Mental Health

Recovery From Postpartum Identity Crisis

We moms are planners. It comes with the job description. We make a birth plan. We choose labor preferences and research childcare options. Some of us select nursery themes, nutritional goals, and soothing techniques.

But how many of us create healthy expectations and devote careful consideration to our after-birth plan?

Yep. You read that right. After. Birth. What will your own life look like after giving birth? How will your roles change? Who will you become? You’re still you after all, just better.

We get caught up (and rightfully so) with striving to give our little ones the best possible start in life. It’s a beautiful recipe. But it’s time to add another crucial ingredient: a healthy, fulfilled, comfortable-in-her-own-skin mommy. Enter the concept of identity. Some of us can clearly define ours. Most of us have a general idea. But all of us experience a shift. Yes—all of us. The fact is: We become a different person once we bring that sweet little bundle of joy into the world. Who knew? And that’s where postpartum identity crisis begins.

Postpartum Identity Crisis: What In The World Is Happening?

A postpartum identity crisis can be hard to acknowledge and even harder to recognize. Maybe we haven’t put a medical label on it yet (Let’s work on that!), but it can have very real consequences. It’s a stealthy, uncertain, and powerful realization that we are struggling to feel like our old self. There’s an inherent culture shock after giving birth. Up until that point, we loved being a working woman and expected the same level of success in motherhood. So, what happened? How did we get to a state of confusion? And, more importantly, what are we going to do about it? It begins with awareness and compassion—for ourselves and one another. Let’s talk about contributing factors.

Postpartum Identity Crisis & BODY CHANGES

Can I get a witness? Size, shape, nutrition, sleeping habits—out the window! I don’t recall anyone telling me my stomach would look pretty much the same after giving birth. I honestly thought I’d waltz right out of the hospital rubber-band style—snapping back into my original shape. Turns out, it takes a while, girls. Let’s embrace it. Give yourself permission to transition gracefully into motherhood.

CHANGES IN SOCIAL CIRCLES: Where my girls at?

There are lifelong friends who’ve been there from braces to birth plans. But the real surprise comes when you suddenly find less invites to social gatherings. Fewer calls for lunch. It’s a strangely transitional time. Some mom-friends are happy to wipe the spit-up off your blouse. They understand it’s tough to sport that collapsible stroller into a tapas bar. Some friends simply aren’t comfortable around children. Others assume you’re way too busy to participate. Whatever the cause, the change in social inclinations can be a real shocker.

RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER: What just happened?

It’s true: Having a child together bonds you like no other experience. However, we must expect the natural dynamic change of our partnership. You may find it hard to discuss anything other than the children. You may be tired or even disinterested from balancing work and motherhood. You may see less of each other because of the tag-team approach required to get it all done. This often sends parents into divide-and-conquer mode. Which brings me to another concept…

DATE NIGHT: Why are we in Bed, Bath, and Beyond?

There was a time when you couldn’t conceive of having to intentionally schedule alone time with your spouse. Now, you dress up and dig out your strappy heels—only to find you’re exhausted at dinner and sitting in awkward silence. Who saw that coming? Don’t panic. You’ll find your groove. Talk about the proverbial elephant in the room; and keep open communication about your feelings. Agree to be flexible. Here’s a veteran tip: Develop the ability to laugh at your situation.

ME TIME: What does it even look like?

You’ll get lots of advice: Get your mani-pedis. Set aside time for yoga or meditation. Keep a hobby that’s unrelated to motherhood. Band-aids and solutions aside, let’s discuss the source of the confusion. Which me am I? Am I still a head-turning sexy temptress? Am I a worn-out, frazzled mom who’s barely keeping her head above water? Am I a powerful, respected business leader who inspires and motivates? Am I sometimes under-appreciated, disrespected, and overlooked? The answer is yes! We’ve become new creatures: wonderful, intricate, and beautifully multi-dimensional. You don’t need a defining label. The next time you look in the mirror and see the Queen of Romper Room instead of Queen of the Board Room, revel in it. Own it. We’re right there with you.

SOCIETAL PROFILES: The jury’s still out.

Shameful but True Story: I’ve been in circles where stay-at-home moms are viewed as elite and privileged—those luxuriously surviving on one income and shunning moms who send their children to daycare. I’ve heard moms in the corporate world scoff “I would lose my mind. I have better things to do than sit around in jean capris listening to Disney songs.” I’ve approached a make-up counter in a business suit where friendly, accommodating smiles are eager to help. I’ve approached the same counter pushing a baby stroller only to be ignored completely. (Did she just eye-roll me?) Get your degree. Use your degree. Don’t “waste” your degree. It’s madness, ladies.

Coping With Postpartum Identity Crisis

Take some time to contemplate your personal identity as a mother. Know it, change it, love it! Awareness can thwart a crisis. There are millions of us doing the best we can every day. You are part of a gorgeous tapestry, girls. Try to step back and admire it. Don’t we have enough prejudices and injustice to fight? Don’t let motherhood be one of them. Let it be a tie that binds.

Leandra Schwanda is an industrial engineer, communication specialist, stay-at-home, work-from-home mom who loves sharing laughs and life experiences with other women.

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