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December 24, 2020

#180 | 12 Unexpected Ways Motherhood Transformed Me Into a Better Woman with Anna Rova

I never really wanted to have children. It always seemed like having kids was something that people do. Just like going to college and getting a job. Just like going to the grocery store and taking out the garbage. Just like paying their bills.

You know that the clock is ticking and eventually, you’ll have to do it. It’s called being an adult and having responsibilities. It’s unavoidable. Until, of course, there comes a time when you physically can’t do it anymore. But that time was very far away from me.

I didn’t want to have children just because “that’s how things go” or because I “have to.” The pressure from society or family didn’t interest me much. I always felt that somehow creating a family was much more than a simple decision of “okay, okay, okay… whatever. Let’s just do it and see what happens. It can’t be that bad if everyone does it.” Creating a family is not the same as adopting a pet for a week and giving it back because he was too much for you to handle.

I grew up in a world where I saw children as a nuisance. As a burden. The crying, the nagging, the tantrums. Who the fuck wants that? Why? For what greater purpose? What’s the greater good in this sacrifice?

From the moment that embryo would inhabit my womb space, I thought I wouldn’t belong to myself. “Once you have children, your life is pretty much over” was the message I grew up with. I saw a child as something that would be attached to me (literally) for hours, days and years on end. As something that would take away my freedom and put me in a box without a way out.

How fucked up is that?!

It actually sounds really sad. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in such a world.

How did we screw this up?

How and when having children and creating a family have become such a terrible, limiting idea, when, in fact, it has become my greatest joy and liberation?!

Role Models

I didn’t grow up seeing happy families who were real about the challenges of raising children but also deeply fulfilled by having a family. I didn’t witness happy mothers roaming around their day sharing this bundle of joy with the world.

Actually, growing up I didn’t see conscious parents around. Mindfulness, respectful parenting, and personal development were not on any parent’s radar in a post-soviet country in the 90s.

Survival was.

Soviet women would give their children to daycare as early as 1–3 months and get back to work. Because if you didn’t work, you could be sent to prison for “laziness” or “parasitism.” Because the country needed your working hands. The state needed women to produce children and produce at work to keep the nation going.

I’ve only held babies in my arms just a handful of times before I had to deal with taking care of my own infant. Needless to say, I didn’t even know what to do with it when it arrived. My motherhood instinct didn’t kick in right away after giving birth. In fact, I was dreading the time when they’d bring my daughter to our room and I’d have to take care of her.

Forever. (And 18 years minimum sounds like forever)

I’ve left my home when I was 17 and have been on the road since then. Thus, I wasn’t there when my old friends and even my own sister went through the passages of being pregnant, giving birth and raising their children. I simply missed out. I wasn’t there. I didn’t witness closely at least one “becoming a mother” stage in any other woman.
I feel like many young women today are in the same boat. We leave home early, we travel the world, we live in big cities, we pursue opportunities. And we don’t even realize the cost of this disconnection.

Being a college student I used to come to visit my sister during spring break and all I remember is being so very frustrated at screaming babies and not being able to sleep in the morning…They would just scream without end… I couldn’t wait to get back to my college life where I was free to do whatever the hell I wanted.

No wonder that as a young new mother I had no fucking idea what to expect and how to deal with this new crazy adventure. I had all these conditioning and misconceptions about how motherhood would basically ruin me and my future.

So I had to learn on my own. I had to build my own role models. I had to become one. For myself, for other women, and for my daughter.

Post-Modern Feminism

Being a highly ambitious and emancipated young woman, I thought children were a nuisance that would slowly drag me down and kill my self-esteem, self-worth and my position in society as a respected, intellectual individual.

I didn’t want to be that woman that graduates from college, works her ass off to become successful only to get married and have kids. I saw all these women getting married, pregnant then becoming mothers and it just seemed too stereotypical for me. I didn’t want to be put into that box. I always felt like I was something more.

Like, is that it?! Is that all that I am? A woman, wife, a mother…?

I knew most women want it but I didn’t understand why. In fact, I was more relating to women who actually don’t want children or would like to postpone marriage and family life simply because they didn’t want to be put in that “female” box. In fact, one of my girlfriends said: “Oh, I just don’t know how to fit a child on top of everything else.”

It seemed like marriage and children are these holy grails of a feminine soul that everyone has to want. Just because I have a vagina doesn’t mean I want to have children.

Stepping Into My Femininity

After I stepped on the journey of rediscovering my own femininity, I also realized that a child is not something I have on my own. It’s not like a work project that has a deadline, a perfectly planned trajectory and something that’s totally in my control. I can’t create a child with my mind and on my own.

In fact, in my mind, a child was always connected to a man. His child is the one I will carry. And his child is the one that I will nurse and raise. He has to be involved. There was no other way for me.

And so, when I got pregnant and had my daughter, my whole world naturally transformed.

