Sorry, the old Shakira can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead.
Okay, that was a little dramatic. But it's kinda true!
The first year of motherhood was one of the hardest in my life. Don't get me wrong, there were many beautiful, precious, and happy moments too. But it was also filled with hormonal roller coasters and more tears than I've ever shed within a timeframe of 1 year.
- Breastfeeding is hard 😭
- My baby won't stop crying 😭
- I haven't had more than 2 hours of consecutive sleep 😭
- My baby developed a 6-monthlong feeding aversion 😭
(This one can be a whole article on it's own, leave a comment if it's something you'd like to learn more about)
I definitely had postpartum anxiety & depression. Dark thoughts of wanting to run away and just be free crept into my head whenever the nights were extra long and extra filled with cries from my son that I couldn't soothe no matter what I tried.
There were some dark moments where I just didn't want to be a mother anymore, and then they would pass and be replaced by horrible guilt with the realisation that I do love my son more than anything in the world.
This photo was taken in the baby bubble, in the first week after taking my precious newborn home. Even then, I was already a little stressed because I was temporarily staying with my parents instead of at my house and while there's nothing wrong with my parents' house, we all know that there's no place like your own home.
I tell all my girlfriends that the best way to avoid postpartum depression & anxiety (in my personal experience) is to start mourning your old self when the baby is close to arrival, and start getting excited to turn into this completely new version of you. Old you? Pre-baby you? She’s never coming back once the Mum version of you is born. At least, that’s what happened to me.
Our first little family outing as Mummy, Daddy and Baby. Behind this sweet photo was initially a frustrated Mummy because it took me twice the time to get ready and the anxious Mummy was worried we didn't bring enough expressed breastmilk for a 3-hour outing.
Pre-baby, I was so sure that being Mum would just be one part of my identity, and that the other parts would remain the way they are: the business woman, the wife, the friend. I’d simply add “the Mum” to the list.
Boy, was I wrong. Being Mum takes over your whole self, your whole identity. Every other part of who you are has to find its own space within being Mum. Unlike the other parts that can be completely switched off when not in use, your Mum self never, ever switches off.
Not knowing this, I didn’t prepare for it. I thought that pre-baby Shakira could come in to play whenever she wanted. Granted, I didn’t expect her to show up as often as before but I really thought that when I wasn't on Mum mode, I would be the individual I was previously. But no, Mum mode just stays by your side while you try to ignore her and focus on the other self you're trying to be (business woman / wife / friend).
This picture was taken at my first social gathering without my baby post-birth. I remember how happy I was to dress up and go out, but how difficult it was mentally since it was one of the first few times I experienced the inability to switch off Mum brain.
As someone who was so independent and free prior to being a Mum, it was a hard adjustment. What do you mean I can't work out 5x a week anymore? What do you mean my Netflix binges have to revolve arounds someone else's naps? What do you mean I can't sleep and wake up whenever I want?
But then, somewhere along the line, around the time my son turned 1 years old, these questions faded away and I found myself loving this new me more than the old me. This new me is selfless, powerful, and more full of love than the pre-baby me ever was.
Mason's 1st Raya!
It's now 2.5 years post-delivery and I love being Mum. I love spending time with my son, teaching him important lessons and watching his personality blossom. I love sleeping next to him every night and smelling his morning breath every morning. I love afternoon koala bear hugs when he's sleepy and holding his hand on walks. I love spoiling him with toys & activities and seeing the happiness beam off his face when he's having fun.
My 29th birthday, honestly one of the happiest birthdays I've celebrated largely due to just being able to relax and have fun with my family.
I have also learnt to make time for pre-baby activities at least once or twice a week, because then I come back stronger as Mum. Spending a few hours socialising with my friends, on a date with my husband, and working on my business fills the needs I have as an individual, needs that are still there (for me, not everyone) even post-baby.
I'm pretty sure that in the first year of motherhood, I went through the 5 stages of grief: denial > anger > bargaining > depression > acceptance. And in the end, I emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon. A transformed, newer and better version of myself.
In hindsight, I think that if I had known that "the Mum" would never switch off and the other parts of me would have to find their way to work with her, maybe I could've prepared mentally and adjusted to Motherhood faster. But then again, maybe this is just something that we can't prepare for and need to experience to learn.
I learnt how to make time to be the friend.
I learnt how to make time to be the wife.
I learnt how to make time to be the business woman.
And I always come home to being Mum, my now favourite role ❤️
And this... This never gets old.