I’m having a baby boy in January. This is our first baby, and naturally we are both pretty excited.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there is something playing on my mind about how much my life will change.
This is going to sound super-selfish, and maybe that’s just me, but I’m really worried about how much my creative self is going to suffer.
I’m worried about being sucked into a void of diapers, breast milk, sleep routines and all-round exhaustion.
I’m worried about losing myself.
I know these things will happen – of course they will. This is motherhood and all it entails.
But what about me?
I’ve spent the past few years really coming to know, connect with and love myself. I’ve developed a creative practice that has kept my depression at bay and even blossomed into a small online business.
In short, I’ve become, well, myself.
Sounds cheesy I know, but it’s true. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years feeling like a weirdo, different from others (thanks to being highly sensitive). I spent my twenties wondering why I wasn’t happy in any particular job, why I felt empty focusing on one career path (thanks to being a scanner/renaissance soul). And I spent that whole time dealing with depression in its various crashing waves and silent undercurrents.
When I truly committed to my creative practice – to showing up in my journal, with my pen, with my paints, in whatever way I felt called to that day – my whole world opened up. I reconnected with a whole and loving part of myself, buried deep within. I realised I wasn’t flawed and broken as I’d always assumed. Instead, I realised I was whole and I didn’t need to change. I just needed to accept and love myself.
I rounded out my entire sense of self – my whole sense of personal identity changed. I no longer defined myself by external factors (which is what we are taught to do) – weight, career title, income, achievements, prettiness, relationship status etc.
I found a self that lived deep beneath that. For the first time, ever, the voice within me spoke louder than the voices around me.
Creative practice is what allowed me to connect with that self, and, I believe, the Divine within and beyond me.
I really, truly, came home to myself.
In so doing, I left behind almost two decades of depression. Yes, I also had support in the form of medication and therapy (there is absolutely NO shame in that), but I had done those things for many years previously without the same kind of transformation that my creative practice brought.
And now we are about to welcome a little boy into our lives – what will be, for me, nearly 3 years since I changed my life through my creative practice.
And I have fears about whether motherhood and creativity can co-exist.
I’m afraid that I won’t have the time and energy to keep creating.
I’m afraid that I will become completely consumed by this lovely little creature and lose interest in my creative practice.
I’m afraid that I will come to define myself externally again and let outside voices come back in over the top of my own – the ones that tell me how long I should breastfeed for, what to do about vaccinations, what kinds of foods are the best, the ‘right’ way to parent, etc.
I’m afraid that my days will revolve solely around this little being who needs me more than anything in the world, and my own self will fade silently into the background.
I’m afraid that without this deep sense of self, this nourishing creative practice, the depression might creep back in.
I’m afraid that I will lose what I have – that I will lose myself. That I will have to start back at square one, all over again, to get back to where I am.
I don’t know how to remedy this. I’ve journaled about it at length. I’ve talked it over with others. But since I don’t know that many people who are in a similar position, it’s hard to get any real answers. And that doesn’t matter anyway – because my experience may very well be different.
I’ve been reading a lot about what it’s like to become a new parent – the exhaustion, the overwhelm, the void of mothering. None of it makes me feel very positive about all this.
I did read one essay, though, in a book somewhere, by someone who argued that you don’t lose your sense of self. She talked about how becoming a mother makes you become more of yourself.
And a friend of mine suggested that I won’t necessarily stop doing the things I love, but I will learn to use my time and energy really efficiently and focus on the most important things, the absolute essentials for myself.
And I have a huge support system of friends and family who understand about depression.
And I now have knowledge I never before had, about what makes me tick, who I am at my core, and what I can grab onto when that sense of depression when it starts to pull me under.
These things give me hope.
So I continue to create in the meantime, in this strange in-between space, and wait for my little boy’s arrival.
P.S: This book is the best resource I’ve found on motherhood and creativity.