Navigating Motherhood: My First Year of Motherhood

Feyi Bello / Sunday March 27, 2022

Hey Family,

Feyi here! Happy Mothers Day to Mothers all over the world with a special nod to the parts of the world that celebrating today! Last year we established that Mothers Deserve Two days and so here doing what we do best, Celebrating!

After my first year of Motherhood, I decided to journal my feelings and I wrote this very raw, very honest account of my journey through. The goal was to put a mirror to my honest-to-God feelings that had been so carefully pushed to the back to make room for my new responsibilities.

I thought I’d share with y’all today!

Notes On Motherhood

When I think of motherhood now, the first word that comes to my mind is stretch.

Stretching is consistent in all aspects of becoming a mother and I think the changes to the body are the perfect metaphor. Your entire being grows to accommodate. Your mind, spirit, body. Your time, your desires, your aspirations, your love, your patience, your capacity. The growing and stretching motherhood demands of women is constant and necessary because the birth and nurturing of life lies in the balance.

I have a complicated relationship with the stretch, there are days I am grateful for it, there are days I resent it. There have been moments in my journey where I wasn’t paying attention, only to realize my new ability and capacity when it was required. I’m impressed every single time. Your mind and body operate when you’re not paying attention, developing parts of yourself for a time when there will be a need. Stretching is not comfortable, neither is it fun. It’s a huge task, one that asks more of you than you are willing to ask of yourself. It is the stretch that makes mothers say things like “I was never a morning person until she was born” or why your mom friends just “seem to have it together”, they’ve had to accommodate their responsibilities. They’ve had to become. It is why I have this overwhelmingly deep admiration and respect for mothers because I know what it requires of me, I know how hard it can be. I know I’m not always ready for what it requires but I will do what is needed because that is the job.

My resentment towards boomers is the same reason why I think they make the best parents for millennials – they just get on with it. We millennials feel our feelings out loud while the boomers don’t dwell on the difficulties of life. They always make it look easy, not because they are better than millennials, they just have mastered silence and action as coping mechanisms – I wish them all the best, I think they all secretly need therapy but who am I to judge.

When I would discuss my struggles with my mom and grandmother, like how I had to go back to work 6 weeks post-partum or my struggles with sleep deprivation and exclusively breastfeeding with a full-time job, their response was “we went through it and did not die, you will be fine”. These words were very hard to take at times when all I really wanted was a hug or a “you’re doing so well, I’m so proud of you”. But they became steel reinforcements in my spine. There’s a strength that I was able to draw from standing in the knowledge that my mother and her mother before her had walked this same path, and succeeded. They were sweet and helpful, very present and supportive but they didn’t coddle me. They made sure I felt the weight of my responsibilities and I thank them from the depth of my heart.

SideBar: Walking this path made me see my mother differently — there is a deep reverence. I go over stories of my childhood and I see everything differently. I experience new things and think of how she was able to navigate similar scenarios with less help, less technology, etc. I think of the times I acted a fool and thought she was “ruining my life” when it would be fair to say that I was most certainly ruining hers at the time. I think of conversations we had where I thought she was being mean and realise there was nothing but love there. I see her now and I truly appreciate all of it.

You cannot help a mother become a mother, it is a solitary assignment. You can assist but eventually, she must find her own way and when she does you cannot condemn, you must simply conform and support. There is no one size fits all rule to motherhood and like I would always say to anyone who tried it “if God wanted me to parent my daughter your way, He would have made you her mother”.

I want to speak on the changes to our bodies. Nothing prepares you for what your body looks like postpartum and to be honest, I blame society.

Society’s idea of beauty does such a disservice to women. It is a harsh lie that has been allowed to get out of hand, industries have built themselves on this lie. How is it possible that women are only beautiful in one way, in one size, with certain features? Why do we work to get rid of the naturally occurring wrinkles and cellulite and lines and stretchmarks? Why are the people who decide to love these things tagged as being body positiveDoesn’t the term body positive sound insane, does it not imply that we are all body negative if this ONE person is body positive? Why is loving our natural bodies as they are, a bold statement? Political even. Who decided on the narrative that beauty was one-dimensional and ran with it? And even worse, what made us believe it to be true.

