It started innocently enough:
“No Friday drinks for me while I’m pregnant,” I told a colleague. In truth, I hated going to work drinks, and now I had the perfect excuse to skip them altogether.
“That coffee smells great, but not while I’m nursing, thanks. If I have caffeine after lunch, she’ll be bouncing off the walls.” It was probably true, but I wouldn’t know—I’d hadn’t drunk coffee in years.
I didn’t notice as my harmless excuses morphed into grander cover stories:
“Sorry I forgot to call; she’s been so full-on lately,” I would tell a friend I’d chosen to delay responding to.
“Lunch out sounds brilliant, but it doesn’t work for our nap-time. Raincheck?” I would text to another.
At this point, I was proud of myself. I would see other mothers run ragged between commitments, trying to be all things to all people, to keep the pace of doing it all. I was protecting my energies by saying no to things, and I was quietly chuffed about not being like them.
Soon enough, though, my little, white lies started adding up. Eventually, my ears had heard those oh, I can’t do that because of the baby excuses enough times that they became secretly embedded in other aspects of my life too.
“I love reading, but I don’t have time for books now that I have a baby,” I would say. Yet, I had time to scroll social media on the same phone that had a book reading app.
“I’m just so exhausted, but all mothers are this tired when they have a baby,” I would tell myself, rather than taking steps to improve my sleep hygiene or ask for daytime help so I could nap.
“I love to exercise, but she won’t take a bottle, so I can’t leave” was another one. Why, then, didn’t I pick up my usual routine again after she started solids?
The person I was lying to was no longer outside of me but myself. I was suffering in the subconscious prison I had made for myself, and I had placed my child as the imaginary guard.
It seemed that by rejecting the myth of the supermom who does it all, I had fallen into another trap and situated myself firmly in the category of the mother whose needs come last.
Although we were parenting like the dream team, our relationship was suffering too.
“I’m not interested in sex because of the baby” was a cover story for “I really need to get my pelvic floor sorted before I can feel sexy again.” It was easier to say I was touched out than find a pelvic floor physio, book, and pay for both an appointment and a babysitter, and do the exercises that needed to be done to actually deal with my downstairs.
My health was on a downward spiral too.
“I can’t stop losing weight; she must be breastfeeding more,” I would say. Easier to blame her gluttonous growth-spurt than seek professional guidance to get my gut health on track, right?
Where once I had used my daughter as an excuse for my energetic protection, now I was using her as a shield to protect my own ego.
As a person who places a high value on health, realizing I wasn’t taking good care of myself was a bitter pill to swallow.
As a professional who promotes the idea that when a mother thrives, her child does too, it was difficult to acknowledge that my actions were not in alignment with what I was preaching.
As a spiritual seeker, it took some navel-gazing to firstly accept that I had fallen from my path, and secondly, that this was forgivable.
It is not uncommon for women to feel we have lost ourselves after having babies. The responsibilities outside of ourselves are multiplied exponentially at a time when there is reduced opportunity for the structured inner work that once kept us from feeling unmoored and adrift.
What I have learnt—and am learning more and more every day—is that my daughter is not something who stands between me and my growth, but a vehicle to accelerate it.
Yesterday we sat on the couch reading a book together. She was entranced by every rhyme and picture. Suddenly she stood up and walked across the room.
“What are you doing now?” I asked. She turned, looked me dead in the eye, and replied: “walking.”
My toddler doesn’t make me miss out on anything, do anything, or behave in any particular way. Far from depriving me, she is literally showing me every waking minute what it means to live in flow.
As brutal as it is, I am doing my best to get my ego out of my own way—to take responsibility for my own life.
To move my body when it needs to move and rest when it needs to rest.
To drink water when I am thirsty and eat when I am hungry.
To feel sad and shy and hurt when these feelings come up, rather than throwing myself into busy with child mode.
To respect my heart when it yearns for intimacy and laughter, and seek connection instead of withdrawing.
To tune into the direction, my soul wants to take me and follow its lead. And when it says something is a no, to stand in that truth without trotting out the nope, can’t, doesn’t work with the baby excuse.
Laying down my kid-shield feels vulnerable and freeing at the same time.
My daughter doesn’t need the mother who does it all; she doesn’t need the mother whose needs to come last either; she doesn’t need a perfect or always-happy or mistake-free mother.
She needs me to deal with my own mud rather than blaming her for splashing it on my clothes.
It’s time for me to get down and dirty. Who’s coming with me?