CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

How Getting Lost in Motherhood Helped Me Find Myself

One mom shares how she redefined herself after welcoming a child.
save article
profile picture of Christine Carpenter
Published March 27, 2023
close up of smiling mother cuddling baby
Image: JacPfef

Early on in my first pregnancy, a woman I admired reminded me not to forget that, even as I become a new mother, I remain a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. As we stood leaning against her kitchen counter, she reflected on her time as a new parent, and how this passed-down piece of advice helped her during a challenging postpartum experience.

At the time, this nugget of wisdom seemed so obvious. But I was also deeply entrenched in perinatal anxiety and depression, and losing my identity was the least of the fears that plagued me. What’s more, I had a close-knit family, a solid group of friends and a job I was passionate about—I’d still be me.

For nearly 13 years, I defined myself by my career in the fashion industry. I thrived in the fast-paced, glittering, gum-stained sidewalks of Manhattan. The energy of New York City coupled with a job in wholesale accessories fueled my creativity, while our home in the suburbs provided a grounding sense of peace. For many years, I had the best of both worlds; I truly felt I had it all.

Then came COVID. In February of 2020, my boss and I dismissed the pandemic and shipped masks to our factories in China—never believing anything would transpire here in the states. But just a few short weeks later, at 7 months pregnant, I left the office for what was supposed to be a long weekend and never returned.

The months that followed leading up to the birth of my son were riddled with panic attacks, uncertainty and an all-consuming fear, as I approached what terrified me the most: giving birth. The conversation surrounding postpartum depression has evolved, but I couldn’t find resources to support me in the visceral fears and anxieties I faced during pregnancy. Society informed me that I should be excited and glowing, but I felt empty, anxious and guilty for not “enjoying this special time.” Seeking out therapy would alleviate me temporarily, and then—just as quickly—I’d slip back into an oppressive bleakness, tormented with intrusive thoughts and waves of panic that left me feeling incapacitated.

Related Video

Fast forward to a sunny June day, when I pressed my writhing baby to my hammering heart for the first time. I was a mother. His mom. The most important role of my life.

That little boy burst into my world and cracked me open physically and emotionally. While my doctor described the moment you see your child for the first time as “the only true love at first sight,” the most palpable emotion that surged through me as I sobbed and clutched his squirming body was relief. The moment I reached down to heave him on top of me, the deep clutches of depression unclenched. The floodgates were unlatched, and I was reborn.

I threw myself into parenting and into the fog of navigating the newborn haze. Isolated during a global shutdown, my sole purpose was being this swaddled, helpless baby’s caregiver—his everything. Suddenly, my other roles came into question.

Before becoming a mom, I sought out advice from the people I most admired around me, convinced they’d know what was best. When making the difficult decision about whether to return to the career I once loved, I turned to my husband. His eyes locked with mine, as he asked me the simplest question: “What do you want, Christine?”

It was so uncomplicated and yet something I hadn’t bothered to ask myself. Who would I be if I took some time to be just a mom to my son? Was this deemed a cop out? Old-fashioned? What would it mean to lean into that role, to not race for the 7:12 a.m. train and instead be devoted solely to my baby? How would it feel to take a breath and focus on the little human who relieved me of so many fears?

The truth was, I already knew the answer. This question felt redundant, and the moment I saw my son, I knew my life would demand a slower pace. I knew I wasn’t willing to re-enter an unstable work environment during the middle of a pandemic. I knew I didn’t want to start my child in daycare.

For the first time in my adult life, I truly listened to myself. It took coming out of a depression and giving birth during a pandemic to finally hear my inner voice.

The following months were difficult, beautiful and precious. They’d prove to be simultaneously some of the best and most grueling days of my life. Fortunately, I didn’t have the bleak postpartum experience that many of my friends had, which often involved intense anxiety and depression. I had lived that during pregnancy, and was out of that hell and into an intense period of love, joy and pure exhaustion.

Image: JacPfef

After years of hustling in the fashion industry, I shifted my cadence to match my baby’s soft snores and close cuddles, and decided to pursue a lifelong dream I had kept tucked away—writing. I devoted myself to caring for my baby, but also focused on reinventing myself. I slowly navigated a completely different career path and rediscovered a passion that had been dormant in me for some time.

