Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Losing Myself Means

I remember in the 1990s I would often catch episodes of the Oprah Show and was always struck by the number of women expressing their despair over losing themselves. Most of the time I saw mothers painfully admitting that they no longer knew who they were, or what happened to their old vibrant selves. 

I was single, with no 'potential sperm donor' in sight and never fully understood the extent of what those mothers were talking about. I just remember telling myself that I can easily avoid the 'lost Self phenomenon' now that I know better, as if watching Oprah gave me immunity to this apparent epidemic. 

Now I stare at my face in the mirror and I wonder about the person staring back. Do I still really know her? How much has she changed? I can still see parts of the old me somewhere deep down so I know it's not completely lost. I suppose the best way I can put it is to say that it's just been dominated, outgrown by that part that needed to take over the reins, this new awareness that feels more adept at this important role and identity called Motherhood.

It's true that you lose your self to motherhood, in so many different ways, over and over...

When you become a mother, your body is no longer just yours. Going through assisted reproduction, this realization hit me early on. With all the hormones and medication I needed to pump my body with, there was a clarity that it's no longer just about me, not my schedule, not what I feel like, not how I want to look like. And as the pregnancy progresses, the womb comes to outweigh all else as it's treated like a sacred vessel, helplessly dependent on you and yet hold power over you. Its needs cry out louder than any physical pain or discomfort you may suffer from such that taking pain medication you've relied on through the years is now thought twice about, or worse, banned for at least nine months. 

When you become a mother, your time is no longer yours. Forget about scheduling your days. Give up the illusion that you can block off time for your favorite t.v. shows. Don't even think for a second you will have total control of your basic bodily functions such as sleep or using the bathroom. "At my own pace", "When I'm available", or "When I need to", are phrases that need to be stricken out of your consciousness for approximately four years, per child, at least

When you become a mother, your thoughts will never be again solely about you, not your hopes, dreams, prayers. You will be hijacked and held hostage by fears you've never known before and will also learn to grasp at Faith with strength you never thought you had in you.

When you become a mother, your desires, even when they cry out, pale in comparison to the sense of urgency that leaps out of you when it comes to giving in to what is best for your child. Living near the fun part of town is no longer as enticing as living within the best school district. Your need for white linen tablecloth at a quiet restaurant that serves to-die-for duck confit and escargot is quieted by the need for crayons at the table and kid-friendly servers who will always know when to serve drinks in lidded cups.

To say that motherhood demands immeasurable sacrifice is an understatement. Let's keep it real and admit that you will miss out on a lot, things drastically change, and at some point you will ask what ever happened to the 'You' you've always recognized. Having a child enter your life will mean the exit of all that is familiar and taken for granted. It is a death within you that requires a grief you can't put a limit on. It may ebb and flow and you just need to embrace it and make friends with it so it doesn't drown you. 

But just as much as you find a part of you slipping away or even dying, the experience also demands that you birth a purer version of your self. Don't expect the old version of you to remain or be resurrected in its exact form. That is impossible. Deep love never leaves any soul unchanged. 

Just as the journey into motherhood takes you to the extreme in terms of self-sacrifice, it also simultaneously forces you to see the need for self-nurturance, if you allow it. As with most experiences in life, motherhood will never fail to force you to seek balance in your own life. It will make you see, amidst all the giving and feeling consumed, that you will always be the vessel and that you cannot be empty if you need to keep giving; that even though there's this other being that has gained power over you, it will always look at how you give and what love should look like. And love should always come from a place of abundance, not dearth or inadequacy. 

Yes, there are days when I still reminisce about my old self. But you know what? I still end up always smiling and feeling content. My life now is a never-ending stream of stress and most days I feel sore and tired to the core. But I smile because I know that there is no experience on earth that could have brought out the most altruistic, most evolved version of myself other than motherhood. This is how it happened for me and though I'm certain there's a different road for every person, I'm eternally grateful that mine came in a cute package, with sweet kisses and warm hugs that make the grieving process for the old Me so bearable. I stare at the mirror, smile and always end up whispering, "Thank you. This JOY that stares back is who she needs to be."


  1. Great piece Joy! Motherhood does many things to a woman, but being a mother is also the best one.

  2. Great piece Joy! Motherhood does many things to a woman, but being a mother is also the best one.

    1. Thank you, Rena! And I'm sure, Grandmommyhood is an altogether different journey but they say is even sweeter than mommyhood.

  3. Beautifully written, Joy! I never really knew the real me until I had my boy and girl. I grew along with them and they've helped shape and nourish my life. I told them they are never fully real and true until they feel that immense pull of love for a child. They have given me five grandkids now and I feel it all over again as I see the bond and faith and joy....and struggles! their eyes and hearts! Thanks for sharing your heart and this precious photo of you and your little guy! Well done!

    1. Awww, thank you so much, Joan. Your comment touched me. It means a lot. You reminded me of the Velveteen Rabbit and that we only become real after we've been loved. The truth in that is further solidified in parenthood, isn't it? It's a very unique experience that changes us in ways we never imagined possible. Again, THANK YOU so much for your thoughts xoxo


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