Why Finding Yourself Post-Pregnancy Isn’t as Easy as it Looks

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You know that moment (in college or maybe right after) when you get past your awkward stage and realize who you really are? Maybe it suddenly hits you that you’re that funny girl who likes to be surrounded by friends at all times, the free spirit who loves last minute impulse adventures and meeting new people, or maybe the homebody who chooses Netflix with her significant other over bar hopping on a Friday night. Whoever you are, there is no better feeling than finally figuring out what makes you truly happy as a human being, and feeling fulfilled without ever having to fake it.

You actually can’t believe you tried so hard playing pretend all those years.

When you get pregnant, you expect a lot of changes in terms of sleep, diapers, routine, but you don’t necessarily expect yourself to change as well. Sure, you prepare yourself to be a lot more stressed and sleep-deprived for a little while, maybe even mature a whole lot from the experience. But it’s not until you give birth to your child that you realize that, now empty, you need to find yourself all over again.

After 9 months of being two, you need to learn to be alone again.

Physically, you look like a slightly different variation of you: curves you never knew you had, stretch marks that claim your hips as if they’d always been there. You wonder if you will ever look like your old self again and realize you probably never will. You freak out a little at first until you realize that those curves make you look even more like the woman that you are, and those stretch marks are battle wounds you earned, living proof that you were strong enough to conceive.

Emotionally, you’re in this sort of limbo and aren’t sure who you are anymore. Your friends are supportive, but they don’t get it: their Friday nights rhyme with Fireball shots and 4 am Uber rides. You’re up four or five times a night nursing your child who won’t stop crying. You’re worried sick about teething and rashes and fevers. You wonder if it will ever get better, and it does. And so do you. But you’re never the same.

You find new traits that define you as a mom, like patience, rocking your sick child to sleep in the middle of the night, or determination, choosing to exclusively breastfeed regardless of the obstacles ahead of you.

Among other things, you are protective, loving, and brave.

Despite the worry that creeps up on you all the time and the wrinkles that seem to be settling in a little early, it takes a little while to realize that you like your mom self better than all of  your previous selves.

It’s not always easy to see, and it may take a while, but once you find yourself… you’ll never, ever look back. You’re a hell of a lot better now than you ever were.


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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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