I’d always harboured a host of identities: graphic designer, writer, purveyor of deep cuts on trivial gossip, superfan of traditional Irish folk songs, expert on 90s erotic thrillers — but I’d never considered myself maternal. So when I found out I was pregnant, I had mixed feelings. There was a nagging worry, like my future was haunted.
All through the first trimester, my mood was darkened by underlying but ever-present nausea — a particular brand of which I’d only ever experienced when (ill-advisedly) reading on a bus. Mutinous thoughts took over the usual whirring static in my brain. I grappled with the uneasy notion of how my sense of self would co-exist with motherhood, harbouring resentment at the idea of being only perceived as a mum (or worse still, a 'mumma').
As my second trimester rolled on, the persistent thrum of 'congratulations!' were like a death knell for my future social life. Then the physiological symptoms kick in — the ever-growing bump, the water retention and uncontrollable weight gain. Nothing fits, and you’re banished to the maternity aisles with their stretchy waist bands and floaty material. And no matter how hard I’ve attempted to train myself out of society’s expectations of how a woman should look, I found it hard to watch my body change from an object of desire to a functional vessel — and as one harrowing photo illustrated; an egg wearing a bikini.
During my third trimester, I threw myself into all the pregnant things – the yoga, the hypnobirthing, et al., but I just ended up feeling like a feral cat in these spaces. And with every so-called pregnancy perk, there was a matching punishment — you don’t get the thick glossy hair without the post-partum hair loss. You don't get the glow without the skin pigmentation. And you don't get the baby without going through childbirth.
Then there's the stitches, the scars, the trauma that all need to heal — all while keeping this small potato alive under the thick fog of fatigue. The raging hormones mean the spectrum of emotion is endless (expect to cry at TikToks): Joy. Disbelief. Misery. Rampant love. Unparalleled exhaustion. Fear. Relief. Hunger. Wonder. Confusion. Laughter. Resentment. Obsession. And unbridled frustration at not being able to see friends, get dressed, read or even string a sentence together, because your brain is wet cake. You try routines. You fail. Your every minute is occupied.
But when your baby gives you a big gummy smile, your chest swells and you feel like actually, your life doesn't end when you give birth — and as clichéd as it sounds, anything is still possible. Your future still holds unknowns. But now with this tiny joyous human to share it with.
And being called mum doesn’t feel as jarring as it did when the midwives used it, because perhaps it’s completely natural (and even advisable) to develop new aspects of ourselves as time moves on. They maybe even amplify who we already thought we were. But whatever way you make sense of it, ever-after, it’s who you are.