My body that I used to know left me. It came back different. I couldn’t recognize who I had become and it broke me. I barely loved the body I had before, I was really unkind and never gave her the love she deserved- then she left me and I had to become acquainted with my body post-baby. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not mourn the loss of my old body. I remember after the epidural wore off and I took my first bath the day after my daughter was born, I looked down and did not recognize myself. My belly was really dark, wrinkly, and still swollen, it looked at least 6 months pregnant. I kept poking it, rather unlovingly and I remember thinking “what the entire fuck is this?” “Am I stuck like this?” “I DEFINITELY need surgery” “this is hideous”.

I wish I hadn’t felt that. I wish my mind was conditioned to thank my body for bringing life into the world. I wish I had the strength to love my body in that state, to look at myself and my body with gratitude for the work we had just completed.

Sidebar: The day I pushed a human out of myself changed everything for me. I became acutely aware of the fragility and cruelty of the patriarchy and the quiet and noble strength all women possess. We have coddled men for centuries, allowing them to think they rule the world when in fact women are the dominant sex, no question about it. Everything has been built up to protect the fragility of the male ego and honestly, enough is enough.

Every day since then I try to apologize to myself for seeing myself the way I did that day and the weeks and months that followed. I was beautiful then, I am beautiful now. A year and a half later my body looks nothing like it used to. I wasn’t gifted with the grace of the ‘Hollywood SnapBack’. I’ve been in and out of the gym and lockdown anxiety and stress eating didn’t help either. My body may or may never return to what it used to but one thing is certain – this body made a human, and that is badass.

After you become a mom, you forget yourself. It is a common phenomenon. You pretty much bury yourself, push yourself to the back of your mental closet and everyone and everything takes precedence. Well, at least that’s what happened to me. I completely lost myself in the new. I would have moments where I would find myself for a day or so then almost immediately I would lose myself again. I don’t think I started to fully get a hold of myself until one year after my daughter was born, when I really unearthed myself, dusted myself off, put myself in front of my mental closet, and started to work on myself.

I started therapy, I started working out, I started spending more time with friends, I started writing again, started thinking of my hopes and my dreams, and started actively working towards them again. It wasn’t that I didn’t love myself anymore, it was that there was too much on my plate so I took myself off the plate without realizing it. It was just the easiest thing to do. Work didn’t suffer (much), my marriage didn’t suffer, my relationships with my family and friends didn’t suffer, instead, I did. I starved myself for an entire year without realizing it and it wasn’t until I got to the end of myself did I realise what I had done. I want to give advice but the truth is that there is no advice. Feel your feelings, take the time to learn, to grow, to become. Do not put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Do not try to impress anyone, or emulate someone else. Find your rhythm. There is no such thing as failure in motherhood, in my opinion, we all try our best.

I will conclude with this, motherhood is beautiful and I would do it all again 100000 times just to see my daughter’s face. Nothing is more beautiful than the sound of my daughter’s voice, her smile, her little arms hugging me. Seeing her personality bubble to the surface. Seeing her learn about the world around her, seeing her become – It truly makes it all worth it. My daughter is this big shiny light in my life, but I am learning that she isn’t my entire life and I have my own life to live. I must remember to live my life and not get swept up in her own life.

As a mother, all I want is her joy. I want her to know she is loved and valued, I want her to know her voice matters. I want her to have all she desires for herself and I promise to never place any horrid expectations on her life. I want her to be free in every sense of the word to reach as far and as wide as she wants. I want her to trust my love for her. I don’t want her to ever think it is dependent on anything. I want her to feel safe with her father and me. I hope my own traumas and life experiences don’t cast a shadow, I hope I don’t make her a prisoner of my own fears and blind spots. I just want to give her a fair chance at a happy life. I want her to be exactly who God has made her be and I will work hard to make sure I don’t interfere with God’s plans for her life so help me God.

Motherhood is a beautiful, complex, labyrinth of emotions and it never ends, even after death. It will test you, push you, expose parts of yourself you never knew existed. It will force you to become comfortable in who you truly are, not who you wish you were. You will be painfully aware of your weaknesses and rely solely on your strengths and instincts. It requires bravery, confidence, vigor, and TONS of faith.

Motherhood is the purest and most sincere education of myself and the world around me.