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Lost: Identity

Mark, 11 Weeks and 4 Days
Mark, 11 Weeks and 4 Days

When I glance at my reflection in the mirror, I see a woman, complete with boobs and a butt. When I hear myself talk in English, I detect a hint of a French accent in my voice; yet my French sounds strange to native speakers: I’m an immigrant, a French and a Canadian. When my Blackberry beeps, I’m a translator, editor or writer—depending on the assignment. When I’m with Feng, I’m a partner, a friend, a wife. When I hear Mark cry or when he grips my finger and won’t let go, it stirs something deep inside me and I realize that I’m a mother, albeit a new one.

I have too many distinct identities these days. It’s tough to reconcile them all. I feel like I lost myself in the process of trying.

During the nine months of pregnancy, my changing body was foreign to me. I didn’t label myself as “ugly” or “pretty” but I found it hard to look at myself naked in the mirror—after a shower, I would reach for a towel right away and wrap myself into it as if my sore breasts and my growing belly weren’t there.

The fact that I felt treated as a baby incubator didn’t help either. I was no longer a woman, I was a pregnant woman. That two-syllable word changed everything—at least the way I was seeing myself and the way the rest of the world was treating me, sometime with caution, sometime with condescension.

I tried to survive and to adapt to these changes. I made concessions and I worked on baking that baby the best I could. I also tried to live a normal life: I didn’t give up yoga, traveling or vegetarian sushi.

From a physical point of view, I had it easy. Like my ob-gyn said, “your body was made to have children.” From a psychological point of view, it was another story. I was borderline depressed at times even though I still can’t pinpoint what triggered that sense of loss of control and why I found being pregnant so challenging. It’s one of these things I can’t explain.

I’m no longer pregnant (yay!) and I’m embracing motherhood. Even though it still feels new, unreal and scary, I’m happy to be Mark’s mother.

But I don’t want to trade the multifaceted identities it took me 29 years to build for a one-size-fits-all “mother” label. I want to add that motherhood status to my personal identity because I am still an individual, with hopes and dreams—for Mark, of course, but for Feng and I and for myself as well.

To me, motherhood is part of a purpose but not my ultimate goal in life.

That’s it. I said it. Sounds selfish? Maybe. These days, anything sends me on a guilt trip anyway.

It’s challenging. Being a new mother is time-consuming and my world does revolve around Mark these days. I do translations with Mark in my arms, I bottle feed between two assignments while grabbing a bite for myself, and I feel like throwing a party whenever I get to wear “outside clothes”, i.e. my regular jeans and t-shirt instead of a milk-stained sweater and sweat pants. I canceled so many coffee meeting with my friends because I was on “mommy duty” that I’m surprise we still bother to try to hook up. And most days I’m so exhausted that checking what’s going on in the world, doing something nice for myself, hugging Feng or simply day dream is beyond me.

Maybe I’m too stubborn. Maybe I shouldn’t cling to my other identities. Maybe I should stop working, stop trying to meet friends, stop trying to be a woman and embrace motherhood fully, whatever that means.

But that wouldn’t be “me”, whoever “me” is these days. And I don’t think I would be doing Mark a favour either—I don’t want to put all my hopes on him, that’s too much pressure for a kid. I’m also happier when I feel complete and that includes writing, working, traveling, exercising, eating chocolate, wearing non-politically correct t-shirts and browsing silly websites.

I believe in balance. I don’t think I can have it all but I will try.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll just focus on being Juliette, in good and in bad.

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