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Grieving the Life that Was & Loving the Life that Is (Part 1)

change grief motherhood Aug 01, 2023
new mom change baby grief

Possible trigger/content warning: NO mention of child loss. 

More Confessions of a New Mom 

By Ilana Shapiro Yahdav 

I always wanted to be a mom and I always love to sleep late in the morning. Those two are indeed mutually exclusive, at least in the season I’m in now. I knew my life would change in ways I could not imagine once I had a baby. That is the understatement of the year. To this day and I’m sure for the rest of my life, my life continues to change in ways that I could not have imagined, both good and bad. (I’ve come to terms with the fact that 7:30 am is now considered sleeping in).

Having a very much-wanted baby is a grieving experience.

(Remember: grief is the normal and natural reaction to the loss of any kind and the conflicting feelings around the change or end of a familiar pattern or behavior).

There are SO many changes: identity, lifestyle, responsibilities, body autonomy, body, mental state, emotions, and relationships to name a few.  In short, having a baby is a total life shift in pretty much every single facet of life. It is also VERY normal to have seemingly contradicting emotions at the same time, all the time. Opposite emotions can and do exist, except for being a mom and getting to sleep late in the morning. (I kid…well, sort of). 

Let’s tease out some of these changes in the context of grief and becoming a mother:

Change in identity

I personally love being called R and S’s mom - it gives my heart a surge. I love hearing my oldest call me mommy and am excited for when my youngest will too. It’s also a change in identity - I’m no longer defined as myself but as someone’s mother. I’m a mom and everything else in the world comes after. 

I remember having to get used to calling my now husband, fiancee, and then later, husband. That was a big change in identity too -   no longer being defined as myself, but being someone’s wife and even taking on a new last name.

It was so cool and fun to say, husband, my husband. I feel that same rush when I say, “Yup, I’m R’s mom. I’m S’s mom.” I LOVE getting to say, my daughters. I sometimes still can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to call these two beautiful little girls my daughters

At the same time, there are moments when I want to be Ilana, the entrepreneur, grief counselor, friend, daughter, sister, sassy tenacious woman - the many aspects of me- and not defined by others, even others that I love more than anything in the world. 

Change in lifestyle/freedom 

Gone are the days of sleeping in and lazily enjoying a weekend morning. I can’t go out with friends without prior planning. I can’t even just sleep when I’m sick. Traveling has become a whole new level of stress. Dinner time is sometimes a battle of wits: my husband and I versus my 2.5-going-on-16-year-old.

Life has also taken on a whole new level of joy and meaning - beyond anything that I could have imagined. Seeing the world through both my little girls’ eyes is exhilarating.  Reading the same book for the 100th time with the same zeal as the first time, going down the same slide over and over, and running around parks/museums/malls is so much fun because it’s with them. Watching them smile, hearing them giggle, and seeing their joy as they continuously discover something new is so heartwarming.  

There are days, though, that it feels stifling - trying to manage big emotions from tiny humans, childcare snafus, and simply finding the energy to take a shower. Days that I want to crawl under my daughter’s crib with the cat and hide from it all. Cry my eyes out on the floor with my 6-month-old.  And..... there are days that I feel like I can do it all and then some.

Change in responsibilities

I’m totally and utterly responsible for these tiny humans. Huge love for a human that is totally dependent on me. There’s so much power and responsibility in being totally in control of someone. It’s intimidating and exciting. I have the power to shape these little humans and holy smokes, I have the power to shape these little humans. I’m the adult here. I get to make the rules. I get to help instill positive values in these little girls.

I sometimes look at my husband and me and have to laugh. There are times that I feel like we are still children (with jobs and credit cards!), and are only playing grown-up, pretending to have any idea of what we are doing.

But, I also am excited to know that I’m working to raise two strong, independent, smart, kind girls who will hopefully one day positively impact the world. That’s pretty cool to think about.

Lack of autonomy of body (continued from pregnancy)

The baby wants to be held in the way that they want to be held irrelevant whether you are comfortable or not. You get thrown up on. Pooped on. Sneezed on. Peed on (I’m sure there are other bodily functions I’m leaving out, but you get the idea here). Your body is not your own, still, even after giving birth.

When I finished pumping for my first, it was such a big moment when I realized I could take some medicine (for a headache, cold, whatever) and not have to think about it and worry if it would affect my supply or baby. I could eat and drink what I wanted. Such a sense of freedom that I took for granted. 

Now that I’m nursing and pumping for my second, I’m feeling all the worries, lack of bodily autonomy, and personal space again. I’m so excited that I get to nurse a tiny bit for my second (with my first, we never could quite get the latching thing down and I was sad that neither of us was able to have that experience). But after 7 months of exclusively pumping with some nursing sprinkled in, I’m feeling pretty done. I’m feeling the guilt of weaning and the joyful anticipation of getting my body back in the near future. 

I LOVE snuggling with my 6-month-old and my 2.5-year-old when she lets me. I love them wanting to be held and be close to me AND there are times that I do not want to be touched by anyone, including my fur baby and husband.

Body Changes (the focus here is post-partum)

Giving birth is a trauma to the body. There can be all types of tearing and surgical cutting.  Recovering from a vaginal birth and a C-section can be challenging, especially with a new demanding tiny human.

Weight gain (weight loss for some). Stretch marks. Varicose veins. Saggy breasts. Enlarged feet. Wider ribs that don’t shrink back to pre-baby size. Food aversions that don’t go away. So many bodily changes - too many to list out. Also, the exhaustion. The lack of sleep is unreal with the many effects that it has on the body. Producing milk/not being able to produce milk and all the physical (and emotional) struggles that go along with breastfeeding.

I sometimes look at my body and don’t even recognize myself. I’ve gained around 30 pounds and don’t fit into any of my clothing - yet. I don’t feel at home in my body, almost disdainful about how I look.

I also love my body so much and am so grateful that I was able to grow these two beautiful humans. My body is/was able to produce milk that nourishes their little bodies. My body allows me to protectively wrap my arms around my girls and kiss all boo-boos and make them better. 

I strive to practice self-love and model the self-love that I want to teach my girls. It’s a struggle but one I will not give up for both myself and them. 

In our next blog in our Confessions of New Mom Series, we will dive deeper into changes in mental state, emotions, relationships, and grieving new milestones as a parent. 

Motherhood is the journey of a lifetime. I'm so grateful and humbled to get to be on it. 

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