Lost + Found: On Motherhood & Identity

I’ve been sitting on this post for a looooong time. Every time I wrote a draft of this it was the most rambling, disjointed thing I’d ever written so I kept scrapping each new edit, but then I realized…I don’t think there’s a way to write about the identity crisis that becoming a mum can trigger in a really simple, streamlined, easy-to-digest way. I think that much like the experience itself, this post has to kind of ramble on, delving into all the moments of elation and beauty and love and realization, but also the dips and dives and moments/experiences that can really, really challenge you, along with shifting priorities or energy. I’ve felt a bit creatively blocked lately, and you may have noticed I’m a bit quieter on all my channels. I honestly think it’s because I’ve been sitting on this post and needed to just hit publish, and that while I have so much other content I’m eager to share that’s more in line with my usual content (and some new projects that I’ve actually been thinking about for years and that are actually coming together now), this is something I need to get off my chest, out of my mind and into the world just to move forward authentically first.

Because really, so, so much has changed for me, not only because I became a mum, but because I became a mum during a pandemic. And I was a travel blogger too, so really a huge upheaval there work-wise with COVID. I know so many of us who work (or, worked) in the travel industry have been feeling a bit untethered because while some things have opened up, there still isn’t a 100% safe way to travel right now, and it’s just a key part of both my identity and my work that still is in major flux. I could go on for a long time, but basically, it just feels like so much has changed in so many amazing and hard ways, and I’m still waiting for the pieces to settle around me.

Anyway, there’s a term for all of this…it’s called matrescence and it describes the fundamental ways we change when we become mothers. Physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. I really believe this affects all women who make that transition, some more than others obviously, but there is just a huge shift that happens that does fundamentally change who you are. And of course, becoming a mum not only means that things shift for you priority-wise, but you also are just so limited energetically and with time. It’s funny because if I’m being honest, prior to becoming a mum I’d almost get a mild jab of irritation when I’d hear mums talk about this being the hardest job in the world and having no time to themselves, mostly because I wanted to become a mum and it made it sound so, so hard! And it was an experience I wanted to only be excited about, as naive as that might sound. But the truth is, it being the hardest job is all very accurate…of course, you have a little one that you think is the most perfect creation in the world and who you think the sun rises and sets on, so you don’t even have to question if it’s worth it. It just is. But in a very practical sense, you’re going through this big shift in every way but you also just don’t have the time/energy to reflect on things properly, or at least I haven’t, so both the good and the hard parts can sometimes feel overwhelming because you’re not able to sit with those emotions like you ordinarily would and make sense of them.

That’s why I titled this post “Lost + Found,” because in so many ways you find yourself as a mum, but you also lose parts of yourself, or at the very least you feel disconnected from things that you may either be clinging to from your former life that you may need to release, or from things that actually would really serve you well to integrate more consistently but that you feel like you don’t have the time or energy for.

I was saying to my mum recently that whether you believe in messages from the universe or not, something energetically for me has shifted in very clear ways. It’s like the universe is giving me clear green lights in parts of my life that I just didn’t think I was ready for or wouldn’t have considered (a lot of things project-wise that I kind of always thought “one day, I’ll do x y z,” and now I’m realizing that day is now & I want to move forward with some long-held dreams), while in other areas of life that have been really consistent or longstanding up until now, I’m getting really weird stagnant energy, and what feels like pretty clear red lights to stop or at the very least pivot when it comes to my strategy.

I mean, the stagnant parts to me are fairly evident. The biggest thing I’ve struggled with as I mentioned above was just the upheaval to my career. The week I found out I was pregnant was the same week we got our first case of COVID here in BC. My whole life upended in so many different ways in such a short time. As a travel blogger, my work came to a screeching halt…trips were cancelled, clients were putting campaigns on hold, etc. I really felt such a deep purpose in the work I did, whether it was getting messages from you guys on my travel itineraries, sending me notes after trips saying how much my travel tips helped, etc. I worked and travelled in an unsustainable way because I always knew that when I had a kid, I’d have to level down a bit, but obviously didn’t anticipate things coming to a total stop because of a global pandemic (I mean…who could’ve guessed that?)…I was actually just excited to start sharing family travel and travel with baby, and to that end, will be doing as much as I can given that we’re still a bit limited travel-wise here in Canada. But back to pre-COVID, in all honesty I was kind of burning myself out at times, but it’s because I was literally living my dream and wanting to just do it to the fullest while I could. So my career, my trips, my partnerships, everything came to a breathtaking stop right when I also found out I was going to have the most life-changing experience of all…becoming a mum for the first time. It was…a lot.

