Reconnecting with yourself after baby

this is the part whereWhen you’re pregnant, you know things are going to be different after your little one arrives. This is a weird feeling. You vaguely understand the concept, but will never completely grasp it until you are in the thick of things. The realization of it comes in different stages; I was first in the bubble of the hospital with my midwife, nurses, husband, and Maggie 24/7. Next, we moved to the bubble of our home [where we mostly stayed for a month or so because it was February and really cold]. Colin and I stayed with Maggie in our home bubble together for one week before he had to go back to work, and then my mother came for a week or two [I forget…it is lost in the fog of newborn life] to be with Maggie and I when Colin was working.

People came by, visited on the weekends, brought us food, cooked us dinners, did laundry, doted on me, told me to “sit with the baby” — life was great! I truly felt celebrated as a new mother, and Maggie was not short on attention or affection. I have been lucky enough to stay home with Maggie for these six months; both something I personally wanted and actually made most sense for us [when you compare what I was making to the cost of childcare]. I thank Colin for giving me this opportunity; it’s not always easy financially, but we are making it work for now.

When all the doting and celebrating stopped, I slowly felt things change a bit. The world, and life in general was on pause for a few months…now the world is spinning again. Yes people definitely do still check in, come visit here and there, and gush over Maggie — but life has gone on for everyone. Maggie was born, there was a celebration period, and now it’s back to business.

We’re six months out, and I am here thinking…who am I? What do I want to do professionally? Do I want more? Crave more? Is that okay?

It’s a tough subject to think about when you are pregnant — or was for me — but you will need to rediscover, re-prioritize, and reconnect with yourself after baby. Not to mention, finding your new groove as a couple after baby is also work that will need to be done. Things change, priorities change, plans change. You thought “sure, it’d be easy to go to the wedding — we will put Maggie down, and then dance the night away!” until the phase of your baby not wanting to go to sleep kicks in. Or, “yes we can meet you at 12, that’s fine!” but your baby needs to eat, then falls asleep and you don’t want to wake her up by putting her in her car seat so you let her sleep which means you are late. “I’d love to go to yoga and grab a drink after!” – you made it through yoga, but need to run home after because your little one is hysterical and needs her mama. You make to-do lists miles long, and some days don’t even get one thing crossed off.

You will understand how much you can love someone. Again, this is something you know before the baby comes, but you don’t fully get until he or she is here in your arms — a real little person. This love is powerful; it feels like your heart is weighed down because there is so much love in there — that your heart could burst. Sometimes this love makes you feel like the happiest person in the world, and sometimes it feels like the world is on your shoulders. It’s confusing, terrifying, and awesome in every sense of the word.

Your mind will come around and will be able to process and think about things other than dirty diapers, bath time, and swaddling. Until it does, it is worth it to say — don’t feel guilty about the bubble you create when you have a newborn. I personally think it is necessary for mom and dad to bond with baby this way; and for me, [and I think I can speak for my husband Colin on this] it was blissful. Sure I felt some pressure to attempt to keep the house clean or get some laundry done, [although like I said I did have help from Colin, my mother, and others — it takes a village, don’t be afraid to use it] but I prioritized the importance of getting to know my baby and slowing things down.

I think Colin and I found a pretty good balance of time for ourselves with Maggie, and time with others to introduce them to Maggie. It was important for both, as we were thrilled for our loved ones to meet her! Most importantly, you have to do what is right and works best for your family no matter what. You will know what that is when baby arrives. Trust yourself and don’t feel guilty [easier said that done]. It should be a law not to make new parents feel guilty in any way, shape, or form.

When your mind does come around, be prepared for a lot of confusion. Maybe you have been here before. This is where I find myself these days. I’ve had a lot of labels in life; “Michelle and Kevin’s daughter”, “A Mescall”, “Meg’s/Big Pat’s little sister”, “Kelly/Molly’s older sister”, “Colin’s girlfriend/wife”, “Student”, “Teacher”, and most recently “Maggie’s Mom”, “New Mom”. What about “Colleen Temple, twenty-eight year old woman”? Who the heck am I these days aside from a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend? What do I enjoy doing when I am alone? If I had a few hours by myself, what would I want to do?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently.

I love being a stay at home mother.

But, I also love writing and dedicating time to writing.

Guilt.

I love spending so much time with Maggie.

But, I also love time to myself.

Guilt.

When Maggie goes to sleep, I love getting one-on-one time with Colin.

But, I also love putting time into my passions and hobbies.

Guilt.

