I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about the subject of identity and motherhood.
Partly because it’s my job. But partly because I feel like it’s one of those things I’ve slowly been working out for the last two years.
When I first got pregnant, I was so absorbed by the process. I’m one of those freaks who LOVED being pregnant 99.9 percent of the time, and I was fascinated by every single bit of it. (Classic nerd.)
After Vivi was born, I had no other choice but to be consumed by mama life. And here’s a fun fact about me: When I see no way out, I find a way to love it. Really, I’m too Type A to see all these lemons sitting out and not try to make them useful. Ergo, the lemonade of early motherhood.
Longtime readers will also remember that I made a very active effort to truly appreciate every bit. Loads of people want to be parents and can’t for whatever reason; who am I to take this actual miracle for granted?
And I can’t honestly say that I HAVE enjoyed every stage of Vivi, despite those “the days are long” moments that surely I did not enjoy at the time. I recently told a pregnant pal that my strategy for pregnancy and babies (and toddlers) has been to go in with the lowest expectations. After that, anything seems pretty okay!
But another fun fact about me: I commit…and not always in a good way.
I go all in. I’ve done it with jobs, I’ve done it with relationships. There have been so many times in life I’ve gotten six months into something and then paused to think, “Wait…what happened? Who am I? How did I get here?”
It’s a weird quirk, and it has led to some difficult self-reflection moments.
So going into motherhood, I made a conscientious effort to NOT do that. I made balance one of my top priorities.
That’s why I kept the jobs (Okay, that was also to pay the thousands we owed the hospital/buy groceries). That’s why I went back to working out as quickly as possible. It’s why I clung to the little things that made me feel like post-pregnancy Justine.
But, here’s the funny thing about motherhood: It’s not like a new job. It’s not even like a new relationship. It’s not about giving things up or even really adding things in.
Motherhood is a metamorphosis. You enter one thing, but you emerge something entirely different.
I hear so many people say they don’t want to lose themselves in motherhood, and truly that was one of my concerns too. But, really, that’s not what happens. You are not getting lost—you’re becoming an entirely different creature. It’s an evolution that would never have happened if you took a different path.
Because you actually get to keep the parts of yourself you like. And everything else gets refined.
Mamas are efficient, so we are skimmed down to our most necessary parts. We are adaptable, so we grow the new abilities we need to do and thrive. We are resourceful, so we develop the skills necessary and walk away stronger than we could have ever been.
Truth is, I can’t actually stop being who I am. But whereas that realization usually came in a jarring moment with other life transitions, with motherhood, it was a gentle waking up. A stretch where I suddenly realized new muscles had developed overnight. This new “Mama” on my resume makes me look and feel more powerful, not less.
The fact is, I never lost my identity. I let it grow.
Ever since she was very little, Vivi has done this thing when she is nervous where she would hold my hair to soothe herself. Her face would be so serene, but her chubby little hand would be white-knuckling a strand of hair near the nape of my neck with all the death grip her little body could muster.
Over time, it became less a response to fear or nervousness and more of a comfort when she was tired or just needed soothing (hello, heavy teething weeks).
It never occurred to me that this could be a problem. I mean, I always have my hair with me. What better option for a soother? I can’t lose it or forget it at home!
Which brings us to present day, in which I realize that this is, in fact, a problem. Because my little lock twirler now has trouble falling asleep without my mane in her clutches. In fact, she’d be happiest if she could hold my hair all day long.
Don’t believe me? Here’s some actual footage:
Yes, that is me sitting at the desk with her on the couch dozing with my hair in her hands. No, this isn’t staged. Yes, she has food all over her shirt. Yes, this looks like I have 8,000 neck rolls. Yes, this is real life.
While it hasn’t affected her nighttime sleeping (THANK GOODNESS), I’ve only been able to get her down for ONE nap in her crib in the last couple of weeks. It is, shall we say, problematic.
To be fair, she still falls asleep in the car seat and occasionally in her stroller (sans my hair), but if we’re home with nowhere to go? You can bet she’s only napping if I’m snuggled next to her on the couch, my hair in her chubby little fist.