I’m mindful of the glorification that happens with postpartum in the rearview mirror; women describe a sense of bliss in becoming a parent, which sets unrealistic expectations for others. Some moms wistfully recall the newborn months, forgetting how the sleep deprivation, sore, cracked nipples and days stuck on a redundant, mind-numbing reel can leave you feeling like a shell of your former self. I felt all of this, and yet motherhood marked a critical period of transformation for me.

Losing myself in motherhood was exactly how I regained my authentic self. I had overcome so much that I feared, and became more in tune with my own wants and needs.

I still hold that advice about not losing yourself to heart. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. But I am now also a mom. My former identity sloughed off like a snake’s discarded skin, revealing a whole new me. It’s true, I would no longer be the woman I was before baby. As I press my hand on my swollen belly, awaiting the arrival of his little brother, I know yet another transformation awaits. Bring it on, little man. I’m ready to get lost again.

About the author: Christine Carpenter is a mother and storyteller from New York. She approaches her craft with a strong intent to make women feel less alone in motherhood, mental health and creative living. Carpenter’s writing has been published in Motherscope, The Kindred Voice and Mantra Wellness, among others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys knitting, asking too many questions, reading, and spending quality time with her family.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

lala kent at her daughter's third birthday party
Lala Kent Reveals Baby No. 2’s Sex and VPR Castmates Reactions
By Wyndi Kappes
woman shopping for flowy dress
How to Keep Your Pregnancy a Secret in the First Trimester
Fact Checked by G. O’Hara
Harry Styles performs on stage during The BRIT Awards 2023 at The O2 Arena on February 11, 2023 in London, England
Harry Styles Stalls Concert So Pregnant Mom Can Go Pee
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Imunek Williams school bus driver saves kids from burning bus while 8 months pregnant
Pregnant Driver Saves Students From Burning Bus
By Wyndi Kappes
Gold medalist Mallory Weggemann of Team United States poses during the women’s 200m individual medley - SM7 medal ceremony on day 3 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan
Paralympian Mallory Weggemann Swims at Nationals Six Months Pregnant
By Wyndi Kappes
27 slides
The Best Movies to Watch While Pregnant
The Best Movies to Watch While Pregnant
By Holly Pevzner
close up of pregnant person holding belly
Where to Shop for Gender-Neutral Pregnancy Clothing
By Ashley Zielger
ADVERTISEMENT
Pregnant Bindi Irwin with her husband Chandler and a giraffe in the background at the zoo.
Bindi Irwin on Pregnancy, Baby Names and Carrying on Her Father’s Legacy
By Lauren Kay
illustrated pregnant woman with her hands up in anger
5 Things a Pregnant Woman Never Wants to Hear
By The Bump Editors
happy pregnant woman standing in the sun against neutral background
How to Change Your Last Name Before Baby Arrives
By The Bump Editors
ADVERTISEMENT
black and white image of woman and doctor's hands looking at sonogram
US Birth Rates Hit Their Lowest Level in 35 Years, CDC Reports
By Nehal Aggarwal
The Worst Things to Say to a Pregnant Woman
The Worst Things to Say to a Pregnant Woman
By Caitlin Brody
couple looking away over body of water
CDC: Birth Rates in the US Have Reached an All-Time Low
By Stephanie Grassullo
ADVERTISEMENT
woman in her third trimester of pregnancy
There’s Finally Science to Prove That Pregnant Women Need Their Personal Space
By Stephanie Grassullo
mid-section of couple holding hands and walking
CDC: Birth Rates in the US Haven’t Been This Low in More Than Three Decades
By Stephanie Grassullo
meghan markle in new york city for her baby shower
Meghan Markle's NYC Baby Shower Stirs Convincing Theories on the Royal Baby's Sex
By Stephanie Grassullo
Women in their 30s are having more babies than younger women.
For the First Time Ever, Women in Their 30s Are Having More Babies Than Younger Women
By Stephanie Grassullo
ADVERTISEMENT
meghan markle's birth location is revealed
The Lindo Wing Is Reportedly Prepping for Meghan Markle's Delivery
By Stephanie Grassullo
couple is forced to pack up their stuff and move after having a baby.
Landlord Forces Couple to Move Because They Had a Baby
By Stephanie Grassullo
surprised baby's face
There Aren't Enough Babies Being Born in the US, CDC Says
By Stephanie Grassullo
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List