As we’ve adjusted to this new normal with COVID though and I’ve found my footing more and more as a mum, another thing happened that really surprised me. I recently was doing a little audit of my site and saw that every post had been motherhood-related or something to do with being a mama and the weirdest thing happened…I just felt this big N-O emotional response. I love being Cal’s mum. Obviously there are hard days and hard moments, but I am obsessed and in love with this baby and being his mum is the best part of my life. But while I love a ton of mommy bloggers and while I do want to share parts of the motherhood journey (like this post) and will continue to do so, it was a big (and kind of shitty, actually) realization that doing the mommy content didn’t feel like it resonated with me. Because honestly, that’s my life right now! It would be amazing to feel like I could make a really authentic and full transition into the mommy blogging sphere, mostly because that is literally my day-to-day right now but also because it’s a fairly lucrative industry. And again, this is my day-to-day…I’m still not able to travel, there are many days where I haven’t even brushed my teeth by noon, time for myself is sporadic and patchy at best…my life is Cal right now. I don’t know if it’s just that creatively, I feel more of a pull to share other content still or if it’s something to do with a comfort level I’m still trying to find about sharing Callum himself in my content, but I can’t in good conscience dive head first into mommy content, and that has me feeling kind of stuck (because again, that’s literally what I do all day).

Throughout my pregnancy, babyhood and ongoing now, I’m just pivoting with these weird and changing times and trying to find what resonates with me most in this new chapter, and it’s been both disheartening and encouraging to see the things that feel like they’re stuck, and the things that all of a sudden seem a-go. But even in discovering some of these positive new insights, going through an upheaval and a questioning period like that makes you feel inevitably a bit lost, particularly since career-wise, I’d always had very clear direction and goals before. 

I also am still feeling a bit lost when I look in the mirror…I just don’t recognize the girl looking back at me some days. I’ll have little scratch marks all over my face (because sometimes when I snuggle Cal, he likes to stroke my face lovingly [but his little nails are like glass]), even though we seem to have figured out a sleep routine that works for us, my dark circles earned during his 6 month regression just aren’t going away (doesn’t help that someone [and it’s not Callum] has developed a snoring habit too, not to throw him under the bus or anything), my last colour job was over a year ago and my “money pieces” (the highlights that frame your face) are literally down around my ears now, my melasma that everyone said would fade away is somehow darker than ever despite me wearing a hat every day to cover it, my makeup game is literally all of 3 minutes long most days, my body 9 months in is still changing and I actually have found this summer to be the most challenging part of postpartum (other than the newborn stage) because it just feels so, so hard to get the time lately to work out or even to eat well because Cal’s in such an insane, busy stage of babyhood (trying to learn to walk now at the ripe age of 9 months, this kid is nuts). If I’m being honest, some days I look at myself and I just feel ugly. I do. It’s such a, well, ugly word, but I sometimes hold Cal up to the mirror (because he loves to look at himself, naturally) and I just see this literal radiant angel next to a haggard wench (aka me) and I’m like…damn. I know that sounds brutal and I’ve given myself many lectures along the lines of “what would you say if you heard a friend talking about herself like that,” but honestly, I think while it’s not a positive emotional response, it’s not uncommon. At the very least, I’m trying to take away the guilt from these emotions because I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong in having a knee-jerk reaction to seeing yourself looking, shall we say, not your very best fairly consistently day in and day out. But I am trying to do a few things (like get my hair done hopefully soon, maybe get a facial, working out regularly, etc) that will help me feel more like me.

