When I got pregnant with the Little Man I was fully expecting, being the woefully realistic ray of sunshine that I am, horrific stretch marks, extreme tiredness and someone I didn’t know scooping up bits of my own poo while a small person ejected itself from my nether regions. Those things, whilst not exactly a barrel of laughs, did not, at least, take me by surprise.
But what I wasn’t expecting was the complete loss of identity becoming a mother would make me feel. I’d always thought of having children as being this life-enriching, happiness-creating, overwhelmingly joyful thing. And it is, of course it is. Well, sometimes it is. Because what I underestimated was all the things that having children would take away from my life. And I don’t just mean all hope of ever getting a flat stomach back or going on a trampoline without pissing myself.
My spontaneity, my social life, my financial independence, my ability to remember people’s names. And in so many more ways than just the obvious. A quiet, creeping assault on who I was before. Two of the biggest things for me have been my wardrobe (or lack of it) and a social life which now revolves around how many episodes of The West Wing we can watch in a row without falling asleep.
I realised early on that I wasn’t a big fan of breastfeeding under scarves with my top down and a massive burger-nippled boob out. I felt exposed and self-conscious, and so I opted for the more discreet and less anxiety-inducing, jeans and jumper scenario. But I’ve always been a girly girl. I used to live in dresses which are completely impossible when you’re breastfeeding and don’t want to use a shawl or just slam a boob out (mine definitely slam, it’s like dropping ham from a great height). And when your milk-filled noughts are now swinging around your waistline (and you’ve never had very strong arms), then frankly just lifting a jumper is easier for everyone.
I also loved a heel but when you have an insane toddler you’re constantly running after as they peg it in the direction of the A23, and a back fairly ruined from growing massive babies, then chucking one of those on isn’t so easy either. Don’t get me wrong, pre-babies I was no fashionista, but I did at least regularly wear socks that matched. Now my old wardrobe has become redundant, not that most stuff probably fits me anymore anyway (it’s all ribcage expansion you understand), and I don’t have the cash (or the shopping time) to just replace it. For all but 5 months of the last 4 years I have been pregnant or breastfeeding (and still am, DRINK THE BLOODY COW’S MILK CHILD), I have been dressing, every day, in clothes that aren’t really ‘me’.
So it’s not just that looking in the mirror with my kit off is like looking at someone else, I don’t recognise the clothed person either. The jeans and jumpers and flat shoes. The lack of cleavage. The lack of colour.
I also really miss going out with friends. When you’re the party planner, the social butterfly, the bad influence, and have to stop being that because you’re exhausted, or pregnant, or broke, I think a little part of my soul died! That’s wildly dramatic of course, but when seeing people and getting dressed up and eating out is basically what you do for fun, take that away and what is left? Necking a bottle of wine in vomit-covered pjs on your own in the kitchen on a Friday because it’s been another really hard week of mothering isn’t quite the same.
And I just never really was a knitter, or a yoga person or a stamp collector. I don’t have those helpfully solitary indoor activities to fall back on while I’m sat tearing my (probably unwashed) hair out with cabin fever or a serious case of FOMO.
I want to bring my children up with strong senses of themselves, and recently I realised that, at the moment, I have no idea who I am anymore. Me, the person outside of the mothership scenario, has been eroded by bad underwear, cash-sapping childcare and a sense of humour battered by trying to find the funny in 4 straight hours of Paw Patrol.
These are all first world problems, obviously. And this is the bit where I have to say how much I love my children. Because I do. But one day they’ll be going off to university or getting their own place to live, and what will be left of me?
So the other day, Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, I bought a beautiful (faux) fur coat in the sales because I’ve always wanted one and it makes me feel fabulous (if we gloss over the day the Little Man wiped dog diarrhoea all over me and it, seriously), even if Mr Husband thinks I’ve lost my mind. And I bought some gel effect nail varnish which is pretty rubbish actually but is shiny shiny and makes me look a bit more like I have my shit together. Which makes me feel a bit more like I have my shit together.
And the other stuff I’m just going to have to figure out as I go along, but this is the year I’m taking me back, one slightly-too-bright-for-my-face red lipstick at a time.
Written by Christina Pickworth.