We just hit the 3.5 year mark in our marriage. While not a milestone by any means — people’s relationships with their toasters have lasted longer — it’s outlasted say, 3 out of 4 Kardashians, so… that’s something. People say the first year is the hardest but I didn’t find that to be true. It was after having a kid that things got weird AF.
I love you… who are you??
First off, I just didn’t feel like myself. Maybe you can relate. During my pregnancy, I felt great. I was very lucky to have a relatively easy 9mos and although I felt big, I embraced it and knew it wasn’t forever. I was different, but momentarily. Even after giving birth, I wasn’t fixated on getting back into my jeans – all things in due time- but I did fool myself into thinking I would just suddenly “feel” like my old self again. Like pop a kid out and wham– hello sex drive, you cheeky old friend!
Instead it was more….Bueller? Bueller?
First off, any post pardum recovery that includes hemmhroids has to be proof that God is a man. 😂
But all kidding aside, and more to the point, it just took me a long time to get my groove back. Even after I fully healed, started sleeping, finished breast feeding and my body was no longer odd shapes and in various states of chafing and leaking, my inside didn’t reflect the way I looked on the outside.
I felt… how best to describe this… matronly. I could get into some skinny jeans but just kind of wanted to wear sweats. That sexy low cut top I used to love? It didn’t look the same and I didn’t feel like the same person. Quite frankly… I just didn’t want to be “seen” at all, by anyone, including my husband.
All the qualities that had attracted my husband to me in the first place – my spontaneity, my boundless energy – seemed to be buried under piles of laundry and insurance papers and baby schedules. We felt different. We were different. We no longer bounced out of the house on a Friday to go see a band or play trivia at the local dive bar. We could… but man we were tired by the time Friday rolled around. And more than that, the inevitable 5am wake up took all the fun out of that idea. So we would sit and watch TV until one of us fell asleep and trudge up to bed to do it all over again. In hindsight, probably not the best way to try to connect to each other.
I went back to work full time when she was around 7 months old and that started to normalize things a bit for me in the self department. I started to get that sense of who I was before having a child back again, which was really fulfilling but now also tinged with a lot of guilt. We as mothers have a hard time with that self/child balance. If it feels good for us is it selfish? And how long is too long to be away from her? And am I royally screwing up as a mom because I left her this morning before she was up and didn’t get home until she was asleep? Ugh, that’s the worst really. Watching over your sleeping kid like a stalker, having FOMO for all the things you didn’t see all day and wondering if she missed you as much as you missed her. And then basically reexamining every decision you’ve ever made in going back to do the thing you love professionally.
There’s no right answer to any of this, BTW, so if you think I’m going to get to some golden nugget of Oprah wisdom you can stop reading this stream of consciousness because I’m literally trying to figure it out as I write this.
What I do know is that the self-conscious, matronly feelings faded with time. I think having a piece of my own life back helped in the self-esteem department. I also think hormone shifts have a lot to do with it. Weirdly enough, I’m 6.5 months pregnant now and feeling more present in my body than I have since before I was pregnant with Georgia. Even waddling around and groaning up the stairs, as it is.
I’m grateful for having a partner that stuck through the valleys, that talked to me about it before it turned into resentments. I also think marriage or partnership is a choice every day. We choose to make it better, to work on it, to be vulnerable, to give in. Sometimes we just have to give in. Whether it’s the argument that’s honestly just not worth it, or the self-consciousness surrounding sex, or the decision to turn off the TV and look at your person and say, “hey, I know you’re tired and I’m tired but let’s do something else for 30 minutes instead” and pick up a dorky board game or go sit outside and listen to music. It’s work and it doesn’t happen by itself and I’ve realized, you can’t blame your partner for “your stuff”. I can sure try and find a million reasons why it can’t possibly be me (because I’m real good at that) but if I’m being brutally honest, my feelings about myself post-baby affected a lot of my behavior that I rationalized to be about other things, because I didn’t really understand what I was feeling and I was also embarrassed to be feeling it. Like what was wrong with me?
Nothing was “wrong”. I had a baby and it changed my life in major ways and my everything else was just trying to survive and play catch up to this new life that had no real manual for how to adjust for it, mentally, physically and emotionally.
You’re so cute I could eat you.
I think we should agree to stop that weird loop and give ourselves permission not to be 100 all the time. Not to put up a pretense, or feel we have to project the best versions of ourselves, whether publicly or with our partners. I’ve gotten better about asking for help. Sometimes from a trusted therapist, sometimes from a trustworthy friend.
There’s no shame in this mom game and whatever you feel, just know you’re not alone. I too, have looked at my armpits and truly wondered how long ago it was that I shaved and had zero clue. We may not feel like we used to, we may not look like we used to, but we’re also not the same women we used to be. We’ve created humans for the love of god, we should be different. And I for one, am choosing to embrace it.
Do these glasses make me look smart?
please say yes.