Sometimes I yearn for her in the strangest of ways, teased but never fulfilled. A brief glimpse of her retreating shadow. I reach for her but again she escapes me. I chase her down, wanting nothing more than to return to what was but now is gone.

I’m longing for the woman I was before becoming a mother, but she doesn’t exist anymore. 

There are certain rituals of hers that are no longer mine to maintain. The spontaneity, the laziness, the selfishness . . . all ensnared in a whirring of freedom no longer attainable. The way a Saturday morning would arrive gently and with it a cup of coffee that stayed warm from first to last sip. Trips to run an errand were without a plan or packed bag. Clothes shopping was less about concealing and more about flaunting. Conversations were deep and distraction-free with rarely a mention of bodily fluids. 

On especially nostalgic days, I try to replicate some of those rituals. The end result is sometimes satisfying, often drastically different from how its remembered, and always a cause for reflection. I begin to wonder if perhaps the ritual was always a shallow, fleeting joy rather than the elevated pedestal upon which it has been placed in my memory. 

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It’s driving 45 minutes to another town so I can peruse the aisles of Trader Joe’s without a grocery listonly the baby doesn’t use bottles and we can’t be apart for more than two hours, so he’s strapped to my chest.

It’s deliberately etching time in my day for yogabut instead of going to a boutique studio I’m in my sweatpants following an online instructor while my toddler uses me as a jungle gym.

It’s asking my husband to run an errand with our toddler so I can tap into some much-needed writing timeonly to hear the cries of our baby minutes later, his monitor roaring over my writing playlist from years past (that’s literally happening right now). 

Like reigniting a flame with an old love, my longing is accompanied by disappointment and, fortunately, a renewed appreciation for the present.

I’m pulled back into the bigger picture and the new, richer rituals of my life.

It’s the overwhelming pride of watching my child be kind to someone who’s hurting, without prompting.

It’s early mornings, in the quiet stillness of the nursery, nursing my baby while his free hand reaches gingerly for my face.

It’s finding community in ways I never knew existed, all unified by the shedding of our former selves. 

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Part of me will always miss who I used to be. But I know, deep down, the best parts of her are still there, just beneath the surface. The rest of her, I’m ready to release. There’s no use in anchoring to the weight of her dragging me down. 

Previously published on the author’s blog

Brianna Baranowski

Brianna Baranowski is a California girl loving the Iowa way of life! She is wife to Ryan, mama to two little guys, and an ELL teacher. Brianna loves catching a gorgeous sunrise, holding a warm cup of coffee with both hands, and enjoying silly moments with her family.