Grieving Your Past Life When Becoming A Mom
Having a baby is the most miraculous, incredible journey. There is truly no way to prepare for it or know what to expect. That moment you meet your baby is life changing Because, not only have you birthed new life, but you will never be the same. And yes, this is all incredibly terrifying.
I can distinctly remember the moment I first felt the grief. The new baby “honeymoon” began to subside and the sleep deprivation was beginning to take a toll. We were sitting on the couch, one week after Willis was born. I had just nursed our beautiful boy to sleep and placed him in his pack-n-play in our living room for a nap. My husband and I nuzzled up on the couch and pressed play on the movie we had queued up.
I heard a rustle, a whimper and then the crying began. My heart sank, exhaustion lurking like a dark cloud. Please just give me one hour to myself I thought. I looked at my husband and the freedom of our pre-parenting lives played out like a movie before me. Late nights drinking wine, laughing and binging on Netflix- show after show… Not a care in the world. No responsibility for a tiny little helpless human. No more, I thought, this is our new reality.
Sadness and grief washed over me, forming a tight knot in my chest. My throat swelled up and a sense of imprisonment came over me. And then the guilt… How can I be feeling this way when we have this beautiful little miracle in front of us? This miracle that I worked so hard to grow inside of me for nine long months… Who I could not wait to meet and love with every part of my soul and show the world to.
My husband saw my tears and held me while I shared my dark inner thoughts. “It’s okay,” he said, “I miss you and me too. But we have this little guy now and he’s pretty amazing. One day at a time.” He validated my feelings and gave me permission to feel them. He got up, picked up the little bundle of love we created together and brought him back to the couch. With his arm around both our little boy and me, we cuddled together and watched the movie. It was different and it would take some getting used to, but soon I wouldn’t be able to imagine a life without this little guy and all the love, joy and sweetness he would bring.
Grieving your past life is a common stepping stone for many new parents. The change that comes with parenthood is no small feat and it is permanent. This can be incredibly overwhelming and can bring a whole range of emotions to the table. Just know that you are not alone and every single one of these emotions are valid and worthy of feeling. As a new parent, you have to say goodbye to a life you once lived in order to fully accept and embrace the new one. It is okay to feel sad, angry, trapped, resentful and just plain tired. Give yourself time and space to feel the feels so that you can truly embrace your new life and love that little one with all of your heart. And if you don’t feel that right away, that is okay too. Give yourself time. Below are some tips I found helpful in grieving my past life and moving forward to embrace my new one.
6 Tips for Grieving Your Past Life and Embracing the New
Communicate with your partner or loved one.
These feelings are big and real and raw. Holding them in will make you feel so alone. Don’t let these thoughts fester in your mind for too long. If you have a partner, talk to them. I’m sure they are feeling similarly and it will help to share this space together. If you’re having trouble talking to your partner, talk with fellow mom friends or a therapist first. Sometimes it’s helpful to air out your thoughts with another trusted person in your life.
Make time for the two of you.
Everyone says this, but it is so important. Having a baby is all consuming and making time to prioritize your relationship will help you both be better parents and enjoy time with your baby even more.
Make time for yourself.
Try to etch out some time each day for yourself. It is hard with a new baby, but even just 20 minutes to take a walk, nap, bath, read, meditate, or do yoga without another little human on top of you is so helpful.
Discuss household/baby duties pre-baby.
Having a plan for keeping up with household chores and taking on parenting duties prior to the babies arrival is key. Once baby comes you will both be sleep deprived and overwhelmed with your new life. It has been so helpful for both my husband and myself to know that certain things will be done and we don’t have to discuss it or fight about it. Everyone has a different way of making things work. Here are a few things that worked for us: while I’m nursing, my husband will make dinner, coffee, etc. He will also do the nighttime diaper changes and bring our son to me in bed. We tackle laundry and household chores together. Communication is key.
Limit social media.
Easier said than done… but honestly social media is such a trigger and being a new parent is such a vulnerable place to be. It can be easy to scroll mindlessly while feeding your baby, but this can also make you feel icky. Believe me I still struggle with this! I have found that reading, meditating, or listening to a podcast or audible instead makes me feel so much better during these times.
Embrace the small magical moments.
There is one thing little babes do better than anyone else. They are truly in the moment. Whether that moment is exploding from a diaper or gazing into your eyes with the most love you have ever felt in your life. The chest to chest tenderness with their warm little bodies and froggy legs balled up against you are just pure magic. Soak it up and let those moments fuel you for the hard ones.
Willis is 8 months now and we have adapted to our new normal. I still have nostalgic moments where I miss the freedom of the past, but I wouldn’t Change it for the world. There are moments when I wonder if I will ever be this happy again in my life and there are moments when I feel like I am going to go completely insane. And That’s okay. I am learning from willy to live in the moment because time is truly flying by and I just don’t want to miss a second of it.
I was thrown into motherhood 6 months after marriage, after making the huge change from moving from NYC to RI. It wasn’t planned, and I spent the first few months of pregnancy really grieving that I didn’t get more one on one time with my husband. It helped to acknowledge those feelings for sure. Once he was here, I did slowly start to realize that this experience is growing me as a person. I’m not just raising a child, but they are teaching me about living in the present, how fleeting time really is, celebrating the small victories.
Wow, that is a lot to take on all at once Barbara! It’s amazing how much these little ones teach us. Enjoy those small victories for sure!
I’m not a parent yet, but my husband and I are working our way to that point in our lives. Everything that you’ve written about may be one of the things that terrifies me the most. I’m enjoying this ‘pre-kids’ part of our lives so much that I worry about how I’m going to feel about my life once we start the ‘kids’ piece. We both want kiddos for sure, but this is definitely on my mind. Thank you for sharing!
