As Mother’s Day approaches, Diva is using the occasion to explore underrepresented perspectives about birth and parenthood. Here, Marissa Neave recalls the difficulty she faced in maintaining her sense upon becoming a mother.

After years of trying the old fashioned way, two failed IUIs, surgery to remove ovarian cysts, three more failed IUIs, and one failed round of IVF, I recall this thought hitting me like a brick: what if having a baby just wasn’t going to happen for us? 

Throughout the years, when trying for a baby meant oscillating between hope and grief, it had never actually occurred to me that one day I may have to cope with the reality that we’d never have a child. The prospect felt devastating.

Now, as a mother

I wish my current self⁠—a mother⁠—could rush back in time and tell my past self that children are not a guaranteed path to fulfilment. Because now that I am a mother, I find myself wondering why I wanted this so desperately.

This, of course, being the immense sacrifice required of a birthing parent. Carrying a child through pregnancy, bringing them into the world, and caring for them in their earliest moments, months, and years. It requires a staggering amount of giving, of forgetting one’s self. The transformation has been so vast and all-encompassing that I no longer have the capacity to pretend I’m not a superhero. This is hard.

I knew I would endure sleepless nights and the frustration of not being able to soothe a wailing baby. I expected my body to become unfamiliar in the process. But I never anticipated how much of myself would get swept aside as I adapted to motherhood.

My baby is now a year and a half. I still have trouble remembering what I used to do with all the time I had before she existed.

The need for self

Motherhood, for me, has put into sharp focus how critical it is to carve out space for my own needs and interests. Without making an effort to keep these things alive, the self will simply die.

It’s always been important for me to cultivate an identity outside of motherhood, whether that be through my job, my hobbies, my friends. But it’s been a struggle to find the time to even think about who I am and what I might like to do outside of the hours when I’m caring for my daughter. Most nights I am happy to just lie down and put it off for another day. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change having a baby and being a mother for anything. And I don’t regret the lengths we went to to bring my daughter into this world. I love her more than I can express, and the joy she brings leaves me beaming at the end of each day. When she does something amazing, I get to wonder if it’s because she’s a part of me. It is a great privilege to have a part in raising her. 

So where do I go from here?

How do I build up a self that isn’t tied to caring for others?

Today I vow to make the effort toward discovery. Not necessarily to recover what has been lost, but to look ahead and form a new me; the me that honours its mother-ness while also looking beyond.