How I Rediscovered Myself After Becoming A Mom
Words: Krissy Coggins
One mom shares the three steps that helped her make space for herself in the midst of parenting.
I am a mommy to two beautifully wild girls Hazel (4) and Naomi (2). I share this wonderful life with them and my partner in crime, lover, and expander J.
By skill, I am a respiratory therapist. At heart, I am a blooming creative.
But of all of the roles I’ve ever played, becoming a mom swept me off of my feet the most. It pulled me into an ocean of love, hugs, kisses, diapers, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, insistent toddlers, and overall unpredictability.
The unpredictability part can be hard because, you see, I fancy myself a planner. Even if I make flexible plans, I want some control over my day.
Well, if you’ve ever had a newborn, then you know that notion gets thrown straight out the window along with your edges.
Both times I gave birth, it took me about a year to recover any modicum of normalcy. But by normal, I mean adjusting myself to the needs of my tiny humans, instead of learning how to fit my own needs into our new routines.
Late in the summer of 2016, four months after I gave birth for the second time, I noticed that I was feeling extremely anxious, very often. I soon started having panic attacks three to four times a day. I had a tingling sensation in my feet along with weakness and soreness in my muscles.
One day, after dinner, I got up to walk and had to grab my chair—my legs had stiffened up and I had no control over them. I was rushed to the Emergency Room where they told me that I was just stressed out.
You deserve the same kind of love, energy, and compassion that you give your babies.
On my follow-up visit with my doctor, I informed her that I thought I had a thyroid disorder. (Thanks, Google.) They tested my thyroid levels, and sure enough, they were off the charts; the equipment couldn’t even register my TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) level.
I soon got the news that I had an autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a condition that impacts other physiological aspects of the body. I was terrified and in shock. I had a then 4-month-old and a 2-year-old; what would they do if something happened to me?
Once I was on medication and feeling far less anxious, I decided it was high time that I take care of myself. Stress and lack of sleep are two factors that exacerbate autoimmune disorders—I had to start making myself a priority.
On the first day of Fall of 2016, I decided that as much as I loved my family, I needed to do more for myself. I needed to take time to love on me more and fill myself up with the things my soul longed for. I got answers to questions I didn't know I had because I decided to say yes to me with reckless abandon. So, while this disease scared me, it also changed my life for the better.
Saying yes was the best decision I ever made, especially as a mother. It is important for us to say yes to ourselves because we are responsible for our self-care. Saying yes to yourself opens pathways for discovery and growth. It makes it easier to check into your feelings, relieve pressure, create boundaries, and recover from setbacks. In doing all of that, you invest in your highest self. Your highest self is confident, joyful, aligned, and aware.
Of course learning to take better care of yourself is not a linear process—there will be ups and downs. However, the more you practice it, the easier it will become to reconnect. Below are three things that I do to maintain space for my personhood.
Step 1: Stay Connected
Being connected is how we remain aware of what our body is trying to tell us regarding our physical and emotional states. It’s how we notice discomfort, joy, anger, tension, contentment, fulfillment, and so many other sensations and emotions.
All of these feelings are keys that unlock doors to our highest self. When we are connected, we can think more clearly, feel more at peace, and act more mindfully. Connection affords us the ability to be the parent that we want to be while taking care of ourselves. So, I knew I had to get to the work of minding my business.
What did it look like to mind my business? Hello, my name is Krissy, and I binge watch TV. And if scrolling social media was an Olympic sport, I could probably take at least the silver medal. I am a pro at distracting myself. As soon as my kids’ bedtime rolled around, my only goal was to catch up on all the good TV I was missing.
I’m not here to shame TV watching at all, especially not in the times of Jo-Issa Rae Diop—she is bae and we go way back to ABG. But what I have learned is that I have to prioritize my self-care over my love of a good TV show.
With my children being so little, this means creating structured bedtime routines that leave me time to get what I need once they are sleep.
It also means that on most days I get up early to nourish myself—mind, body, and spirit. I do yoga, meditate, journal, dance, read, write, and try to socialize as much as possible.
I still watch TV, but I catch up on my shows later. I know we live for the moments when our children go to sleep and we can finally get some quiet time alone. I also know that the love, energy, and fulfillment that I seek is up to me to get.