Taking that leap is totally terrifying and overwhelming but also so amazing! Just know that whatever you decide and whenever you feel ready, it will all come together! It can feel like a lot at times, but it comes in waves and you tackle each new challenge while also enjoying those beautiful moments. One day at a time! Good luck with journey ahead!
I feel the exact same as you! Thank you for sharing 🙂
Thank you for sharing, Aryn. It is such a tough yet beautiful transition. It’s nice to know we are not alone in all those feelings!
Transitioning to Motherhood was a huge challenge for me. The lack of sleep really took a toll on my mental health. What truly helped me the most was being able to recognize this and ask for help. The anxiety I experienced at times was crippling and the lack of sleep highlighted this. I hired a sleep consultant and it was the best money I ever spent. I continued meeting with a therapist and was lucky to have my husband and friends to open up to. Don’t keep your feelings inside, share them with others and ask for help!
The sleep deprivation is so real!!! There is no way to prepare for that. I’m so glad you asked for help to get you through this rough time. I hope you can continue to take care of yourself and enjoy those moments with your little one too.
WOW!!! Everything you said couldn’t have been more true. Love this and can’t wait to read more.
Thank you, Whitney! I’m excited to share more as well 🙂
(I commented on the IG story out of habit, but I’m trying to break that habit!!) There are several seasons of grieving as a mother. I felt the loss of freedom hard when I was 31 with a toddler and newborn. I’m 49 and spent the past 4 months grieving the loss of those time suckers as the second left for college. It’s starting to fade a bit and I like the quiet and freedom. I had other blips of grief in between too, for other losses as they grew up. Motherhood is a freaking rollercoaster!
Oh my goodness, I can’t even imagine the grief of sending those once newborns off to college. This is such an important insight. We grieve our pre-baby lives and then we grieve losing those babies when they are old enough to go out into the world on their own. Such a nice reminder to cherish the moments we have with them now. Such a rollercoaster! I feel like I am just starting my ride and there are lots of ups and downs ahead.
Really enjoyed this article. Due with our first in a couple weeks, and I have struggled with the whiplash of pure joy and excitement for our little one and (pre)grieving this time just the two of us with our furbabes. These are super helpful tips, thank you!
I can totally relate, Alexa! Everyone says, “enjoy the peace and quiet now” and that puts so much pressure on things. One day at a time. So excited for you to meet that little baby soon and know that you will still have special time with your partner and furbabies too!
When my daughter was like 4 months, summer of 2020 no less, I took her to the beach and must have looked frazzled and this mother out of no where came up to me and said, ” you know it’s gets easier. At about 2 or 3 years it gets easier.” And I think it really does. Just a month ago or so I finally went out with my BFF and our kids to a restaurant that was fun and had fun cocktails and tolerated rambunctious kids, and I realized while I need alone time and partner time, I also need normal time with my kid where we both can enjoy things together. I think COVID made it hard for that, but I’m trying to find things that truly make BOTH of us happy and fufilled.
Good for you for modeling for you children how important it is to get out with friends and enjoy yourself! It is so important for kids to see their parents take care of themselves and have fun moments like this together. Cocktails sound fun too!
Our first son came after a very long labor. I did not cry at his birth because I was too tired (although I had cried when my nieces and nephews were born). After a terrible experience with the night shift staff, I got home and eventually discovered I had postpartum hemorrhaging. I was trying to nurse, and was so overwhelmed. My husband returned to work within a week of the birth with no family close by. I was anemic, so exhausted, sleep deprived, and lost. I remember being in a daze in a daze and people were constantly smiling and telling me to “enjoy every minute.” I reconciled right then and there that was bullshit. I was not enjoying every minute. This was really hard with no relief in sight, and that did not make me ungrateful. I had to tell myself that I had to keep the mom shaming at bay because I was already vulnerable. I had to decide what to discard and what was going to get my attention because I was stretched so thin. My sons are 5 and 7 now, but I will always take that raw, new mother experience with me and channel it to be a support to other mothers. I hope to be a badass mother in law and grandmother some day.
Labor is truly traumatic and being thrown into motherhood right after that is just insane. Thank you so much for taking your own experiences in order to help other mamas. The “enjoy every minute” line creates so much pressure for moms to always be happy and that is just not a reality. I can tell you are going to be the very best MIL and grandma some day!
Beautifully written! This feeling is why I chose not to become a mother. I don’t think one is better than the other but didn’t think I would be able to overcome that grief. I became a stepmother at 21 so already understood a lot of the sacrifices of motherhood (and made many of them myself, even as a step) and just knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with it. I admire the amazing women who do become mothers in any way, as it is a huge amount of work and self-sacrifice, though I don’t doubt for a second that it is worth it!!
Thank you, Laura! It is such a sacrifice as I’m sure being a step mother is as well! It’s pretty amazing being able to help guide these little ones through life.
Wonderfully written and all so true! We give up our bodies and social lives in order to raise these precious humans. It is so rewarding and I wouldnt change it for the world but I do miss the freedoms of life before. I’m lucky to have some amazing mamas going through these changes alongside me! The pandemic has shown that we may not be able to be with each other in person. But the constant checking in texts can help us get through the sleepless nights, illnesses, and all the other worries us moms share! <3
Thanks miss! So so grateful to have you and all of our mama friends to check in and help each other along on this crazy ride! Xo
Everything that you mentioned couldn’t have been any more accurate, and it was all spot on. I am really enjoying this, and I can’t wait to continue reading.