Your relationships also shift, for better or worse. I feel much, much closer with a lot of people and for that I’m so grateful, but other relationships have been really challenged, and I think the hardest part about that experience is just that I didn’t anticipate it. It sort of felt out of left field for me and it definitely makes you feel a bit lost out at sea when key relationships that usually anchor you feel like they’re in flux or changing faster than you can keep up with. There are also relationships where I feel like I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the other person now, but nothing will test relationships like a total priority shift in having a baby and it’s interesting to see how it shakes out (and by interesting, I mean sometimes actually a fairly wtf reaction).

But! But…while I feel a bit untethered from parts of who I am right now, I just have found so many parts of myself too. Put simply, I just live for Cal. I look at this beautiful boy with his ocean green eyes, with his perfect little lips and his soft cheeks, and I just don’t know what I did to deserve him. My love for him shocks me, even 9 months in. While I miss parts of me and am also looking forward to one day soon putting more of my time/energy back into some areas of my life, my purpose is Cal now. And even moving forward as he naturally needs less of me and I have more time to put back into other areas of my life, I feel like it will just from now on always feel like everything I do, I do for him. Even the things I do for me (like working out, meditating, etc), while they are indeed for me, will also have the added meaning bestowed to them that I can show up as a happier mama for him. It’s just given a different sense of impact and meaning to everything I do. There’s also this awareness that this is temporary…in 9 months I’ve already seen how much he changes, how much life changes. I have years to reassess other parts of my life, but right now, I have these moments with Callum, these precious moments when he needs me so much, when he wants to be so close to me he literally tucks into a ball so that he can fit into the crook of my neck…I know this won’t last forever and so I’m trying to make space to hold even the uncomfortable confusion of this stage right now, because the one thing that is for sure is that he is the best part of my days and I don’t want to look back on this first year of life and remember the turmoil of the pandemic, the upheavals, the identity crises, etc, but to remember our precious moments together snuggling in bed and seeing his eyes crinkle up with a laugh and the way he strokes my face and holds my cheeks so that he can give me a slow-mo, very wet and toothy kiss.

There’s also parts of me that I’ve found that I wasn’t really aware of or didn’t realize I had the capacity for, if that makes any sense. I’ve always been a devoted person to my friends and family, but the capacity for total and utter devotion to this baby, a total peace and happiness with giving all of me to this baby…I just couldn’t really have anticipated it. I was actually a bit nervous before he was born about how I would cope with having less time for myself, not being able to sleep as much, etc, and while it has been hard in some ways (I really need sleep, I can’t cut a few hours), I just am pretty amazed actually with how just automatically I attend to him and am, like, happy to do it. Even when I’m really tired or drained. And it’s not just out of duty to him as his mama, but out of this unending, bottomless well of love…I feel like there’s just this level of unconditional love that I have for him that I won’t ever be able to describe, and it’s just this automatic reflex to be there in whatever way he needs me right now.

While I am struggling with some things appearance-wise (like, seriously I feel like I’m Lindsay Lohan trapped in Jamie Lee Curtis’ body in that crypt keeper scene in Freaky Friday some days), I feel like I’ve found a new respect and appreciation for myself, even though I also feel not as great about myself in a lot of ways as detailed above. I’m not the fittest I’ve ever been, but I’ve somehow never felt stronger (both physically and mentally). Whether it’s managing to keep myself together during a teething, regression, walking trifecta or holding a 20+ lb wriggling baby safely while also taking out a 23 lb stroller out (and assembling it), motherhood has tested and grown my strength in so many ways. It’s also just incredible to me to see the resilience of the female body. I carried, pushed and sustained a baby and here I am doing my usual workout, going for a run, literally being a pack mule, getting my 10K steps in. I don’t always feel great about what I accomplish physically or health-wise at the end of the day, but all in all I’m pretty damn proud of me and my body.

