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Years ago before I became a mother, I remember watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show about losing your identity when you get married or having children. I didn’t understand how many people, especially women, were struggling with that after spouses and kids. I remember there was a therapist in there talking about this subject and advising to stay to your true self if that was something you loved.
That show especially stayed in my mind for a long time. I remember actually being concerned that that could happen to me and questioned how I could avoid it. My communication is very open with my husband; sometimes I feel sorry for him because I bounce ideas off of him, some of them very disturbing, but that is how I think. I asked him, “What if I change my identity in a few years?” I am pretty happy where I am; I have come far to be who I am. I don’t want to be someone else.
So time goes by, and I can feel how nature wants to shape me. I feel how society wants to control me, how my family wants me to behave. I started to feel that this whole thing of identity could be lost. With that being a concern for me, because I was very aware that it could happen, my husband and I started going to counseling. We were not having problems, but I wanted to be clear on who I was or who I wanted to be and make sure I wasn’t cheating myself. My husband supported me every step of that process, and I was happy. We discovered in those counseling sessions a lot of things we didn’t know, and I would suggest to every couple: if they are open to counseling just as a checkup, do it. It improved our communication and helped us understand that we are vulnerable to our circumstances.
I stayed true to myself. It was difficult sometimes, and you must think I am crazy, but sometimes I wouldn’t know who I really was. Was I a spouse? An immigrant? A daughter? A friend? Who am I? But with the tools I had to get back to balance, I did well. Years later, the test of fire came. I was going to be a mother, a new role in my life, an exciting one and a terrifying one. Would I be able to stay to my true self? Would I be just me, or someone else’s mom? Life started to happen, and as I shared in my blog before my experience in pregnancy, I went to counseling during those months. I had a counselor who actually agreed with me about staying to my true self if I was happy with that person. So we worked on that very hard. But I started to wonder; why is that these moms totally change? And why did my mom not to that degree? What if I am not as strong as my mom and I end up being just a mom who puts herself last?
As some of you know me, I was not going to be just wondering, I took action. I was working back then at a weight loss company, and in my consultations I would ask my female clients: “What is something you could do different now if you were to get pregnant again?” The answers surprised me, and I am glad they were honest answers. Many moms confessed that they of course loved their kids, but if they could do something different was not to be so overly protective of them and give them whatever they want. Or sleep with them or do not let them go to preschool until they were older or not go out because they would not trust anybody. Most of them advised me to make sure to take care of myself first and make sure not to forget that I was a wife first.
I would get overwhelmed with all that advice, but I asked for it. I would share with my counselor, and we together made a plan not to forget about me when the time came. In the back in my mind I was thinking, what if everything changes as soon as that baby comes out? I also was the daughter of my mother who did an excellent job taking care of herself, and I always felt loved, heard and understood. So I turned to interview my mom. I asked her, “What was difficult? What was easy?” She shared something very important with me: it was that her parenting method was not that common and that often people would have something to say. With that, me being the end result of that kind of parenting and having that kind of relationship I have with my mom and how everything developed, I took her opinion very strongly hoping for the best to almost copy the way my mom parented me.
A month before I delivered my son, I asked my mom to come to visit me so we could just be us for the last time ever. That last month of pregnancy was great to spend it with that person who gave me life. We looked at our ups and downs, accepted them and looked forward. The time was approaching; I was big and tired, and finally April 25, 2008 came to change something. What? Life? Identities? Dynamics? We would see. I will write in another blog about my first hours and days into parenthood and the anecdotes and the tears. Now I will focus on how my son affected our lives.
With the fear of losing my identity, I became a mom. I kept myself strong, aware, and informed. I also had to cancel my counseling sessions because I did not have the same free time as before. I had to sacrifice hours of sleep, and had to feed, change and nurture a new human being. It became my super full-time job 24/7. So how would I not lose my identity if I have to be on top of this job? It was hard, especially the first year and a half, but I stayed strong. I asked friends that I trusted and admired as moms to help me with my baby as I wanted to go for a date with my husband. I asked for help when I couldn’t burp my own kid. I reached out to the pediatrician who was always open and happy to hear that I was trying to take care of myself first. So all these things of not trying to lose my identity became a full time job too. I was exhausted; I was confused and lonely, but I reached out, so as lame as it can sound, I looked for friends online.
It was obvious I was not the typical mother who breastfeeds and makes sure her kid would be at home to take naps and had that story of hours of labor. No, I was the mom who formula was my best friend, c-section was the best option ever and my kid had to take naps wherever I was at that moment. Me being a social person, I realized I was alone. My husband tried to help me feel more accompanied, but it was not enough. So I found my group of moms online. A little awkward to go to places and not to have an idea who was going to be there, but the more I did it the more accustomed I became, and that is how I started a new chapter of my life, a happy social mama.
I met all kinds of moms: the opposite of me, the same as me, and different than me, and with the world open I didn’t feel alone anymore. I actually became so busy that at some point I had to cut few dates. These moms became friends and at some point even like family. Listening to their experiences and learning from them and struggling with them were such new concepts for me, but I am grateful for it. It made me surer of who I wanted to be, and we all respected all kinds of parenting. After 8 years we are still in contact; not the same as before as kids have grown and some have moved out of Colorado. But the moments we spent together are memories I will never forget. So to all of them I say thank you.
Years pass and you might not agree with me, but for me being a mom was not that much fun at the beginning. Pregnancy was not fun at all; during the first months I had no idea what I was doing. The early years were ok, but the whole baby thing was not my thing. Nobody told me what was coming for me later on was the best.
Life has blessed me to be my son’s mom. I will talk about him later on in a blog, but all I can say is that I think my son knew my fear of losing my identity, so he went with it. I did not take food out of my own mouth to give it to him (in Spanish this saying sounds better). I did put him in preschool as soon as he was allowed, he enjoyed babysitters, etc. He let me be and continued to be who I wanted to be. My true self. I am just hoping he feels the same way I feel about my mom. Now he is 8 and I have been enjoying him at full speed when he turned 4 probably. He knew who his mom was, how she operates, and we have become an amazing team.
One part of me thinks I manifested to be the mom I wanted to be. I worked hard to be that kind of mom, who is herself and also a mom. I knew deep in my heart that I had to be that way. I have to say, so far so good. Did I lose my identity? I don’t think so; as my husband says, we changed our identity. Did I ever feel that I lost my identity? oh yes, many times, especially when I was not recognized anymore by your name. But you are someone else’s mother, and when life happens you just have to drop everything to run for that human being.
What I think now is that there are times that it is very difficult to put myself first. Your baby is not your baby; it is a gift of life. You are the bridge for them to flourish; your job is to celebrate their wings to fly and be themselves. To help them think on their own, to be kind, to respect, to love, not to judge, and most importantly to love themselves no matter what. I have my days where fear and control come over me, and I accept it and let it go. Other days it is not that easy, and I just hold on to him, but I tell him why, because he might be just 8, but we communicate like soulmates.
Wherever you are, love yourself and do not change a bit. Remember, it can be done. It is hard work but it can be possible. Or maybe you don’t like yourself and are ready for a change. Get that motivation, grasp it! Maybe it’s your kid, but just hold on to that and make the change. Look for help; there is plenty. Don’t let shame and guilt eat you up. Your kids will be proud of you, and you will be proud of yourself.