When I was pregnant with Kid #1, I had a giant, unspoken fear lurking in my subconscious. As the pregnancy progressed, that fear got bigger, and after v.2.1* was born, it was almost overwhelming.
What was I so afraid of? Health concerns? Financial difficulties? Inability to cope?
I was afraid that I was going to stop being myself and would become a MOM.
I'm sure you've known women like that. They have email addresses like 'firstname.lastname@example.org', most of their posts on Facebook center around their kids (often sharing TMI about diaper issues and spit-up), they have all kinds of books and magazines about being a parent and doing parent-y things, and if you try to spend adult time with them, you feel like they're constantly talking about their kids.
Now don't get me wrong, while the kid is a baby, the fact that they're so completely dependent on you means that, for several months, most of your time will be spent taking care of said child. That's all well and good. But when I say MOMs, I'm talking about the women whose entire identity centers around the fact that they've had a child. I was terrified that I was going to become like that.
"I used to collect books; now I collect the latest baby accessories. Oohhh look... another nursing pillow!"
At the time, I was involved with the youth group at our church, and I LOVED playing with the teenagers; I'd played Ultimate Frisbee with them when I was 3 months pregnant, and was still running/waddling around playing Freeze-Tag-In-the-Dark at 8.5 months. I was upset at the prospect that I might not be able to do that or hang out with my girlfriends anymore because I'd had a kid.
I was talking about this one night with my husband, sharing my fear that I was going to stop being the weird, impulsive, outgoing, tomboyish extrovert that I was, and that I would become a MOM. He asked two very simple questions that had, strangely enough, never occurred to me before:
"What has changed about you from before you had the baby?"
"Nothing really. I mean, I still have the same interests and things."
"Okay. You said you don't know how to be a 'Mom'; what do you know how to be?"
"Okay... then just be you... with a baby."
And right there, my fears evaporated.
I'd never thought of it like that. Here, I was viewing motherhood as some giant role-changing threshold that was going to forcibly change everything about who I was; but in truth, it wasn't re-making my identity... motherhood was simply adding on another aspect of who I was.
Yeah, I knew that having a kid meant that I had some restrictions: I had to plan things around the baby, and I wouldn't be able to do some things until the baby got quite a bit older. But by and large, I could incorporate my new role with who I was.
Kinda like this, but not exactly what I had in mind.
One of my girlfriends had a sleepover when her husband went out of town on a business trip; I brought along v.2.1 and had a blast. When I chaperoned an overnight youth lock-in at our church, and again at a weekend-long youth retreat, I brought the baby along too. Yeah, I couldn't go to Ultimate Frisbee on Friday nights anymore (don't get me wrong, it's fun, but not so much fun I'd pay a babysitter to go play), but I was nowhere near as restricted as I thought I would be.
And that's the encouragement I'd give to new or prospective moms: don't try to be a MOM... just be yourself... with a baby.
*- I like to refer to my kids in computer software-speak. My husband and I are v.1.1 and v.1.2, respectively, so our kids are v.2.1 and 2.2.
image credits: nurturecenter.com, climb-va.com