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Postpartum Identity Loss: How To Rediscover Yourself

Postpartum Identity Loss: How To Rediscover Yourself

Postpartum identity loss after welcoming a new baby is common. Small, positive changes can help you feel like yourself again.

Written By
Haley Tardy

Haley Tardy

June 8, 2022

When you became a mother, chances are you stopped doing a lot of the things you used to. You probably don’t see your friends as often. Maybe you don’t have date nights with your partner anymore. You might not even have time to take a relaxing shower or enjoy a long bath like you used to. Something called postpartum identity loss may set it.

You don’t do what you want whenever you want anymore, eat what you want when you want it anymore, or sleep when you want to — suddenly life is all about being a mother and taking care of your new baby.

If you feel like you’ve lost some sense of who you were before your baby, then we have a few tips to help you adjust.

What Causes Postpartum Identity Loss?

Parents sometimes feel a loss of their identity because they no longer:

  • Have Time Alone
  • Have Time for Friends
  • Have Time for Hobbies
  • Feel Confident (About Their Body, Career, Etc.)
  • Feel Financially Secure
  • Feel Valued At Work

All of these things (and even some not listed here) can lead to new parents feeling sad, guilty, insecure, or ashamed. Even if you were trying to conceive or planned your pregnancy, the shift in everything around you can still feel surprising.

Am I Experiencing Postpartum Depression?

Let’s have a quick check-in. How have you been lately? Like, really? If you’ve felt a little emotional lately, it might be something called the “baby blues.”

Baby blues is sadness or moodiness that lasts two weeks or less. Hormone fluctuations, plus lack of sleep, plus the added adjustment to newborn schedules — it’s a lot. So if you’ve been dealing with emotional highs and lows after giving birth, know you are not alone. In fact, about 80% of new parents feel this way! The Baby Blues is a common experience, but definitely not something to simply brush off as “nothing.”

While the Baby Blues isn’t considered a disorder, it is still an emotional roller coaster, and for many moms, it’s really, really tough. Your feelings are valid and shouldn’t be discarded just because you think “oh, it’s only the baby blues.” Take time for yourself to process what you’re feeling, and give yourself grace along the way.

So when is it more than the Baby Blues?

These are some symptoms to which you should pay more attention, possibly indicating something bigger is going on:

  • Anxiety or Panic Attacks
  • Fear of Hurting Your Baby
  • Fear of Being a Bad Mother
  • Feelings of Shame, Fear, or Guilt
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Loss of Interest in Things You Enjoy
  • Not Bonding With Your Baby
  • Overwhelming Fatigue or Tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts of Death or Suicide

… and others. If any of these resonate with you and you’ve been feeling them for longer than two weeks, or they’re affecting your everyday life, you should definitely give your primary care physician or OB/GYN a call. They’ll be able to further assess your symptoms and decide on a path of treatment that’s right for you.

How to Feel Like Yourself Again

If you think you may be experiencing postpartum identity loss after giving birth, you aren’t alone. You aren’t a bad parent and you won’t feel like this forever.

With a few positive changes in your life, you can feel more connected to yourself and not just your role as mother.

Reconnect With Friends and Family

It’s natural to lose touch with some people after the birth of your child. Life with a new baby changes your schedule, responsibilities, and priorities and many new moms find themselves reaching out to loved one’s less frequently, or finding it difficult to connect or respond with people touch base. Both scenarios can lead to anxiety or feelings of guilt.

Do you have friends or family with kids? Maybe instead of dinners or nights out, you switch up your time together for playdates at the park. Of course, doing the things you used to do is still an option, but it will probably look a bit different than it did before. And that’s okay!

Send a quick text to anyone who has been on your mind lately and see if they’re open to meeting in a way that works for your new little.

Another idea? Ask for help in planning an outing! Text that girlfriend you can lean on and just say, “I need to get out of the house and do something fun. Can you help me?” Ask them to plan, arrange, and coordinate. Friends want to help you and want to see you happy. This is a great task to hand off and get that friend time you deserve.

Find Your Village

Following the idea of reconnecting with old friends, finding your village is vital for new and experienced parents alike. Think of this as a group of people you can lean on to share your struggles with, ask your questions to, or on the other hand, be an ear to listen.

The good thing is, your village can be made of anyone! Friends, family, internet acquaintances, and more. If you don’t have anyone who immediately comes to mind, try looking for local mom groups on Facebook, see if there are clubs who meet in your area, or check out a support group that meets virtually.

It’s important to remember that with your new lifestyle, new friends may start to pop up while others may drift away. And that’s ok. You need to focus on support right now and finding the connections that make you feel the most fulfilled and less strained. Great friends will always be there for you.

Download the Expectful app to access our Build Your Village course. It’s Here When You’re Ready

Try Not to Compare

It’s very easy to get caught up in the comparison game nowadays. From picture perfect social media influencers to movies that romanticize our lives. Motherhood has long been shown as a time of pure joy — women who magically lose any weight gained during pregnancy, flawlessly wake up fresh and manicured, or juggle and balance all the day’s tasks without ever needing help.

Whatever it is that might be in your feed, on your TV, or in your head. Whatever it is that might be making you feel like you aren’t good enough — we’re here to remind you that you are. Motherhood is hard and you are doing your best. No need to compare, as we’re all on our own journey.

Make Time For You

This one seems the most obvious, but it can also be one of the more difficult to actually do. Making time for you does not simply mean going to the store alone, or cleaning, or taking a shower.

Making time for yourself means giving yourself permission to do things that you genuinely enjoy without guilt or shame. If you have a partner who can help with the kids, delegate a day and time with them where you are totally off from parenting duties. Don’t have a partner? Maybe a grandparent or friend can help? If neither of these are an option, is there something in your day that can be deprioritized for you to have some time alone? Even if it’s just 5 minutes, it’s a start!

Practice Mindfulness & Meditation

The mental, physical, and emotional benefits of meditation are plenty. The one we want to focus on here is that meditation can actually increase connection and awareness.

Yup, according to research, mindfulness and meditation can increase peoples’ feelings of compassion and empathy. It’s a great tool for motherhood, since practicing mindfulness may help you feel more compassionate towards yourself, your partner, and your children.

How Long Will I Feel This Way?

With all this big newness in your life, you’re probably wondering when you’ll start to feel like yourself again. Everyone is different — some moms say they feel like things slow down around 6 months, others don’t feel it for about 2 years. Wherever you are in your postpartum journey, just know that things will get better eventually. We recommend keeping up with a self-care routine during and long after these symptoms, in addition to discussing all changes and moods with your medical provider.

Postpartum Identity Loss Isn’t Forever

If we could leave you with one thing, it would be this: change is a constant in our lives. Whether you’re having a baby, moving to a new home, or starting a new job. Chances are, you’ve experienced a change in your life that left you feeling lost before and you made it out on the other side. It might have felt impossible at the moment, but you did it!

Becoming a mother can feel all-consuming. Every little thing in your life revolves around your baby right now. You eat, sleep, breathe, and use the bathroom around their schedule. Postpartum identity loss may seem unavoidable, but by making positive changes and taking small steps, you can begin to feel like yourself again.

Expectful is here to support you. Whether you need meditations for sleep, have a question for our lactation consultants, or just want someone to share your real feels with — judgment free.

Haley Tardy
Haley Tardy