“This is not normal. I am not OK,” I sobbed into the phone in that heaving, full-body-cry kind of a way. My best friend, Mer, had called to check on me the day after I came home from the hospital with my daughter. An obstetrician, she had delivered my daughter herself a few days earlier.
With my best friend at the helm, I couldn’t have asked for a more supported birth. In the days that followed in the hospital, however, I spent most of my time feeling completely overwhelmed. The transition to motherhood was more radical than I had expected. When I returned from the hospital, I walked into the same house I had left just a few days before but everything felt different. Suddenly, with my daughter in tow, when I stepped into the house I had stepped into a completely new life.
Three years and two kids later, I can’t imagine my life without my kids, nor would I want to. I was right that day: my life is different now and the road to “recognizing myself” post-baby was bumpy (to say the least).
Here are five things I did to smooth out the bumps and recognize myself again, post-motherhood:
1. I went to therapy.
I had my daughter on a Monday, came home from the hospital on a Wednesday, and was sitting with my therapist in his office on Friday at 3pm. People talk about “baby blues,” but I couldn’t calm down. I’m not ashamed to say I had postpartum depression and anxiety. Having support from a trained professional made a monumental impact on getting to a place where I could feel like myself again.
2. I found new ways to enjoy old hobbies.
There are few things I enjoy more than reading. Unfortunately, feedings and endless loads of newborn laundry weren’t exactly conducive to curling up on the couch with a great book. Listening to a great book, however, was perfect for my new routine. Audiobooks didn’t just help me pass the time and work my way through my reading wish list. Discovering I actually had even more time to pursue one of my favorite hobbies was a lifeline in reconciling my “old life” with my new one.
3. I cultivated new hobbies, too.
When my daughter was 7 weeks old I found myself with 2 hours of unexpected childcare on a random Tuesday afternoon. On a whim, I signed up for a barre class not even really knowing what it was. All I knew was that it was 15 minutes from my house, I wanted to get a workout in and that the class fit my time frame perfectly. I spontaneously tried something new and I absolutely loved it. So much about my life had changed with motherhood and discovering something new on my own terms was exactly what I needed.
4. I invested in community.
Being at home with a newborn can be isolating and I quickly realized I was happier when I spent time with other people. I made a plan to leave the house everyday and connect with other adults: I met friends near their office for coffee or lunch, I signed up for mommy-and-me groups and when all else failed I talked to strangers (usually other women sitting with strollers in coffee shops or at the park). I couldn’t have imagined how important the relationships I built with those new friends during this time would be. The more I relied on that community and talked to other women, the more I realized: adjusting to motherhood is challenging for just about everyone and you’re usually not the only mom having a hard day.
5. I went back to work… and I crushed it.
I was nervous and emotional about the transition back to work, who isn’t? Getting settled into working-mom-life was a transition, just like becoming a mother had been 5 months before. Like so many women I know, I went back to work just when I was really getting the hang of this whole “mom thing.” Three weeks after I returned to work I led a meeting, presenting to a room full of 25 people. Standing in front of the room to unveil a new initiative I truly felt like “me” again. The initiative launched and was a smashing success. Kicking butt, taking names and changing diapers didn’t just make me feel like my old self — it made me feel like the best version of my new self.
I don’t only recognize myself 3+ years in, I recognize the growth that has made me a better version of my old self. Still passionate about the things I loved before my kids and with appreciation for my incredible community, I’m a more resilient version of myself in this (not so) new chapter of my life.
By day Randi Braun is a sales executive and by night she’s the CEO & Founder of Something Major. A career coach living in Washington, DC, Randi specializes in helping working women and mothers achieve their career goals, and has been featured in Parents Magazine.