I have a terrible haircut right now thanks to postpartum breakage. My baby is 7 months old and I still can’t fit into any of my old, regular-sized clothes. I quit my job, but my house isn’t always clean, dinner isn’t always done.
Who am I right now? Racked with anxiety and reclusive tendencies, I can clearly see I am not the same person. I used to be so shiny and ambitious. I used to be mad at my husband because he wasn’t as eager to please me as I was him. Now going above and beyond on anything doesn’t cross my mind. Instead, I exist in the relentless cycle of picking up the house and feeding people; never really feeling I have achieved anything.
I was late to meet a friend and I felt so guilty because I knew his time was valuable. It was at that time that I realized I’m always late because I’m always trying to achieve an image before going out into the world that is no longer me. I am no longer put-together.
I don’t leave the house sometimes because of the effort it takes with an infant. Getting him ready and getting myself presentable is a process. I’m late most of the time. It occurred to me that I should just leave on time and show up however that looks.
As a result, I have decided to stop wearing makeup, and to stop doing my eyebrows before going to the gym. You would be surprised at how I can get carried away doing that. I took my fake nails off for the first time in two years because I spent more time needing to get them done than enjoying having them done. I used to have this idea that I was always representing my husband and never know who of his associates might see me.
My husband doesn’t seem to care about this.
Now, I head to the commissary as is. Spandex pants, t-shirt, hair that won’t smooth down. I understand those people who look terrible in public now. The harried and haggard mom has more important things to worry about.
I don’t even go with a complete grocery list because thinking five days in advance takes too much time.
As a wife, I don’t achieve what I used to, but this suits me. I always wanted more from my husband because my goal was always to give him extra. I have no extra to give. Meanwhile, my husband’s standard performance is meeting our needs. As a mom and with a family, there are more needs to meet so this works for me.
Because of this shift in our dynamic, becoming parents has significantly improved my marriage in my head. When I look back over the three years preceding the birth of our son, I see myself as performing for my husband and becoming bitter at never getting an applause, which is why we can’t do it for man. I still feel justified at feeling resentment at those times, but being a mom has resolved most of those frustrations.
I wanted my husband to make me feel special or acknowledge that I am special (yes, I’m a millennial) because of the ways I tried to serve him. I didn’t get that validation. I did, however, have a ten-pound baby with no epidural in less than 6 hours. I am special.
I wanted to feel cared for by my husband. I wanted to feel like someone was looking out for me; honestly, like a dad. Spencer is not my dad, and I didn’t get that. Honestly I’m only identifying that desire for what it is now as I write this. But he is the dad to my son. As a parent, anything he does for my kid is done instead of me so that makes me feel like I am being taken care of as well. Not to mention, my husband did a lot for me directly after I had the baby. He took care of me in a way that was not possible before as I haven’t even been sick around him over the six years of our relationship. There was not really a time before postpartum for him to show me this kind of practical care that suits him better than emotional.
I wanted my husband to be proud of me. I know my husband has been proud of me for things in the past, but I couldn’t get him to express it on an emotional level. Spencer’s friend once commented to me about a Crossfit competition I had won. Spencer had told his friends about it, which surprised me because he didn’t even seem that impressed at the competition.
The fact that my husband is proud of our son, whom I created, makes me feel he is proud of me in an unconditional way. I made him and he continues to be healthy and big off the milk of my breast alone.
Being parents adds another dynamic to our relationship as well because parenting is another area in which we have to come together and be accountable to one another. Previously every endeavor we took was as individuals. I have to consider how to support Spencer’s parenting in my own parenting because our child is fully his and fully mine, but we are together his parents.
While having a child has created opportunities to tip the scales in my favor in terms of my marriage, we still have our bad behaviors that don’t get addressed because we have more important things to worry about. I can see how that would be a problem.
My husband is miserable in the Army, I am starting a business and trying to lose weight and balance all that with being a stay at home wife, and we have a human life to protect. The other day I gasped at our son because he dropped his toy on the floor while in his walker. My husband reacted with alarm from the other room. He told me not to do that. He’s that stressed.
I don’t want to add to his plate by trying to work on our fundamental issues as a couple when we are in survival mode as a family. And if we have a lifetime, we have time to work on our problems without always addressing every instance, which is something I recall learning my first year of marriage.
With the changes in my body, self-image, time, marriage, and drive I wonder who I really am now. Is this me now? Am I now a person that does not want to leave the house? Am I person who doesn’t care about making her husband happy? Am I a person that doesn’t keep her house in order?
I ask myself these questions because life seems like too much to be right. There shouldn’t be so many things I am falling short on. We went to the beach a couple weeks ago and it was 2:00 when I realized I hadn’t looked in a mirror all day. Two Labor Days ago, I distinctly remember making my ponytail perfectly effortless taking the perfect, understated selfie in the sand to post to Instagram.
I was so skinny then. Not just retrospectively skinny, but objectively in great shape. No, I wasn’t objectively skinny, just my version of skinny.
So which one is me? I want to be the girl before, but that girl was not a mom or an entrepreneur. Can I be her? Can I be a loving, doting wife again? Is this stage just part of the evolution?
When I am out in public looking like shit I can’t look people in the eye because I feel ashamed. I observe this experience. It makes me think that I used beauty and preparedness as a crutch. I always thought I was confident, but if I feel these ways without the makeup and decent clothes, was I confident in who I was or confident in what people thought of me?
I’ve always told people not to worry about people judging them in the gym, but postpartum, even I have felt self-conscious in the gym. It makes me laugh and roll my eyes to think of beautiful celebrities telling an everywoman she’s beautiful. We don’t know what it’s like unless we know what it’s like to be the rest of us or feel like the worst of us.
I am grateful for these experiences. I am self-aware enough to observe these feelings as part of a human experience. I feel empathy for my peers. I feel silly for the words of ‘encouragement’ I’ve given in the past. Life is hard. Being in society and not at your best is hard.
I am grateful to be too busy to be resentful toward my husband. Even though I miss the features of not having a kid, I like having a kid! When I am logical about it, the habits that brought me the luxuries I once enjoyed took years to cultivate. And my adjustments will take more time too.
I don’t know if it’s right or wrong to want a flat stomach, but I do.
As I have written this essay, I have begun to believe the answer is to “which one is me?” is that it’s my choice. If I am always learning, I am always editing who I am. I can choose what of 2017 Brianna is really of value to me. When I feel that life is slamming up against me, I can cling to those things I liked about myself to keep me oriented but use the challenge of getting to that place to make me stronger and hone my vision of my ideal self.