FFHQ Pregnancy Expert and Midwife Avril Flynn discusses how to rediscover your identity after birth.
In January every year, we are bombarded with lots of the ‘new year new you’ stuff flying about the place.
Every other Facebook post, as well as newspapers and magazines, are filled with reams of advice on how to re-invent yourself.
However, I don’t think the turning of a New Year is the thing that can shake your own self-identity to the core, but rather when your baby is born, and suddenly you become a parent. Other than perhaps puberty, parenthood represents the most dramatic identity shift: from the person you are before your baby arrives, to this new parson you become afterwards.
Everything you feel, every decision you make, every relationship that you have is now done through the prism of being a mum or dad.
Yes, I was now a mum, but it was still really important to find and get to know the new “me”. With that in mind, I wanted to give parents a few pointers to help them rediscover their own identity. Being a parent is of course very important, but finding your own personal equilibrium is also essential for your health and well-being.
Accept that things (and your identity) are different.
Accepting your life has utterly changed, can be a big shock. Even if your baby is much wanted, planned and thought of during pregnancy, suddenly finding this new ‘self’, in the midst of getting to grips with a new baby, can be really tough.
For me personally, I spent a good few months trying to pretend to myself that the old “me” and the new “me” were the same person. I had the ultimate FOMO (Fear of missing out) and felt terrified that because I couldn’t go out, socialise or have the time that I used to have for friends and family that they would abandon the new me and I’d be left for dust!
It took me ages to actually accept that things and ‘me’ were different - and that was ok. Relationships did change, but the people who you love and love you will always be there. Understanding that you don’t have to pretend that nothing has changed at all is so important.
I now love my new identity; I feel I’ve been able to marry the best bits of "old Avril" with "mum Avril" and I like the person I’ve become. But allow yourself the time and space to figure this out on your own terms. The people that matter will have your back regardless.
Ask for help.
Rome was not built in a day and finding your feet as a parent takes time, patience and help. In the process of all of this, it’s easy to forget that’s it’s not just as a parent we need a helping hand from others, but to ensure that you also ask for help for just you. Other parents who have been there understand what a confusing time it can be and can be a brilliant support for you.
Joining a mum or parent and baby group can be great but for yourself. Also, think of other ways to help with your new self-identity and growth: maybe think about joining something that is just for you and you alone; something that takes you away from being a mum or dad. It could be a book club, a running club, a cycling club a drawing or art class or just making sure you schedule and prioritise a few hours for just you in your diary.
Me time and self-care.
If you are more introverted and joining some sort of a club or class gives you shivers, then fear not- a great way to help you find yourself is discovering what self-care and ‘you time’ means to you.
It might be getting away and into nature by walking or going somewhere by yourself to read or contemplate. For me, an essential part of my self-discovery was understanding that part of my self-care routine was not about going for a massage or doing a yoga class but was about getting undisturbed sleep and time away from my baby.
Practising daily meditation and gratitude were things that I dipped in and out of before becoming a mum- they are now essential to my well-being and are prioritized above all things. The self-care interests you had before you became a parent, might now be totally different- and that’s ok. Change is inevitable and can be amazing. So, embrace it but make it your own and give yourself plenty of time and space to figure it out.
By allowing myself the time to discover my new self, I was able to positively welcome ALL the changes, good and bad, and I’ve grown so much from the experience.
I want all other parents to be able to say and feel the same. So, you do what’s good for you! And let the rest just happen.