Doing these things instead of watching TV or scrolling through the ‘Gram has led to an increased self-awareness, body awareness, and trust. Distraction has its place. However, staying connected is the end goal.
Step 2: Work Your Process
Mamas, you deserve your magic.
You deserve the same kind of love, energy, and compassion that you give your babies.
You deserve to get what you need every damn day.
During my year of yes—thank you, sis Shonda Rhimes—I learned how to tune into myself so that I could get what I needed. I read life-changing books (Healing Developmental Trauma, The Emotionally Absent Mother, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection and Shonda’s Year of Yes), found a bomb-ass therapist, practiced meditative yoga and mindfulness, learned to meditate, and fell in love with journaling.
I decided I wanted to do as many of these things as I could every day, so I created a morning and evening routine.
A typical morning for me is my alarm going off at 4 a.m. (Yikes, I know!) I begin by smudging my house, then I move on to yoga. Next, I meditate for 10-15 minutes and finally, I journal. After that, I shower, eat something, and get into my activities for the day.
In the evening, after the kids go to bed, I put some music in my headphones and dance in the dark, literally like nobody's watching.
Does every day run this smooth? I wish it did. However, setting this intention gives me an anchor for days when parenting and housekeeping can feel overwhelming.
Your routine does not have to look anything like mine, but it should incorporate things that grow and heal you. And you should do it as consistently as possible. For lack of a better way of putting it, it’s like I am addicted to "momming so hard.” If I do not work my process as consistently as possible, I will fall off the wagon and start neglecting myself again. I am in self-care recovery, every day.
To build your routine, ask yourself these questions:
Does this empower me?
Does this give me space to reflect on my day?
Does this open up my heart?
Does this give me the energy that my childhood gave me before people told me what was right and wrong for me?
Do I feel like I am standing in and fueling my power?
Step 3: Get Carefree With The Kiddos
Here is a little secret that you probably already know: Your kids have the secret sauce to authentic expression and open-hearted living. Fostering their ability to be their autonomous, expressive, carefree selves will help you open up to your authentic expression.
You can dive right into this aspect of healing through connection by playing with them. The most significant challenge is how do you make time? Kids will keep you hella busy! Between school, play dates, meal prepping, bathtime, and bedtime, we stay on the move. Also, we have our own work, errands, and phone calls to keep us busy.
So how do you make time for those “Mommy, can you _______ with me?” moments?
The answer is by giving them 15 minutes at a time. (I came across that little gem while reading Year of Yes.)
We may sometimes feel as though we have to stop what we are doing and play for an extended period. But, in fact, we don’t. Sometimes our kids just need a few moments to connect with us.
“You're not Rihanna, and you're not a Muppet,” Shonda writes. “Your child doesn't think you're that interesting. My kids only want to play with me for 15 minutes and then they're on to something else. It's just 15 minutes. I can pull off 15 minutes of time on my worst day. Uninterrupted is the key.”
I have implemented this over and over again. I don't tell the girls they only have 15 minutes. I think to myself, Can you spare 15 minutes?
Most of the time, the answer is yes.
During those 15 minutes, I go full-on big kid mode. Right now Hazel loves to run around the house with blankets wrapped around our necks pretending to be superheroes. We all love turning on some music, dancing, and playing our instruments. Sometimes I get caught up and play longer than expected. They are thrilled with our time spent. Then, when I have to move forward, I go back to working on whatever project I am creating.
Ultimately, we have to show up for ourselves. I remember thinking as a child, Why are all the moms crazy and the dads cool as hell? (I didn’t say hell because I was afraid my mom would hear my thoughts and I knew better!)
Moms work extra hard around the household. Don’t get me wrong; fathers are hard-working, too. However, moms know that our kids come to us for EVERYTHING—literally everything—especially when they are this little.
We don’t always know how to back away from a task, how to direct them to their dad for help. We just figure, “I can do it.”
All those little requests and ducklings following you from corner to corner of your home add up, and they are exhausting. Let this be your sign to love on yourself, to reach out to your community, and to foster community. Let this be your sign to embrace your needs compassionately.