Alexandra Hunter on matrescence - the birth of a mama
Being a mother is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done; the hardest and most challenging, yes, but equally the most fulfilling and incredible. However, I had no idea of the impact a baby would have on the person I had been for the previous 33 years. Actually, I don’t think I could have imagined it even if someone had tried to explain it me – in much the same way as it’s impossible to imagine how tired a small person can make you, before you’ve experienced it.
When a first child is born, a mother is born. The transition from being the person you have always been to being a mother is an overnight (literally), dramatic and irreversible change in any woman. For the first few months I mourned my former self, and I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. I’ve talked about it with my wonderful mum friends a lot. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy, but the scale of the change was somewhat unexpected.
Before you have a child you run to your own schedule – which in the main, you have adapted to work for you. You can sleep until whatever time you want, linger over meals in restaurants, pop in for a manicure on a whim or stay up stupidly late reading in bed. You can be selfish, and when you have a baby you have to become selfless. For me, that transition was tough.
The impact of having my little boy hit me on multiple levels. I didn’t know I would look five months pregnant for a long time after giving birth (I wish I’d known that) and so couldn’t wear my normal clothes. This sounds silly, perhaps, but the way you dress is part of your identity. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a novel for about eight months after giving birth, having always been a voracious reader. I couldn’t pop out for a coffee or anywhere else easily; just getting out of the house seemed a monumental achievement. My freedom had been curtailed. I couldn’t drive post C-section and I couldn’t have that glass of wine because I was trying to breastfeed. I loved my job and I missed being good at something, knowing that at work I could fix problems; with a tiny baby, I sometimes had no idea how to do so. There were, of course, tremendously positive changes too: the love. The love is almost too much and it just keeps coming. I didn’t know I could love so fiercely, completely and unconditionally.
It took me about a year to feel any similarity to my former self. I’m not the person I was before I had Sebby and I know I never will be. I am so happy and grateful to be a mother, it’s a tremendous privilege, but adapting was hard. I felt like I’d shed a skin and was vulnerable during that transition – but I’ve developed a new, stronger one as a result. As a single mama I worked out recently that I now won’t have a lie-in until December. But I wouldn’t change that for the world.