The Chameleon Mum

Written for http://www.MomThinks.co.uk

It’s human nature to change and adapt. As you take on new jobs, as you move to new areas, as you mix in different social circles, you adjust to suit the situation – much like a chameleon becoming accustomed to its habitat.

But never is this lizard-like skill more necessary than when you become a mother for the first time. 

You are entering a new and bewildering new world; you are green against a red background, refusing to blend in.

Take My Experiece

I was a late entrant in to the pregnancy game (luckily through no reason other than it took me some years to find the right coupling). Once the gene pool was established, I was lucky to fall pregnant within five months, with one tragic false start that I’ve resigned myself to being nature’s way. My little man was due around my fortieth birthday. It was quite some gift that took away the sting of growing older, giving me living proof that I wasn’t yet over the hill! 

This meant, before conceiving, I had clocked up two full decades of ‘finding myself.’ I’d achieved a career in education that had spun me to the dizzy heights of leadership! I’d mentored and coached; been a holder of knowledge and advice. I’d found a passion for what I did and had opinions grounded in experience. And there was still so much to learn. 

Back then I had established an identity. The long hair. The heels. The fitted dresses. I prided myself on trying to have a polished edge (till the third bottle of chardonnay came along and the mascara began to slip. Because yes, I liked to go out, I liked to cut loose but I didn’t always like the next day too much). 

Up until that bump appeared, I blended just fine with my habitat. There’d been a few adjustments necessary to get there, but I was secure.

Time to readjust

Then he came along. We weren’t in Kansas any more Toto!  

What was this new landscape? Why did my colours stand out? Why was it so obvious I didn’t have a clue! 

When you’re new to motherhood it’s exhilarating, terrifying, awe-inspiring, confusing, amusing, exhausting with a healthy slug of hormones chucked in to the mix. 

Having reached that point of confidence in my life suddenly here I was, standing out like a sore thumb and desperately hoping to blend in. 

As with any true chameleon though, you soon begin to adjust.

How to blend!

First is the vocabulary – so many new terms. Meconium, muslins, leaps, sleep regression, transitions, feeding positions, cradle cap, white-noise app… My advice. Nod knowingly, then furiously Google in the dark of the night in between snacks and box sets as you’re up feeding. Slowly, slowly you will begin to absorb this new lexicon – when you speak the language you are on the road to becoming part of the community.  

The last thing you want to do as a new mum is stand out. Predators may be a harsh way to describe health visitors, fellow mums and old Aunty Doris but to the fledgling mamma, their pecks and pokes at how things ‘should’ be done can feel like an attack. I can remember feeling keenly that being a bit older, I should know things right? I’d worked with children – people just expected me to get it. But I didn’t. And it was uncomfortable being the one who needed the mentoring, who needed coaching.  

I had to learn to trust what I felt was right. That self-confidence of my pre-baby days had faded but I knew I’d survived forty years pretty much unscathed. There was a high probability that I could raise a baby without too much collateral damage. If Aunty Doris disagreed with my sleep training so be it. The cacophony of opinions muted or at least sifted, I began to find my stride when I began to trust in our choices and instincts for what was right.

Trying on the uniform for size

And so, I began to camouflage in to mum life. Once I had tackled the final hurdle: my mum-uniform. Adjusting to this new body with its loose saggy bits, its slightly more padded bits and its need for practicality was my biggest challenge. 

How should I look? What do you wear? How long could I feasibly get away with maternity jeans? As my shelves of killer-heels taunted me from the dressing room, I longed for the comfort of my everyday armour. I knew who I was in a bodycon dress and a 4-inch court. 

My final metamorphosis was to be at peace with sportswear. To embrace the flat boot and find a look that didn’t make me feel dowdy and drab. 

As I pulled on my lycra leggings and laced up my trainers one day, I spotted my Zara snakeskin platform stiletto and had an epiphany. Throughout life I had been a chameleon. I’d changed my colours and blended in to life. But not with motherhood.

The final outing of the Jimmy Choos at 26 weeks before reality dawned

Shedding skin

Motherhood had required me to be more a snake, and I mean this kindly.

I’d needed to shed my old skin. I was still the same on the inside. I still held that knowledge, those opinions, and that confidence was still dormant. I was still a product of my experiences. But becoming a mum changes you on a level I’d never expected.

Yes, like a chameleon I’d learned to adapt. But I’d needed to grow a new skin because my identity was so much more. I was still me, but I was so much more. I was a mum. A chameleon, skin-shedding, surviving and thriving mum.

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