on appearance, it places hugely unrealistic expectations on what a new mom should look like. The body you once knew is now going through a hormonal rollercoaster and things are not working quite the same as pre-baby.
-The loss of your ego: while this is a temporary loss, early mothering really forces us to our identity. We realize rather quickly, “it’s not about me anymore.” Our needs fall by the wayside, as we step into the role of 24/7 caregiver. Add in questions about work/life balance and who we are in careers now that we are mothers, and the ego takes a back seat.
-The loss of sleep: sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture in times of war, so please don’t discount the impact sleep disruption has on one’s ability to cope with all the losses!
-The loss of predictability: for those mamas who crave order and control, babies teach you very quickly how to surrender to chaos. Sometimes this is a painful lesson.
When we take the time to honor and grieve what we have lost in becoming a mother, the path to motherhood begins to feel much lighter. When we can sit with another woman who can truly empathize and hold how hard it is to let go of our old lives, especially when this is the new life we always wanted, we bring healing to our new role. We all need a hand to hold as we walk down the crooked path of motherhood, so remember to make space for the feelings of loss as you embark on incorporating all that you have gained in becoming a mama.