On Childbirth & the Reinvention of Self

When I turn my reflexion on myself, I never can perceive this self without some one or more perceptions; nor can I ever perceive any thing but the perceptions. ‘Tis the composition of these, therefore, which forms the self.

– David Hume: Second Thoughts

For the majority of last year, I was creating a tiny human.

An amazing CGI rendition of what happened inside of me…
These twelve minutes stretched over 40 weeks…

While I was in it, I don’t think I realized how much it was taking from me. I had physical symptoms that reminded me that the bulk of the good nutrition I took in was going straight to the baby, but I didn’t really notice that I didn’t have my usual oomph in regards to creative pursuits.

I just pressed on… creating that tiny human… and working at light speed to try to transition to my new business model…

Our birth story wasn’t wonderful; I was induced and stubbornly refused an epidural. There were multiple points in the thirty six hours where I thought, “This is a nightmare…” But I did it. I birthed my baby boy. They placed this tiny human on my chest and I thought, “Who is this alien creature?? Where did he come from?”

Instantly, life was transformed. It was like swimming across an ocean; I was plunged into an alternate reality with no way out. It was just me, him, my boobs, and pure survival. What are we doing today? What is next? The air had an almost viscous quality to it. I could breathe, we were fine, but this was all new and all different and all strange.

As I’d been afraid I would have to, I went back to work right away. It was only part time and my husband Will was home with me to help with Quinn, but it was back to work three days after birth. I was spacey and probably ineffective, but I kept the lights on and my staff employed.

It was work and me and Quinn and my boobs. And I’m hungry again. What did I need to do? What is next? What are we doing today?

This baby had been inside of me. He had been a part of me and now I was nourishing him one hundred percent from my body. He was still me and I was still him. We were and had to be inseparable.

Two months passed. I launched a major project I had been working on. We introduced bottles. Now I could go out. I could go to exercise class. I could have a little bit of space.

All of a sudden I awoke from a fog:

Who am I?

Am I more than my boobs and this little baby?

Who was I before?

I didn’t know. I can honestly say that I didn’t know. I felt more lost than I had in years.

I was reminded of my psychedelic adventures in college. As the drugs wore off, I always felt like I was piecing my life back together.

Here I was with my darling perfect little boy and I didn’t know who I was. What were these pieces of my life shattered all over my floor?

What am I doing? Where am I going?

I had gotten lost. My identity — my sense of self — had been combined with the baby and now he was outside of me. Where is he? Why isn’t he with me? Who am I?

From that place of life shattered on my living room floor and the bewildering unfamiliarity of being alone… from that place I got to rebuild my sense of self.

It felt strange. This new self was a mother. This new self cared about this baby more than anything she had ever cared about before. This new self was capable of loving a million times harder than she’d loved before. This new self was capable of pushing a baby out of her vagina after twenty-four hours of pitocin-induced labor.

This new self was not the same person as she was before. She was magical. She was powerful. She can do anything.

I can do anything.

Except sleep in. This new self seems to have lost that particular life skill. Damnit.

Whatchu think?

8 thoughts on “On Childbirth & the Reinvention of Self

  1. What a wonderful sharing of one of life’s miracles! Thank you for writing about your experience, your journey and your transformation with such depth, courage and lack of sleep! Loved reading it and feeling that space between who you were and who you are now.

  2. Amazing. I couldn’t agree more. Becoming a mother is going through a metamorphisis. You see life from a new perspective. It’s miserable and magical.?

  3. Jen, I concur that once we have had a baby we are never the same person as before. Yes, you are magical, powerful and you can do anything but you always had that power within, perhaps in having a child that power is fully realized. I don’t think “you are in Kansas anymore” nor will you ever look back on that life without seeing the full technicolor beauty of this transformation. <3

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