Identity; Getting Us Back After Birth
When I became a mum the first time round I had no idea how much the shift would affect
my mental health. It hit me like a tonne of bricks. I was prepared for all the physical stuff.
I’d done antenatal classes and I knew that sleep would be sparse and labour would
hurt….A LOT, but after that we’d bring our baby home and look after her and job done,
NOPE! My goodness, what a rollercoaster it was. One minute I’d be crying at the sink
whilst trying to wash up, wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for
this mothering lark after all? The next I’d be staring in awe at my baby, amazed we’d
managed to produce something so perfect. I was really confused about the person I’d
apparently become overnight. Who was this new ‘mum’ person? How was I supposed to
feel? I didn’t feel ready to be that person. I wanted my own mum, I wasn’t sure I wanted
to be someone else’s yet.
I was also petrified because the overwhelming love everyone talks about that is meant to
hit you when you have a baby hadn’t hit me yet. During those first few crazy days my
beautiful little baby just felt like a little stranger. Maybe I’d brought the wrong baby back?
I had all sorts of crazy thoughts. What didn’t help was that I had a nightmare with
breastfeeding and I was feeling like a total failure. What I didn’t realise at the time is that
these kinds of feelings and experiences are totally NORMAL (perhaps sadly). If only it was
publicised and spoken about more, maybe we wouldn’t all feel so crazy and mad during
So what advice do I wish I was given at the time? Here goes…
1. You really cannot pour from an empty cup. You have probably heard this one before
but it’s oh so true. If you can, get some fresh air every day. Just 10 minutes will help. Can
anyone look after the baby while you have a wash and/or have a hot cup of tea?
Sometimes all you need is 15 minutes alone time to recharge your soul, but it is so very
important and helps you get your emotional well-being back on track.
2. I wish someone had told me that all the feelings of confusion, wilderness and fear
were absolutely NORMAL. Yes, you may be feeling lost, confused and tired, and unsure if
you’re ready for all this, but believe me that is very normal. Your mojo will return and a
new normal will emerge again- I promise!
3. Music! This may sound a bit crazy but I found reconnecting with my favourite music
really grounded me. It made me feel nostalgic and reminded me of significant periods in
my life and the person I really am. Yes I’m a mum now, but I’m still ‘that’ person too- and
nothing can change that. I remember dancing round the front room to Leftfield with my
baby in a sling asleep, and it really helped elate me. So dig out those old CDs or sort out a
Spotify playlist and turn it up!
4. Reconnect – it is very easy when you are in those early all consuming days and weeks
to cut off the outside world. You can get stuck in a loop of feeding, sleeping, eating, and
not speak to anyone much. When you get in that cycle it can be easy to imagine you are
the only one going through all this madness. I found when I did reach out to others it
helped me understand I wasn’t so alone. What really helped was messaging friends who
were also mums, perhaps those that had been there and done that. They were so lovely
and explained everything I was feeling was very normal. I wish I’d reached out sooner.
There is no escaping it; motherhood throws you in at the deep end. It is relentless, and at
times it can feel too all consuming. It is totally life changing and a real rollercoaster ride,
but what we all need to know is that all the feelings associated with that are all part of the
process. For a long time I felt really stranded between the person I was before kids and
the person I was supposed to be after. Now my kids are 2 and 3 I really feel that gap has
closed in, and I feel much more settled with the person I am. I wish someone had told me
it’s cool to not be sure for a while!
Sally is the CEO of mumsback.com who provide gift hampers for new mums, focussing
on the yummy stuff they’ve not been allowed whilst pregnant. Mum’s Back is also a social
enterprise, with £1 from every one sold goes to PANDAS Foundation to help in their
important work supporting families going through perinatal mental health issues.
If you would like to buy a Mum’s Back hamper, use the voucher code LUSHTUMS at check
out to get 10% off.