Mindset shifts of a new mom: Enormous responsibility

For the first two weeks after William was born, I had a similar dream every night: I was out and about, flying over mountains and slaying dragons, as one does in dreams, and then a wave of panic hit me, “Where’s the baby? Who’s taking care of him? Is he okay?”

A huge change had occurred. While being pregnant, I didn’t have to do much to take care of the baby. Then, when he came out of my body and became his own little being, I had to take care of him ALL. THE. TIME. And his father and I were responsible for everything that happened to him. That’s an enormous change to get used to.

I referred to this adjustment as “brain rewiring.” My brain had to make new connections in order to represent this new way of life and this new responsibility. Therefore, I tried to cut myself some slack and give myself time to adjust. If I was feeling overwhelmed, I’d just say, “It’s okay, my brain is rewiring,” which acknowledged the fact that I needed time to adjust to this momentous change and gave me some space in the here and now. At this time, I found this TED talk about matrescence extremely helpful because it normalized my experience.

During the first two weeks after William’s birth, I felt many new, very powerful emotions. In the evening, after a day of caring for our baby, Jacob and I would curl up on the couch together with the sleeping William on Jacob’s chest. This simple sight brought me to tears when I thought, “We’re a family now. We’ve made a new person! He’ll be our child forever, and we’ll be his parents forever.” This simple realization was sweet, scary, and overwhelming in its enormity.

I also experienced a lot of “split mind” (the phenomenon is discussed in the book What No One Tells You). Even when I was doing something else, a part of me was thinking about the baby, wondering what he was up to and how he was doing. I experienced this every time I went to the gym and left Jacob and William at home as well as when I went out with friends (it turns out it’s possible to be having fun with my friends and at the same be thinking about my baby). When I started working again, I thought about William throughout my work day, wondering what they were doing at daycare.

I was almost surprised but also very relieved to see that other people can take care of William just as well as I do, and that he’s happy when they do. That made my responsibility a little easier to carry and gave me breathing room. After all, raising a child does take a village.

Photo credit: Janina Pietersen