Now I know why.

No one really talked to me about the importance and relevance of marrying a man you love and the enormous joy and bond that comes with it. No one really talked to me about the fact that having a child expands you in 100 different directions and challenges you to become a better human being.

The feminism I grew up in didn’t stress the importance of the fact that this “female box” of motherhood and marriage is actually an important part of every woman’s life. It actually makes us happy and fulfilled. THat’s why we want it. In fact, a lot of female powerhouses secretly want it. They want it bad.

Connection, love, and nurture is what fills our feminine souls and gives us the freedom to be us and to show up in the world in our own unique, feminine ways. It’s why we feel connected, expanded and nurtured. It’s what we were designed to do. It’s primal, instinctive and only natural.

And so I shifted my perspective and every day I feel grateful for the fact that today I live in a world where I can be both: a mother to the most precious baby, a wife to the most loving man AND pursue my career and my ambitions. Of course, not at the same time and not with the same speed. But I have that option. I have that choice.

Along the journey of becoming a mother, a few key paradigm shifts happened.

Paradigm Shifts

Getting Pregnant

My first transformation was the pure fact of creating a family and getting pregnant WITH the man I loved and married. For some crazy reason, I thought that getting pregnant would be very difficult. We stopped using contraception and I thought it would maybe take a year, possibly longer. Infertility issues are a big thing now so I would never imagine that I could be pregnant in just a few months without contraception, even though I never had problems with my cycle, hadn’t had abortions or miscarriages…

So when I got pregnant it was a total shock. I knew that perhaps it could happen but probably not to me. I still remember when I went for my test results and I couldn’ read them… The Spanish lady glanced at that and casually told me trying to look excited “Felicidades! Estas embarazada!”

Of course, I had all kinds of fears about getting pregnant and actually having a child but I knew that the desire to carry my man’s child in my womb and jumping into this unknown was stronger than anything else. I was anxious about what this change would do to my personal and professional life but I also knew that this is more important than any of the “freedom” and professional achievement I would like to have.

Pregnancy

My second transformation was changing the relationship with my body during pregnancy. After the first trimester that was full of nausea and utter devastation, I have emerged as a new woman! Stronger, more powerful and full of energy. I was in awe of what my body can do and is doing: growing a human! I fell in love with myself, my body and being a woman. I never knew that pregnancy could have such an effect on me. Granted, I did have a fairly easy pregnancy without any complications but I do attribute it to a self-care practice of doing yoga, eating well and being active. Pregnancy was not the time to start taking care of my mind and body. I did all of that before.

Of course, it wasn’t as pretty all the time. There were moments when I would lie on the bathroom floor after throwing up thinking what the hell is happening to me and that I would rather not be pregnant. There were moments when I felt very lonely on this journey and cried non-stop. There were moments when I was feeling devastated, lost and very confused. But all that is part of the transformation into becoming a mother, a new person that I’ve never met before. It’s a whole journey of 9 months. Digesting, metabolizing and getting used to. It doesn’t happen in a day. It requires time and patience. Eventually, we get to it and we see the beauty in it (hopefully.)

Birth

My third transformation was birth and our misconceptions about this natural event. I was astonished to find out that birth can be a rather painless, ecstatic event. That women have done this for centuries and that our bodies know how to birth if we let them. Most importantly that we were designed to birth and what’s stopping us from having positive birth experiences are our own fears that have been implanted in us by society and the medical profession. I’ve read books about it, I did courses and I was ready. In fact, I was looking forward to it.

But how it sometimes happens, I wasn’t meant to have natural labor because at 37 weeks I was told I have IUGR (intra-uterine growth restriction) and I was induced artificially at almost 39 weeks. Long story short, after a crazy intense 5-hour labor I did give birth naturally to a beautiful baby girl weighing 2.47 kg. I did have minor tearing front and back and lost 800 ml of blood which required me to stay at the hospital for three days and baby be in Intensive care for 2 days but that’s pretty much it.

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Miss Zoe

I also had lots of misconceptions about how crazy and long the recovery would be and how my body would be ruined for years. Well, in about 2.5 weeks I was as good as new. My uterus shrank back quickly and I was back at yoga at around 4 weeks.

First 40 Days & Beyond

My fourth transformation was about taking care of this tiny human being. I had no idea how it would be. Babies are all very different so it’s pretty much a Russian roulette in terms of how much sleep you’re going to get and how much sanity you’ll be left with.

The first 2 weeks were a total rollercoaster of hormones, sleepless nights and total confused about life. For the first 2 months, I literally didn’t know what the hell happened and what am I supposed to do with this baby. I didn’t have an instinct that would make me instantly fall in love with this baby. I didn’t feel much at all. I was just feeding non-stop, changing nappies, bathing and putting her to sleep. That’s it. It was like taking care of a very demanding kitten that can’t communicate. You just have to do it.

