‘I had a whole life before you came along, you know’; something my mother often informed us of when we were small. We didn’t believe her though. Most photographic said-evidence was in black & white and tarnished by other-era styling. It looked more like an air-brushed version of our mother’s face had been stuck onto oddly dressed figures in manufactured scenes with unfamiliar friends and younger looking family members.
I’m beginning to see where she was coming from though. And I don’t mean the seventies.
Becoming a mother has kind of swallowed me whole. When my son was born, I was also re-born and we were both starting from zero. A first-time pregnant friend hit the ‘motherhood consumes you’ nail on the head the other night over dinner: ‘Everyone has questions for me – birth plans, childcare, buggies – but they’re all only after one answer’. That would be the one that backs up their own choices – it’s just so personal. Becoming a mother makes you insanely passionate about the way you’re raising your child. You cry more – harder and often-er. The small things are the big things (think showering is the new spa-break, a hot coffee is the new mini-break, alone-grocery shopping is the new mental-break). However, you go through this re-birth journey with aLOT of excess baggage, i.e., your ‘old me’ / ‘real me’ life. So, perhaps when you think about it, you don’t fundamentally change at all – you just add some significant new layers.
He might argue me on this one, but I don’t recall such a cataclysmic change occurring to my husband – he just kind of acquired a son and kept on as relatively normal. In support of my point, while most people talk of a ‘wave of emotion and love’ encompassing them following the birth of their child, he made a call to the ESB from the delivery suite of our first born (I’ll grant him it was an important call, given our electricity had been accidentally cut off in our brand new rental home a few hours before I went into labour – my regret at not properly packing my hospital bag was two-fold as I struggled to do it in the dark, rapidly losing broken waters). I think sometimes he must wonder who I now am – this half-banjaxed, constantly-knackered, dishevelled-looking, emotional person. I barely read any more, I haven’t been to the cinema in – dare I say – years (over one year is plural, ok?) and exhaustion has stripped me of conversation skills post 8pm. I’m a bit of a car crash, this ‘new me’. Definitely not the smart Mazda he married – more a ’98 Micra that’s being driven into the ground. The last few years have been so physically draining between pregnancy, breastfeeding and kidney problems, I’ve gone from fairly fit to ‘feckin’ hell!’ He sometimes says he’ll trade me in for parts. I’m going to assume he’s joking. (Positive assumptions can keep a marriage on the straight and narrow).
I know my ‘old self’ is still there because sometimes I find it. It re-emerges. Time away with my husband, meet ups with friends – they all help. But the most powerful is music. You know, that time Rihanna Hopeless Place comes on the radio and you’re instantly back in Crane Lane that time the guy who fancied your friend turns up and she’s absolutely buzzing and you all just CANT STOP DANCING. Or you hear Alanis singing Ironic and you remember each and every lyric because you listened to it on repeat to help soothe away memories of the leaving cert (although the same cannot be said of your maths knowledge, also run on repeat – is that ironic? Hmmm…).
Then there was a little while back when I escaped a particularly slavish day with the toddler to attend a yoga class while heavily pregnant on my second. Deep breaths to recover from a rough snot ‘n spit day spent at his saddistic hands. The car moves, the radio goes on and the Beastie Boys are on. Sabotage. ‘I can’t stand it I know you planned it’ (I raise the volume right up); ‘You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage’ (The beat overtakes the car and pulses through me); ‘I’m trying to tell you now it’s sabotage’ – I want to drive and drive and get out somewhere with strobe lights and a DJ and dance dance dance. To escape – right back to ‘old me’.
But I don’t. Because ‘now me’ knows better. (And showing up to any nightclub heavily pregnant with an extra-size birthing ball is NEVER cool). I guess just like leaving cert maths and those fun dancing nights and long days spent with small babies, this too shall pass. There will be a whole series of re-births and I will look back at a more rounded ‘now me’ with the obligatory rose-tinted glasses and think it was all part of the ‘one me’ journey.
I’ll still feel the need to go bonkers every now and then though. Maybe it’s true – maybe you can’t keep a ‘real me’ down.