I see many articles pop up in my newsfeed about the changes that come with motherhood. These articles stretch from one side of the opinion spectrum to the other, recording beautifully positive maternal experiences through to tumultuous journeys of upheaval and challenge. Some mums seem to rejoice in claiming the cloak of motherhood, while others struggle with a loss of individual identity and space.
I find myself teetering in the middle of the spectrum. My life has changed in so many ways since I entered the murky waters of motherhood, yet I still happily drag my former self with me through all my parenting journeys, much like a toddler who drags their beloved blankie on magical adventures far and wide.
My social life has changed almost beyond recognition. Before entering the mummy zone, weekends were carefree; slow-moving scores of time peppered with barbecues, late dinners out, crowded bars and cold afternoon beverages shared in the park with friends. Now, weekends are frantic two-day jigsaw puzzles filled with oddly shaped pieces of zoo visits, university assignments, grocery shopping, adventure playgrounds, tea parties and battling my way to the washing machine.
Catch-up with friends are now brief, frazzled encounters involving repeated cries of 'please don't draw on Mummy and Daddy's friends glass coffee table with your milk' and 'put that down, it's worth more than our whole house' - or they are rare late night affairs out and about, made possible by combining painkillers and patience with a wonderful partner who is willing to take the burden while my head slowly caves in on itself the next morning.
My vocabulary has also taken a whole new direction. Expletives have given way to sweeter approximations, with fuuu...rrr out shhh....ooot getting regular workouts and my grandmother's trademark Sugar Honey Ice Tea popping in for routine appearances. Letters have replaced key words, with marital conversations within ears reach of our daughter now sounding like a rapid-fire adult spelling bee, often assisted by wild hand gestures and crinkled facial expressions for added conversational emphasis. And it's not unusual to find myself uttering absurd phrases to my toddler that would have made my former self think I was quite mad: if you put pink teddy, mummy horsey or your cow light in the garbage bin again then Mummy will be sad and the new ice cubes won't freeze and you won't be able to put any in your bowl until tomorrow.
Work and study have become entirely different experiences. Before becoming a mum, work and university were generally the main meals of my day, providing the bulk of my mental sustenance and serving as the fiercest fire up my backside to get up, get going and fight my forward. These days, work and study have transitioned to an essential but elemental part of my independent freedom, a series of happy challenges to sandwich between the many other meals of the day.
Deadlines used to stand up in my calendar like menancing mountains, hard and cold and seemingly near impossible to scale. The project topic or essay theme would consume my mind completely, from shower to third draft to all night, panic stations. Now, the deadlines are merely friendly markers, little flags waving in the breeze requiring a slot in my diary and two coffees worth of brain space.
My body has also changed irrevocably. Size, shape, girth - even my foot size has increased. After two and half years of slow postnatal deflation, I have retunred to most of my former wardrobe and now outwardly appear to be a reasonable approximation of my previous self. But the changes lurk behind the surface, with a series stretch marks and scars, an expanded ribcage and vastly lowered breast reminding my daily of my physical losses and my incredible life gains.
My new body has found a companion in an increased pain threshold. Having made it through a birth where I missed the window for pain relief and was too uncoordinated to suck on the gas, I seem to have discovered the art of sucking it up. Where once a heavy cold would have me bedridden and moaning for assistance, a headache plagued, snotty attack now serves as added ammunition to grit my shivering teeth and get on with all the various shit on the life list - because, really, who else is going to pick up the plastic beetle, the discarded wipes, the three hundred lid-deprived textas and the half eaten apple shoved under the couch that are driving me mad?
Curiously, I have also become calm where I used to feel anxious, and anxious in the times and places that I used to feel calm. I am uncertain if the change is due to the shifting priorities in my life, or the many lessons I have had to learn, or the sheer exhaustion running from my tired brain to my expanded feet - but I am too tired to be anxious about it.
The many changes across my world are readily evident. Becoming a mother has changed my life irrevocably and starkly, a giant line drawn across the page of my life in black ink the day my daughter was born. As bold, as stark, as permanent as the big fat marker lines my toddler proudly tattooed onto my couch last month.
The one thing that being a mum hasn't been able to change though is the essence of me. You know, those things that make you, you and me, me. The things that would have to be ironed out of the very fabric of your being by a mystical force far greater than the combined magic of Peppa Pig, Playschool and a box of sultanas on a rainy (hungover) Sunday morning with a two year old.
Through the multitudinous changes and strangeness of parenting, my essence has remained firmly intact. Whether I'm pleading with my toddler to put her pants on or hiding in the bathroom eating chips or sitting in a work meeting, I am immovably, unquestionably still the same me I have always been. For better, for worse, and for all the weird everything in between.
The proof is in the littlest little things, the tiny parts that make up the big moving - generally very clumsy - object that is me. The things most of us never acknowledge about ourselves, but that we all know to be as true as they come and generally as odd as can be.
The little truths. Like I still believe that birthday cake is magical and should be worshipped, especially during office gatherings and mundane routine occasions - I will always be the first to begin the ungainly cake box hover, the first to have seconds, and the very last to leave a piece lying alone on the plate. Or how I will tackle the biggest bully in the room regardless of consequence, but would rather eat my own shoes than complain that someone got my sandwich order wrong.
The unconscious bits. Like I still scrunch and crinkle my nose like a hyperactive rabbit looking for premature crease lines every time I use my brain - left scrunch or uncertain, moderate scrunch for concern, mild crinkle for happy - and I still inadvertently blink my eyes in rapid succession when trying to pretend I'm not having an emotional explosion on the inside.
The quirky quirks. Like I mentally read the word 'podiatrist' as 'po-deeattrist' and add imaginary exclamation marks to uneven words to tidy them up for my liking. I still despise loose socks, pruny bath fingers and crinkling plastic sounds, firmly believing that all three were sent to undo my sanity one horrifically mundane, mundanely horrific sensation at a time.
And the little heart things. Like how I still love coffee in bed and bright flowers in bunches and collecting more books than my shelves can ever possibly hold. And how I believe that cheese is always the great answer, Scrabble is always the great leveller in love, and that antagonism laced with wit is flirting done well.
And so it is that I find myself happily stranded in the middle of the parenting change spectrum: undeniably still the same, yet simultaneously transformed in all the best possible ways.
Linking with With Some Grace for FYBF