At around 2.5 months I started feeling the feels. It hit me one day. I was completely in love and in awe with my child. Every single smile. Every single tiny movement. The way she sleeps. The way she looks at me. The way she nurses. How cute she looks in every single outfit. I was hooked. It was like a drug. My world turned around. I truly became her mother. It was that butterfly moment. I have emerged from my cocoon.

Of course, there are still sleepless nights and constant challenges. And, I also realize that my baby is pretty much an angel sleeping through the night, is pretty calm and chill, not having colics and all kinds of other things that make a parent’s life much much harder.

Every day I am watching her grow and develop and it’s quite fascinating. She is five months now and we are both blooming. I am opening myself up to a whole new world of sensations, thoughts, and emotions. I feel things I’ve never felt before. I think about things in a totally new perspective. I see the world through a different lens. I have indeed become a butterfly and it’s the best thing in the world. Things are happening to me which I have no control over. I am expanding in 10 different directions every day. I can’t name it yet. It’s a feeling thing.

So here are the twelve ways motherhood made me an ever-evolving, better human being that I didn’t even imagine it would:

  1. I became more conscious about the environment and what type of world we live in. I started caring about global warming, preserving natural habitats, leaving this world a better place for my child. Became more community oriented. Empathetic. Generous. I just started caring more.
  2. I now care deeply about other women and babies. My heart melts when I see tiny babies. I can’t undo my birth experience and the fact that I became a mother. I feel connected to all mothers that came before and that will come after me. I understood that women are truly what drives the world forward. I believe biology has made it this way so we help each other, bond and counter-balance the constant masculine cold-hearted “go.” energy.
  3. I am in constant re-evaluation mode of my values and behavior. I observe more. I meditate more. I think about the world and its future more often. I am aware that everything I do is reflecting on my child’s view of the world.
  4. I am taking care of myself and my body in a more nourishing way. I am very conscious of taking care of myself first because if my mind, body, and soul are exhausted and unfulfilled — everyone is unhappy. I am not going to sacrifice my own desires, pleasures and freedom #forthechildren. In fact, I think this kind of mentality and viewpoint might come back and bite me in the ass in the form of some sort a “revenge strategy.”
  5. I have reprioritized what’s important in life. I realized that our family unit is the foundation of our lives and everything else is kind of like an “icing on the cake.” I don’t want to fit my family on top of everything else. I want to fit everything else on top of my family. Like a bonus. If I keep the foundation steady, stable and fulfilled, plants will grow, the harvest will come. My business and my professional development is important and it gives me fulfillment but my priorities are very clear: family first, work second. Because that’s what fulfills me deeply as a woman.
  6. I have discovered a new sense of freedom in the letting go and surrendering to the flow of life. I dance around feeding schedules and nap times. I am flexible with weekend plans and coffee dates. I know that everything might change in a second and thus I appreciate “here and now.”
  7. My relationship with time transformed. Time became my biggest asset. Today I am much more efficient and productive. The Pareto rule of 80/20 has reversed after childbirth. I now indeed only do 20% of work to gain 80% of results.
  8. Motherhood has made me a better entrepreneur. My business has taken off. I realized that time is not money. Time is the spare minutes to spend with my man and my baby. To watch her giggle and explore the world. To observe her do amazing human things we take for granted for the first time. To go for hikes and picnics. To make love and be in love, feel my body and my pleasure. To enjoy the humanness in all of us and to appreciate life. To travel the world with a new sense of wonder and awe.
  9. I have seen my man transform into a father— a precious gift of vulnerability and tenderness. The way he makes sure she’s not too cold. The way he wraps her up and puts her to sleep. The way he makes up songs and reads her stories on the go. The way he looks at her when she’s asleep and keeps saying “little monkey is so cute.” The way he changes her nappies and plays with her. It’s an incredible experience to see him so in love with a little human being that I had the privilege to gift him. I want to do this again and again. ❤
  10. Watching and learning about how little humans go through ten major developmental leaps during the course of their first 16 months. Every 3–4 weeks babies go through incredible growth spurts that move them from one stage to another of understanding how the world works. Changing sensations, discovering patterns, transitions, relationships, categories and so much more. It’s all quite complex
  11. Developing empathy and patience. Learning about attachment theories, the circle of trust and respectful parenting. Reflecting on your own parents and how hard it was for them. Understanding that parenting is a job and it’s not for everyone. It’s a constant personal growth path. A really challenging one but the one job that’s absolutely worth it.
  12. Learning about how humans learn to eat, walk, speak and think. From drinking breastmilk to starting solids, healthy eating habits, and nutrition. From starting to roll on to their side to crawling to walking. From saying their first consonants to putting words together, starting to speak, read and write. It’s like going through an intimate crash course on human development and understanding. An insight into our own species.

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