I sat in the salon parking lot, my voice unsteady as I said to my best friend on the phone: “it feels like I’m putting the pieces of myself back together. I’m trying to figure out who I am.”
During the decade that I’ve been a mother, there are been several points marked by such overwhelming change, I’ve felt as if I didn’t know who I was. Or, rather, I didn’t know that latest version of who I’d become.
I sometimes think about that evolution as Lost and Found, Motherhood Edition: the process of changing identity and self-discovery that occurs from the moment you become a mom. It is one that involves losing your previous self and finding the newest version of yourself, and, for me, it has occurred a few times in the last ten years.
I remember the first time it happened. It was a quiet, icy morning in Washington, D.C. in 2008, and we were driving home from the hospital with our brand new baby girl. Our first baby girl. The trees, the sky, the streets all looked the exact same as they had two days before. But for me, the world had shifted on its axis. Suddenly, I was someone’s mom, which was surreal and overwhelming. I knew who I was as an attorney, a wife, a sister. But Chrissy Roussel as a mother? Who was she? Was I still the same person? Or was I different? And how was I different?
Before I had kids, I never really thought much about how my identity would shift when I had kids. Ok, no—I never thought about it at all. Yet as we drove our first daughter home, I knew that my entire world and identity had changed beyond measure.
In those first few months of parenting, I remember thinking, if I could just fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans again, I’d magically feel like myself again. But when I did zip those jeans at three months post-partum, it dawned on me: fitting in my jeans could never make me feel like “myself” again, because it wasn’t just my shape that changed. I was different, and no jeans would ever help me feel like my pre-baby self. I knew, in that moment, that there was no going to back to who I was before, and there was only uncovering who I’d become.
Slowly but surely, as the months and years went by, I settled into the new mom-version of myself. I became more confident as a parent. As we added a second and third daughter to our family, I felt sure of myself and my identity. I felt comfortable in my own skin and my role as a mother. I knew what I was doing, and I knew what I liked to do when I was not busy caring for my three little girls.
And then we had triplets. And the entire earth shifted on its axis again. Life became a blur of diaper changes, pumping milk, and an unrelenting three-hour feeding schedule. It was a 24-hour-a-day job, and it left no time to think about much beyond the next feeding. I was completely consumed in caring for them. Each day was relentlessly full, and so I pushed onward, right-left-right, from one day to the next. There wasn’t much time to look up and see things around; there was just the singular task of caring from my preemie daughters. While I loved caring for them, it was all-consuming.
At about nine months post-partum, I stopped pumping. Soon after that, my triplets started Mom’s Day Out for a few mornings a week. For the first time in a very long time, I had time. Time! It was such a different concept and a drastic change from the previous 9 months or so. To my surprise, instead of feeling excited, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know what I should do with my free time. I didn’t know how to relax. I didn’t know how to exist but for caring for my kids.
While first-time-mom-Chrissy wasn’t sure what she looked like as a mother, this time, I couldn’t figure out who I was apart from my role as a mother. I pictured myself as a pile of oversized jigsaw puzzle pieces on the floor, waiting to be put back together. I had to figure out who I had become, and what I loved to do. Who was I apart from my kids? What made me tick? What made me excited?
So I started trying things out. I started this blog, for one, because I like to write and it was something fun I could do for myself. I colored my hair for the first time, which resulted in that aforementioned phone call to my best friend. I went to concerts with husband, which I have always loved. Slowly but surely, I learned how to exist apart from my trio, which was, at first, very hard to do. However, I also knew it was necessary to put the puzzle pieces together, and to figure out who I was and what I loved.
The triplets just turned four, and I feel a quiet, almost imperceptible, shift happening again. They are getting easier (and harder!) and more self-sufficient. And now, once again, I find myself searching to figure out what to do with idle hands. And so I’m back to those same questions of who am I, what do I love to do, and where I go from here.
I have a few answers. As always, spending time with good friends sparks my soul. Jogging makes me feel more alive. Writing my blog continues to be source of fun and, to be honest, validation, which is generally hard to come by as a parent. Spending time with Seth, and going to see live music, is also a win. I’ve also been working hard to be healthier and take better care of myself.
One question I get asked quite often these days is what I’ll do when my triplets start preK next year. The truth is, I have no idea. I think for the first week, I’ll do absolutely nothing and lounge around all day. After that, I’ll probably slowly put the pieces of myself back together in a new form, as I’ve done a few times since becoming a mom. It is a constant process of rediscovery and reinvention.
Lost and Found, Mom Edition. It’s an evolution. It’s life. It’s uncovering who I am, who I’m meant to be, and who I want to become. It’s Chrissy Roussel. Not the mom. Not the wife. Just me. And I’m going to keep looking.