5 Things I Did After Having a Baby to Recognize Myself Again

“This is not normal. I am not OK,” I sobbed into the phone in that heaving, full-body-cry kind of a way. My best friend, Mer, had called to check on me the day after I came home from the hospital with my daughter. An obstetrician, she had delivered my daughter herself a few days earlier.

With my best friend at the helm, I couldn’t have asked for a more supported birth. In the days that followed in the hospital, however, I spent most of my time feeling completely overwhelmed. The transition to motherhood was more radical than I had expected. When I returned home, I walked into the same house I had left just a few days before — but everything felt different. Suddenly, with my daughter in tow, when I stepped into the house I had stepped into a completely new life.

Three years and two kids later, I can’t imagine my life without my kids, nor would I want to. I was right that day: My life is different now, and the road to “recognizing myself” post-baby was bumpy (to say the least).

Here are five things I did to smooth out those bumps and find myself again, as a mom.

1. I went to therapy.

I had my daughter on a Monday, came home from the hospital on a Wednesday, and was sitting with my therapist in his office by Friday at 3 p.m. People talk about “baby blues,” but I had something else; I couldn’t calm down. I’m not ashamed to say I had postpartum depression as well as anxiety. Having support from a trained professional made a monumental impact as I started getting to a place where I could feel like myself again.

2. I found new ways to enjoy old hobbies.

There are few things I enjoy more than reading. Unfortunately, feedings and endless loads of newborn laundry weren’t exactly conducive to curling up on the couch with a great book. Listening to a great book, however, was perfect for my new routine. Audiobooks didn’t just help me pass the time and work my way through my reading wish list; discovering I actually had even more time to pursue one of my favorite hobbies was a lifeline in reconciling my “old life” with my new one.

3. I cultivated new hobbies, too.

When my daughter was seven weeks old, I found myself with two hours of unexpected childcare on a random Tuesday afternoon. On a whim, I signed up for a barre class, not even really knowing what it was. All I knew was that it was 15 minutes from my house, I wanted to get a workout in, and that the class fit my timeframe perfectly. I spontaneously tried something new — and I absolutely loved it. So much about my life had changed with motherhood, and discovering something new on my own terms was exactly what I needed.

4. I invested in community.

Being at home with a newborn can be isolating, and I quickly realized I was happier when I spent time with other people. I made a plan to leave the house every day and connect with other adults; I met friends near their office for coffee or lunch, I signed up for new-mom groups, and when all else failed, I talked to strangers (usually other women sitting with strollers in coffee shops or at the park). I couldn’t have imagined how important the relationships I built with those new friends during this time would be. The more I relied on that community and talked to other women, the more I realized: Adjusting to motherhood is challenging for just about everyone — and you’re usually not the only mom having a hard day.

5. I went back to work… and I crushed it.

I was nervous and emotional about going back to work (who isn’t?). Getting settled into working-mom life was a transition, just like becoming a mother had been five months prior. Like so many women I know, I went back to work just when I was really getting the hang of this whole mom thing.

Three weeks after I returned to work, I led a meeting, presenting to a room full of 25 people. Standing in front of the room to unveil a new initiative, I truly felt like “me” again. The initiative launched and was a smashing success. Kicking butt, taking names and changing diapers didn’t just make me feel like my old self — it made me feel like the best version of my new self.

Now, three-plus years in, I don’t just recognize myself; I recognize the growth that has made me a better version of my old self. I’m still passionate about the things I loved before my kids. I have a new and greater appreciation for my incredible community. And overall, I’m a more resilient version of myself in this (now not-so) new chapter of my life.

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