Friday, 24 August 2012

The onion of identity

Cheesy title i know. It seems that one of my continual 'issues' is that of identity. Who am i? Do i like who i am? Am i being honest with myself or am i trying to be someone else who i think is more acceptable or loveable? Who do the people around me think i am? What do i want them to think?

Before i became a mum my identity was really wrapped up in my job as a high school teacher. I knew the kind of teacher i wanted to be. But i also wanted my colleagues and students to see me a certain way. I wanted to be the hardworking, creative and forward thinking teacher who was up with the latest ideas and had great relationships with her students. In other words, i wanted to be my version of the perfect educator. I did a great job, but also needed to take stress leave and ended up burning out.

As my identity in my work disintegrated, my focus shifted to my biological clock. I had always wanted children and impatiently waited till our situation allowed us to start our family. If you have read my blog for a while you will know that we lost our first child when i was 17 weeks pregnant.

The loss of our baby left me lost. I didn't feel like i was a mother because the grief of the death of a child no-one had ever met seemed as if it had no real acknowledgment. It felt so awful that i just wanted to move on. So i pretended i was fine. But i wasn't. I tried changing jobs but my heart wasn't in it. I had moved on to motherhood in my identity but my nest was empty.

When u got pregnant again a year later i was over joyed and felt all my struggles were over. I could be a mum and know who i was. Well i was very wrong.

Being a mum is the hardest thing i have ever done. It has challenged me in all my most sensitive areas, if you know what i mean. Got an insecurity, an unresolved issue, unrealistic expectation? Parenting will make sure you know about it. And for me, the depression and anxiety i had wrestled with for years, threatened to overwhelm me.

But it hasn't and through the last 3 years i have grown and changed and been the most happy i have been since i was little.

My identity as s mother has grown and i have felt sure of my values as a mum and how i do things. When we finally got the courage to have another child, i said to myself and others that i was looking forward to just getting on with it when the baby arrived and bot having to think it all through from scratch. You know, all the parenting choices such as how you feed your baby, where will they sleep, starting solids, discipline and the list goes on.

I planned the pregnancy and birth carefully to avoid a relapse of depression and have had awesome support from my hubby and family, midwife, therapist and doula. The pregnancy was really difficult but i got through it without depression taking hold. But plans don't mean you have control.

The birth went well and even though i had hoped to deliver at home, i was very grateful and happy when George was born with help of a ventouse in hospital. I then thought we could just get on with it and enjoy our new addition. I would do all the things i believed in; breastfeed to at least 2, co-sleep, discipline gently, babyled weaning etc.

George had other ideas. He couldn't breastfeed. We decided, after trying lots of options, to bottle feed and use formula. It was the right decision for us. But i wasn't prepared for how much just changing how i feed George had formed my identity as a mum.

I have been big supporter of breastfeeding and fed Ella till she was 27 months. I realised i had worn this as a badge of pride. When i was in the depths of depression and Ella was only a few weeks old, being able to breastfeed her was the only thing which made me feel like a good mother. This was at a time when i believed she would be better off without me.

And here i am now. Feeling good and loving life, but not breastfeeding. So who am i as a mother? Well obviously my identity as a mum is something deeper. It  isn't my practices as a parent. As i look at both my children i know, probably for the first time, that i am a mother because i love my kids with all of me and even that seems to small.

I love the child i never met and was a mother the moment she or he was concieved. Ella is a joy to know and a delight and George is my beautiful wee man.

None of us are what we do. Putting energy into doing i the hope you can create a sense of self is at best pointless. Instead our love for our family and friends and those who love us are what define who we are.

I hope i can teach this to my kids and hold onto it myself.

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