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New Moms, You Will Get Your Time Back

In those first few months after my son was born, I was completely absorbed with him. I was absorbed with his blue-eyed beauty, his lack of sleep and his troubling green poops, his perpetual nursing and his sparkling smile. New motherhood was like being underwater, surrounded by strands of seaweed, spiked fish and low light—everything was new and foreign. Sometimes I floated; much of the time I felt like I was drowning.

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Those months of submersion, of being tethered and taut, were probably necessary. Motherhood is drenching. Most of us submerge with our firstborns as we enter the unfamiliar territory of constantly caring for someone we've only just met, someone we will grow to love fiercely, unambiguously.

Some parts of this submersion are lovely. Other parts are wretched.

After several months of constant, intense parenting, I began to slowly venture out, leaving my husband and son with kisses and a bottle of pumped milk. I went to a yoga class. The library. My old writing group.

In the haze of diapers and sleeplessness, I couldn't imagine things would ever be any different than they were then.

While these outings kept me sane, they also were sometimes painful. I felt strange and guilty leaving my little boy, who felt like an appendage. And leaving—coming up for air—was a potent reminder of my old life; a life I'd built around my own wants and needs. Once, after attending a favorite dance class, I felt both euphoric but also a painful yearning—like a seal had been broken, leaving me wanting to dance, write, travel and go to movies. I wanted my old life back. And I knew I couldn't have it. At least not then.

But it was crucial for me to surface; I needed it almost like I needed literal air. Over time, I reclaimed small parts of myself, and in the process became a saner, happier person and mom.

The funny thing about those early days is I felt like I'd be in them forever. Like there was no end in sight to the relentless loop of feed, comfort, play, (attempt) sleep. New parenthood, for me, was an altered state. Sleep deprivation contributed to it, as did the shock of being responsible, ALWAYS, for a helpless little person. Time tilted, like it does after the death of a loved one; it felt impossibly slow, yet at the same time I felt like I'd known my son forever. In the haze of diapers and sleeplessness, I couldn't imagine things would ever be any different than they were then.

But now? Time has tilted again and it's amazing how fast, in retrospect, it's gone by. Again, time feels altered, sometimes moving achingly slow, but in other ways a complete whirlwind. That needy little baby has somehow morphed into a 6-year-old who eats bacon, dresses himself and takes a bus to school five days a week. My little girl is 3, and while she still needs and wants me very much; she also knows that when I leave, I'll come back.

And so I left.

I come up for air often. I do yoga or run several times a week. I go to my writing group. My kids remain my biggest priority, and they still need me so much. ... But our relationships evolve.

This weekend, a group of 19 friends—all moms—had planned to go away for the weekend. At the last minute, one had to drop out, and I took her place. With my husband's blessing, I hugged my family goodbye and drove two hours north. I'm sitting on a bed with my laptop perched on my thighs, remembering the deep dive of early motherhood and marveling at how very different it is now. This morning, I slept in until 8:30 a.m. and got a massage at 10. From downstairs, I hear the rolling sound of my friends laughing.

And it's not just this weekend, this amazing weekend of coming ashore, that I couldn't have imagined six years ago.

I come up for air often. I do yoga or run several times a week. I go to my writing group. My kids remain my biggest priority, and they still need me so much. And I rely on them, as well—for the structure they bring, for the laughs and love. But our relationships evolve—it won't be long until their friends become the center of their orbits, while my husband and I become the backdrop instead of the main feature. And that will be both sad and freeing.

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New moms: you will get your time back. This phase that you're in right now, the one that feels like it'll last forever—whether it's teething or cluster feeding, blistering sleep deprivation or the blur that life becomes after the birth of a second child—it will pass. And you will begin to turn back to yourself. It's never too early or too late to start this, to start gifting your family with a happier you.

I have to go now, because I'm going to lie back on this soft pillow and read a book for many uninterrupted minutes while I sip my coffee. And then, when I feel ready, I'll head downstairs and join the laughter.

Image via morgueFile/greyerbaby

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