I also just have a certain impatience for parts of my life that I held back on, and that impatience is serving me really well actually…kind of a YOLO mentality since having Cal. When I was training for a marathon maybe 6ish years ago or so, I really messed up my back so badly I was on the ground for a month, practically immobile (a good lesson to not go from 2 months of travel to running 15K right away). But prior to that, I had run my entire life, usually doing 3 or 4 runs a week. While I’ve taken it slow and really listened to my body so far, I feel like a combo of always being on a time crunch and realizing just how precious time is combined with the fact that you go through having a baby and realize how strong you are, and I just was like…if I want to run, I’m going to run. And that’s what I’ve done! And it’s been amazing. I had all these nerves tied up with it before, worried about reinjuring myself or telling myself stories about how hard it was on my joints (I have scoliosis so not an unfounded concern, but still…I’d done it for years with no problems). But I’ve had a real fuck it mentality since then and a great pep talk from my mum (also a lifelong runner) and since just doing it and seeing how my body responds to it, not only has it made me so happy, but it feels good for my body to move this way. I’ve totally reconnected with something that I love to do and that was part of who I was as a person (since being active is so tied up with who I am), and if it hadn’t been for having a baby, needing to just hammer out a quick workout and just feeling fed up with any narratives that weren’t serving me anymore, I’m so grateful to be doing it again.

That feeling of impatience or of just not putting up with narratives that were self-limiting anymore (just that general YOLO attitude coming through again) has also helped me get the ball rolling on these dream projects that I just didn’t know how to go about. I feel like for so many years, I was travelling and working so much and the day-to-day of living this awesome career out meant that I had to just focus on it in the present…it was really hard to think about developing new projects or getting anything else off the ground because I was pretty much running at full capacity. While I’m not exactly swimming in time or energy right now (actually, I’m more limited in both than I ever have been), the silver lining of COVID and also of just feeling like my life got flipped a bit upside down in having a baby is that I had to really think: how can I keep pursuing my dreams sustainably? Rather than each post, each campaign, each trip, etc being a hustle, how can I work more effectively so that I can still show up as a mama (being the primary parent during the week) while also not setting aside a career that I’ve worked on for years? 

I’m happy I took some time off to really let some of the pieces settle and to reflect when and where I could , because it’s reconnected me to dreams that have laid dormant for awhile and honestly, to a new chapter in my career that I’m extremely excited about. Just to fill you guys in, that doesn’t mean anything drastically new for TVOB necessarily, other than a few new products (presets, my upcoming print shop, etc) and a more heart-centred approach to content. I’ll be sharing motherhood and baby content for sure, but I’ve recently really reconnected to my love of style (something that was always there, but that I stopped sharing as much of) in the absence of my usual travel-heavy days, and I also am training up for my third half marathon and that’s brought to light a lot of postpartum stuff I have to work on…I’m lucky to be able to run without any major issues, but I definitely still have some pelvic floor strengthening to do and there’s just a general approach to postpartum fitness that you do have to incorporate and I’m really excited to share all of that.

But the projects I’m talking about are actually outside of (if still connected to) TVOB. I’m starting to take on a few very select clients to do branding consultation for, something I’ve been thinking of doing for a long, long time and that really applies my years of communications work (I worked in journalism + communications prior to doing TVOB full-time) as well as my years of working as a content creator. While I’m figuring out where I want to sit with paid campaigns that have to do with Cal and just fulfilling some pre-existing contracts, something about being behind the scenes a bit more and really throwing myself behind some brands that I’ve worked with and really care about resonates so deeply within me and feels like such an amazing use of my experience, skills and passions.

I’ve also reconnected with a long standing dream to put out a physical product, and I wouldn’t have had my lightbulb moment for it (while nursing Cal in bed, which is unexpectedly where I have my best time for reflection and brainstorming) had I not become a mum. It’s not an exclusive mummy product, but it is something that’s designed for the same woman I’ve always written to with TVOB: a woman who’s seeking an empowered life, who wants to live life big (whether that’s travel, career, fitness, etc) but who also holds as values the parts that make life beautiful: family, friendships, mindfulness, nature, connection to herself. This is something I wish I’d had the last 9 months and prior to that, and I’m just right now in the process of doing aaaaall the things I have no experience with in order to get it off the ground, aka sourcing, samples, finding the right production team, investments, etc.