I know it’s probably a phase. Or maybe I should buy her a Barbie and see if that makes a good enough substitute. But, aside from the nap issue, I’m also somewhat alarmed to see that she is actually pulling my hair out on occasion, or at least breaking off a handful of strands a few times a day. I mean, as if my postpartum hair issues weren’t bad enough.
So, what’s a mom to do? Lately, I’ve been on a mission to strengthen and smooth my hair as much as possible. I only wash it about three times per week (still haven’t worked up the gumption to do this again), and I try to air dry when I can.
I’ve also started taking prenatals again (not trying to get pregnant, they just had a really great effect on my hair and nails the first go-around) and added a biotin supplement. Additionally, I took a tip from my pal Madison (who has put much more research into this than I have — read more on her postnatal hair woes/solutions here) and also started adding integral collagen into my smoothie every morning. I can’t say for certain that I’ve seen immediate results, but I do see a lot of regrowth around my hairline.
To smooth the hair I already have, I’m also using a deep repair hair mask from Acure twice a week. It smells amazing, and I do feel like my hair feels softer and smoother after each use, especially when I let it air dry.
But other than that…I’m not sure what to do? Something tells me this is another one of those, “welp, here’s hoping we all grow out of it” moments.
Any tips from the mommas/hair enthusiasts out there?
One of my favorite things about being Vivi’s mom is watching her develop a sense of humor. It has always been fairly easy to coax a giggle out of her, but lately she has started to realize that she is funny.
Sometimes I watch her do something just to get a laugh out of me or whatever adoring audience has gathered around, and I have to marvel at that instinct. Sure, making someone laugh always makes me feel good, but what an amazing thing that babies feel that high too.
As a result, Vivi is just so silly. She’s constantly babbling, waving her arms, running around, and putting on a show. She fake sneezes, shrieks with joy, and blows raspberries on my tummy (giggling like a fiend all the way).
Her silliness is a reminder to me, too. My days are so full, and it’s easy to get caught up in my to-do lists. It’s easy to get frustrated or distracted. But when I see that huge grin spread across her face, the one that puts all five of her teeth on display, I can’t help but put down what I’m doing for a tickle fest or another round of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
I want to be a good, responsible mom, but I also want Vivi to remember that we had so much fun. We danced and sang and talked in silly voices and laughed and laughed and laughed.
I’m not typically that into “mom” jewelry. There’s this weird phenomenon that happens when you tack the adjective “mom” onto fashion. Typically, it gets, well, less fashionable. It’s as if it’s not enough that you’ve given up your body, your time, and your life in general — now you need to sacrifice your sense of style, wearing your new title as a badge of honor, as if to say NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY KIDS, NOT EVEN LOOKING CHIC.
Of course, every good mom does think her kids are wildly more important than looking chic. It’s just…the two things aren’t mutually exclusive? At all? You can very easily have both?
The point is, I like style and I love anything that makes me think of Vivi, so I’m pretty excited when I find something that technically qualifies as mom jewelry that I would also want to buy even if I didn’t have kids.
Which is also why I became immediately obsessed with the company Pixley Pressed when I discovered them through a friend’s Instagram.
Pixley Pressed was started by a woman named Shawnie in Orange County, California after she became a mom. I was fairly delighted to discover that she started the shop after having a baby in an effort to remember who she was and do something for herself. Because, girl, that is exactly what your jewelry says to me. Shawnie’s collection includes bracelets, necklaces, rings, and more, but I’m a big fan of the customized necklaces.
I wear my Vertical Bar Necklace pretty much every day. It’s sleek, simple, and goes with literally every outfit. But my favorite part is (ironically) what makes it my “mom” jewelry: The necklace is hand-stamped with Vivi’s birthday. Shawnie can customize her pieces with any (short) important message, whether that be a wedding date, a name, or even a latitude/longitude coordinate. I love the idea of adding on to my necklace with a bar for my wedding date, and even the birth dates of any future kiddos. (Still not pregnant, sorry, just thinking ahead!)
Basically, I think this might be the perfect gift for all the new mommas in your life. Because, yes, you’re a mom now. And that changes everything…except the fact that you still think your jewelry should be totally gorgeous.