Why all the guilt? Well I think in our society sometimes it seems like you have to choose — are you going to be a dedicated stay at home mother, or are you going to work? For me it has taken me time to decide, and I am still deciding. What’s nice about today’s day and age is that there are lots of part-time work options, and work from home options. I am currently taking advantage of both as of late, and I think this is where my path will continue. Working from home, and/or part-time work options seem to speak to me most.

I am currently not ready to find someone I don’t know to hire and pay to watch Maggie. I’m not sure when I will be ready for that, or when Colin will be ready but we aren’t pressuring ourselves. Unfortunately, neither of our parents live nearby [mine are in New York, and Colin’s are in Vermont], but fortunately I have two sisters locally and Colin has one sister locally. We have taken advantage of these lovely ladies here and there to go out to dinner, to go see a movie, or just to run an errand. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. For me, I usually feel guilty leaving Maggie, but then am okay once I get to my destination.

This is all part of the process. It’s another phase I am in as a mother, which is currently the biggest part of my identity. I don’t know a lot of things, but what I do know is I love Maggie, I love spending time with her, I love writing, I want to write, I need to work out for my health, I need time to myself, and I need time with my husband. I want Maggie to grow up with an understanding that dedicating time to strengthen your marriage is necessary and important, that family time is crucial, that challenging yourself — your mind, body, and spirit — will make you a stronger, happier person.

Recent steps I have taken in rediscovering and reconnecting with myself:

  • Revamping my blog, and writing more [I am currently at a coffee shop writing this post while Maggie is at my sister Megan’s hanging with her and the boys. Thanks, Meg!] thank you meg
  • Dabbling in a bit of freelance work
  • Reading a book for pleasure
  • I went to a yoga class last night, and it felt great — I want to challenge myself to keep going
  • Spending time thinking about my goals; setting new ones, and tweaking old ones. I have big dreams — small goals and steps are necessary to accomplish the big things.

Having a baby is life changing in the best way, of course. But it can be scary, lonely, and heavy at times. I love being a mother, and I know Colin loves being a father. We are so happy in many different ways. But it is also okay to take off the “mom” or “dad” hat sometimes and enjoy things you want to do as a couple.

Similarly, I’m realizing that it is okay to take off both the “mom” and “wife” hats and just go au naturel as Colleen, as me. Being a wife and mother is and always will be priority number one for me, but I know I need to give myself time to grow as a person in order to be a good wife and mother — a happy wife and mother. When the mama is happy, the family is happy, amiright?

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Introducing, Declan Patrick O’Neill!

I’ve always looked up to my parents, of course…and Audrey Hepburn has been my celebrity idol since I was a little girl. But, I’ve looked up to my sister Meg my whole life – more than anyone in the world. Since I was born I’ve been following her around, begging her to include me in things, borrowing her clothes…basically doing anything and everything she did.

We’ve been there for each other for everything – all the important things life has thrown our way. I was there when she met Matt at Merrimack (and for the record, I always knew he was the one), I was the Maid of Honor at their wedding, Meg will be the Maid of Honor at my wedding next year, and now most recently I have been there for the birth of Meg and Matt’s first child, Declan Patrick O’Neill.

I’ve never been apart of something so amazing.

A whole big gang of us (family members and friends) anxiously waited for someone to bust through the double doors of the hospital and give us the news last Thursday night. My nerves were going so crazy I thought I was going to spontaneously combust with the (dangerous) mixture of excitement, anxiety and caffeine. But the shakes were worth it. Around 10pm, the woman formally known as ‘Mom’ (who now proudly goes by ‘Nana’) ran through those doors and shouted “He’s here!”. We leapt from our seats, screaming and squealing – and about fifteen minutes later we were able to see him.

As soon as I saw Meg, Matt and Declan in that hospital room I cried – tears of absolutely, complete joy – I wanted to hug Meg and Matt so friggin tight to let them know how happy I am for them, and how proud I was of what they just did. My big sister just delivered a child. And he was right over there. This was and is real. I feel like I still can’t believe it. It was absolutely awesome.

Meg and Matt are going to the best parents around, and I can’t wait to be along for the ride. Declan has already stolen my heart (sorry Colin!) – he is the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen. See for yourself!

Declan's debut!

The O'Neill Family :D

The proud papa, Matthew

Auntie Colleen and Auntie Molly

Nana!

The cutest boy in town

Uncle Colin!

"No more pictures, please"

Smilin' :D

Poppa!

A little tiny yawn!

Love love love love you

DPO

Home sweet home!

Happy to have you home, little man

Meg and Matt – I wish you both the best of luck and just wanted to extend my utmost congratulations on the blog (it’s not official until it’s on the blog people!). Love you guys!