I’ve also found that while so many parts of motherhood have made me question myself, my strength, my resilience, etc, so many parts have made me actually trust myself more than ever. My instincts have not led me astray…recently, we had Cal’s allergist appointment after a couple scary episodes and I was describing to the allergist my “overreaction,” or what I thought was an overreaction…the pure panic and terror I had when Cal got sick the second time, how I rushed us to the hospital immediately, etc. These have been Cal’s only episodes ever of bad health so I told her that I must just be much more reactive as a parent than I thought since I didn’t have any other instances to pull from, and was kind of being self-deprecating about it all. She listened to me patiently and then finally assured me that actually, FPIES (which Cal has been diagnosed with) is a much, much more severe syndrome than I’d anticipated, and that if my instincts had told me this was potentially life-threatening, it’s because it is (and that what I’d described about Cal’s reactions, especially in the second episode, were not just my dramatic interpretations at the time, but actually a very classic FPIES presentation on the more severe scale of the reaction). It was almost unnerving because my instincts at the time were so overwhelming and scary, and it almost would’ve been reassuring in some ways to know that I was just overreacting and that he was actually not really at risk, but no…it was a really important lesson to always, always listen to my intuition when it comes to him and even if people are saying otherwise or people are not taking it seriously (in fact, she gave me a slip to give to any ER staff moving forward so that I get admitted immediately since a lot of the time FPIES is treated as a general food allergy), to act accordingly and advocate for what I feel intuitively is happening. In other words, I’ve found a new level of trust for myself, and one that I need to rely on and listen to because it was bang-on about something extremely critical to the person I love most in the world.

Well, I promised a rambling post, and I think it delivered. I think I’ll leave this all there but daaaaayum, it feels good to just share where I’ve been at! As I mentioned before, I haven’t been quiet because of time constraints…sure, as a mum, I’m going to have less time. But I’ve worked a full-time job before and then worked on a side hustle until midnight every night, I’ve travelled for years and stayed up editing pictures until 3AM, etc. It’s less a question of time (because I have a fairly inexhaustible work ethic when I’m on track with what I care about) and more a question of both alignment and feeling like I just didn’t know how to articulate the chapter I’m in right now. And honestly, I still don’t (because again, rambling) but I think that’s the whole point…just showing up where I’m at.

I’ve always treated TVOB as a virtual diary but somewhere along the way, with it not only becoming my full-time career but also a growing concern about being fully transparent about my experiences for fear of either offending or scaring someone (or just a fear of any backlash, which is something that has actually only mounted for me the longer I’ve done this whole blogging thing), I feel like I wasn’t being as vulnerable or showing up and sharing my life as it was for awhile now. The last 9 months have been the best 9 months of my life, but I’ve also been challenged in ways I’ve never been before and so much of that has been centred around my career, and it just felt weird showing up inauthentically on here when I actually had so many mixed feelings at the time. When you do this as a living, your personal life and your professional life are so intertwined, you either have to kind of share it (not necessarily all, but if you want to show up authentically when sharing your life for a living, you kind of have to share parts), or you have to learn how to compartmentalize better. And I suck at compartmentalization. So this feels good! And with a bit more direction and intention now, I want to continue to show up as I am right now, which is someone who’s day in and day out running after the world’s most active baby, who looks about 5 years older than I did 9 months ago, and who is kind of forcibly disconnected from a part of her career and life that is so integral to her (travel)…but also who’s operating from so much love these days, who has exciting projects in the works in spite of being so, so tired these days, who is starting to become self-connected again in runs, nature, reflection, etc, and who wants to commit to sharing all of these experiences (and the other things I’m finding excite me these days, from style to fitness) in a more transparent way.

Thank you for reading if you made it this far! If you’re a mama, I hope that wherever you are on the scale of kind of getting thrown off or reclaiming your identity, that you know that I’m right there along with you in this confusing, magical, exhausting and beautiful journey. 

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