*Necklace provided for review. Opinions my own.
Last weekend, Vivi had her first ever sleepover away from home without me.
It was at her grandparents’ in Long Island, so she wasn’t terribly far, but I’m sure you can still appreciate the momentousness of the milestone.
From the moment Vivi existed, she has been with me. Of course, she has had babysitters and even spent a full day with her grandparents before, but it was a strange experience to be truly separate for more than 24 hours.
Honestly, I was fine. I don’t beat myself up about the fact that sometimes it’s nice to get a break from parenting. Parenting is the world’s most constant job when you’re on, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need a moment to not be “on” now and then. To be fair, I kept myself very busy cleaning the apartment and even having a night out with friends (without worrying about the babysitter at home! So novel!). But I do think I could have been okay even if I had spent the entire time watching reality television at home.
It’s such a funny thing how so many people in the world are more than happy to jump down your throat if you even imply that you might enjoy doing something other than doting on your child all day. I think this perception is getting better (or maybe I just surround myself with people who are more compassionate and, let’s be real, honest), but I still feel it engrained in my own thinking sometimes. I actually had moments of guilt for not wishing Vivi was with me every second she was away. Like I should feel bad about enjoying being the person I was before a baby, even if only for a few hours. I’m going to try not to be so hard on myself about those feelings anymore.
That being said, I was SO. HAPPY. when Vivi came home. I swear that little stinker got even more gorgeous while she was away. And it was nice to see that she had missed me just as much.
I’m pretty proud of both of us.
I don’t want another baby right now.
I feel like I need to preface with that. I might also feel like I need to say that out loud a few times. You know, remind myself.
Because, you guys? Sometimes I think I want another baby right now.
It’s possible that I’m going insane. Because one minute I’m feeling sweat pool in the small of my back as I rush to pick up a basketful of toys, answer a few work emails (one-handed on my phone), and sneak in a load of laundry, all while simultaneously catching Vivi as she tries to tumble off the couch that she has learned how to climb in the last week, telling myself my life is insane and also that I should probably mop the floor sometime in the next month because Vivi has taken to licking any cold surface she encounters (ugh).
In these moments, I will literally think: I am never having another baby.
But maybe an hour later, when I’ve resigned myself to the toys on the floor and resolved to figure out the emails after bedtime and the laundry is folded and Vivi is playing quietly by herself for a few minutes, I’ll think, GOSH, another baby would be fun.
Like I said, I’m
possibly probably insane.
That’s why they call it baby fever — it elicits this excited, irrational state where you are not making any sense.
Recently, I tested a bracelet for work that helps you track your fertility cycle. (Again, not trying to get pregnant. It really is just for work.) One day, an alert popped up reminding my that my “fertility window” was about to begin.
And my FIRST thought was, oh, it would be fun to try to get pregnant again. It would be fun to be pregnant again.
You’ll be relieved to know those were split-second thoughts, followed immediately by actually laughing out loud at myself and returning my attention to Vivi who was pulling her play kitchen apart and spreading her tiny wooden “groceries” all over the floor for Bogey to chew on as she tried to gnaw on his plastic ball with her free hand. (At least the kids are sharing?)
I do not really want to be pregnant right now.
Actually, that’s another element to this: Vivi. Like most parents, I think she is literally the greatest kid to have ever walked the earth. Joey and I have at least one conversation every night about how great she is. I’m not just saying that to be cute. We say the words, “Vivi is the greatest” almost every night. I love her in a way I didn’t know I could. And even though I’m always grateful for a chance I get to do something for myself or on my own (thank you, village of fantastic people who help to watch her!), I am always, ALWAYS so happy to see her again. And for one thing, the thought of changing our relationship makes me a little sad. And for another, it’s hard to imagine loving another kid the same way.
I know this is a thing – every first-time mom thinks they could never love a second kid as much, and then they have said second kid and somehow they just do. But I really just think it’s something you have to experience before you really believe it.
Regardless, though, I’m not ready to change anything. I am so satisfied with Vivs, and, if I’m being real, I am legitimately concerned that another kid would break my sanity right now. Let’s talk again in a year or so.
So, fertility window, you’re staying shut for now.