My husband was looking at me as if I’d sprouted a second head, and all I could think was, “Surely I can’t be the only woman who feels this way.” I was approximately seven months pregnant and had just tried to explain to him how I felt like I was losing my identity. He thought I was being ridiculous. Was I? Wasn’t I supposed to be over the moon about this bundle of joy I’d soon be welcoming into the world? I immediately felt guilty and never mentioned it again. And maybe the guilt is why no one else talks about it. But I’ve heard whispers from friends and family that have convinced me I’m not the only one who’s mourning the loss of my old self. We just keep it to ourselves because it’s not what we’re supposed to say or feel as a new mom.
But deep down inside, the reality is that I do feel that way. From the second we announced our pregnancy to the world, I ceased to become “me.” I was suddenly “pregnant me.” To everyone. All the time. I couldn’t have a conversation at work without the pregnancy coming up. Every person I saw had to ask about the pregnancy and our plans for the baby. No one just asked about work anymore. It was always, “How are you holding up at work? You must be so tired trying to work while you’re pregnant.” No one just asked about my running and racing anymore. The conversation morphed into talking about pregnant running, whether it was safe for me and the baby, and how far into pregnancy I would run. I couldn’t even go to lunch with coworkers without being asked about cravings and weight gain and morning sickness. Couldn’t I even have ONE conversation that didn’t somehow bring up the fact that I was pregnant?
I just wanted to be me again. Throughout much of my life, I had struggled with feeling comfortable in my own skin, and I was finally in a place where I was happy with who I was when I woke up every morning. But it was all falling apart, crashing down around me in pieces. In my pregnant brain, with hormones raging, I knew that it was only going to be more of the same once the baby was born. And I was right. I’m not “me” or even “pregnant me” anymore; now I’m “mom me.” I’m not just an auditor these days. I’m a working mom now. And I’m no longer just a runner. I’m a mother runner. And that will never ever change. Because with the birth of my beautiful son, I will always and forever be a mom. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE it. I adore my baby boy with all my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade him for the world, and cherish every millisecond of time I can spend with him.
But as I sit here in the dark, in the wee hours of the morning, pumping breastmilk for my baby before I head to work, I stare at my race medals hanging on the wall and my running shoes collecting dust on the floor. I scroll past my Pinterest board of carefully planned healthy recipes I used to make every night. And I wonder if I will ever be that woman again. It’s in these hours that I get to miss her. Silently. Where the outside world can’t see, in case they judge me for missing her. I wonder if I will ever find her again, or at least parts of her. I wouldn’t trade in my mom status to have her back, because I can’t imagine a world without my son, but I do dream of a world in which she co-exists, side by side, with “mom me.” Where “old me” and “mom me” can be one person and enjoy the best of both worlds. But for now, that’s not my reality. And I suspect that’s the case for a lot of us new moms and moms-to-be. I’m not here to tell you it’s going to get better, or that you won’t miss your old self. Because you will miss her, and you’ll feel like you can’t say it out loud. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to miss her and that you’re not alone. I like to think that someday, little glimmers of her will begin to break back through and make themselves part of me again. But until that day, we have to stand strong and support each other through this crazy ride called motherhood.