For me it's my bra.
I was looking through my underwear and really thinking that I need to buy myself some new stuff. I've only bought one new bra that wasn’t a sports bra or a nursing bra/top in 3 years.
The last really nice bra I bought was over 7 years ago. It was expensive and still looks good. Except it doesn’t fit me anymore. My boobs are too small to fill the cups (6 years of being pregnant and/or breastfeeding has an unfortunate side effect).
Have you got something in your wardrobe that doesn’t fit you anymore? That pair of skinny jeans you used to love. Or that party dress that was amazing once, but doesn’t suit your life anymore (because... parties.. what? .. even before Covid..)
But you hang onto it.. just in case. And every so often it catches your eye and you wish it did fit you, your life, and maybe you imagine a day when it did and feel a little nostalgic, maybe even sad.
I know why your jeans don’t fit you anymore
It’s because you’re not ‘YOU’ anymore. At least not the same you.
You’re grown, transformed, evolved.
You’re not the same you that partied with friends in dingy bars and then scanned the scene at closing time for hints to where the after party might be at.
Not the same you who enjoyed long romantic lie-ins on a Sunday and strolled in the late afternoon hand in hand with your lover, without a care in the world beyond what to have for dinner.
Not even the same you who watched your growing bump with joy and trepidation and tried to get to grips with birth preferences, pain relief and how to fit a baby seat safely.
Not the same you who emerged, raw and wide-eyed from the hospital inexplicably assigned to the ludicrous task of keeping a baby alive.
In the initial period after baby, there’s this cultural fixation on appearances - getting ‘back to your pre-baby weight', 'back into your pre-baby skinny jeans’ (actually is anyone even wearing skinny jeans anymore? It's been so long since i was in a gathering of more than 3 people I don't even know)
Back to normal, back to the person you were?
Guess what, it’s not happening. There is no ‘back to the way things were’
But it’s ok. I promise, really it is.
Sure you’ll do some of the things again you enjoyed pre-baby (you’ll see the same friends again, enjoy some of the same hobbies again.. eventually you even get to travel alone again)
But it’s different, lets be honest.
Different is fine, but that doesn't mean it's easy
You’ll mourn things about your old life
Yes, maybe you’ll mourn the jeans that don’t fit, or the boobs that no longer fill the bra.
But maybe it’ll be the loss of freedom that hits you, or the physical feeling of being tethered to another. Described oh-so well in this quote from Rachel Cusk in her book on motherhood ( A Life's Work).
“It is not love that troubles me when I leave the baby, like a rope and harness paid out behind me wherever I go. It is rather that when I leave her the world bears the taint of my leaving, so that abandonment must now be subtracted from the sum of whatever I choose to do. A visit to the cinema is no longer that: it is less, a tarnished thing, an alloyed pleasure. My presence appears almost overnight to have accrued a material value, as if I had been fitted with a taxi meter, to which the price of experience is inseparably indexed. When I am out I am distracted by its ticking.”
Maybe it’ll be a mourning for the way your relationship was before.
It might feel like a minor annoyance or a deep grief.
You've grown, changed,you’re no longer the person you were.
Growth is often uncomfortable
We rarely give ourselves permission to consider this, to mourn what we’ve lost, to really feel the discomfort of the growth.
You probably don’t even want to be the same ‘old’ you when you think about it. But it doesn’t mean you don’t miss some things, that you don’t grieve some aspect of the life you had, even when you adore your new one.
Think about it - the transformation you've undergone since becoming a mother.
What have you lost? What do you mourn?
What have you gained? How have you grown?
Who are you now? What’s important to you now?
By doing this, acknowledging what has gone as well as appreciating what we’ve gained,
We can become whole again
A different shape maybe
But still whole
'Who am I' - motherhood and identity - is one of the themes we look at in my 6 week online course Calm in the Chaos. Check it out here.