Nothing could have prepared me to be a mom. Sure, other parents warned me I could forget about uninterrupted sleep, taking long baths, or having any time to pamper myself. And while all these things became very true when my son was born, I didn’t mind.

Giving up small luxuries (that I completely took for granted before) was part of being a mom in my opinion. So what if my showers are so quick and haphazard that I sometimes mistake the toothpaste for face wash? It’s my job to sacrifice! I have to do everything to take care of my son!

I was able to continue in this manner for a few months until…

One day I was overpowered by a familiar, yet pungent smell. It followed me everywhere I went. It was a scent that only a mother could know: the smell of my baby’s poop. But it was strange because there was no baby or dirty diaper in sight. I took a more thorough shower than usual but the odor still lingered.

I recalled in the first few weeks after giving birth I would hear my son’s wails in my head all the time, even when he wasn’t crying. Was constantly smelling my baby’s poop another type of hallucination that bonds mother and child?

I wish the real explanation was that poignant but the truth was the smell was coming from my skin! I smelled like my baby’s poop! I guess it made sense in a way – my baby is exclusively breastfed so I inherently provide him with everything that comes out in his poop.

Essentially, I am baby poop.

Every new parent has felt disheartened at some point. Perhaps it’s for giving up their careers, social lives or independence to take care of a child. My day came when I realized my signature scent was now Eau de Toilet.

It’s easy for a mom to be completely consumed by taking care of her baby, especially her first one. In the process, she will neglect herself and her needs. I was caught in this cycle until it became clear I was doing both myself and my baby a huge disservice.

As important as it is to change diapers, implement nap schedules and cuddle your baby, I encountered what I consider to be the biggest challenge of motherhood: How do I raise both myself and my child?

Just like many moms, I feel guilty if I take any time for myself. I justify that my son doesn’t care if my nails are manicured or hair is washed. But the reality is that I care and it was causing me to feel like I was losing almost every part of my pre-baby identity.

All relationships are actually about learning to take care of yourself so you have the energy and positivity you need for someone else. The stakes are a little higher here because this tiny human depends on you for his very existence! But as both you and baby grow, things do get easier.

Find a way to make your interests and your baby’s schedule work together. I love to take my son to the mall so he gets to “see exciting things and interact with people”, which really means he gets to observe lots of shoes while the salespeople play with him. Thanks to him, I have a wonderful new footwear collection.

So for now my chest isn’t where it used to be as breastfeeding takes it toll; leaving the house means I have to pack the equivalent of a suitcase for my baby; I keep dreaming of the sleep I’ll have some day which is actually quite cruel because I don’t sleep long enough to dream.

But when I’m feeling lost and need to remember my old self, I put on a pretty dress, pair it with impractical accessories that my baby could ruin in a second, and actually take the time and effort to wing my eyeliner.

Then I turn to my son and ask “Doesn’t mommy look pretty today?” and I know the answer is always “yes”… because he can’t talk yet.

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