Worried about your identity after you’ve had a baby? You’re not alone. Stylist investigates in podcast Baby On The Brain.
When you see that little blue line appear on a pregnancy test an influx of emotions wash over you. Joy, fear, elation, horror, they all come out to play. Stylist’s new podcast Baby On The Brain is here to explore all those thoughts, feelings and fears; from identity to parental leave, to the inequality of the sacrifices men and women are still expected to make, each episode tackles one of the conundrums that keeps many mums-to-be awake at night when they find out their life is about to change.
This week Stylist’s executive editor Fliss Thistlethwaite is joined by co-host and colleague Lisa Harvey, and their guest is content creator and esteemed doctor-turned-entrepreneur Adanna Steinacker. The trio discuss identity in motherhood and pregnancy. With all three women at different stages in their pregnancy, they had three different sets of worries to discuss, but the overarching discussion centred their identity after birth.
“Will I just become someone’s mum?” Thistlethwaite asks. “And why am I viewing that as a bad thing?” Steinacker, a mother-of-two who is expecting her third child this summer, replies: “It’s definitely OK to worry about your identity when you become a mum.”
Steinacker was working as a doctor until 2019 when she pivoted her career to become an online content creator and female empowerment coach. She explains: “I did not want to be known as the pregnant woman who was now less ambitious.
“When I first found out I was pregnant, I had just finished med school and I started working as an intern: my first rotation was in orthopaedic surgery and I was the only woman on my team in theatres doing knee replacements and hip replacements. I was the badass female surgical intern.
“I continued in that specialty heavily pregnant still in theatres.”
She explains the transition from being on 24 hour call in a high pressure environment to taking maternity leave was hard for her. “Just being at home with a baby that couldn’t communicate except crying… I had no adult conversations. I had no mummy groups.
She adds: “I did have issues with identity, I worried about how I was going to be perceived - ‘am I going to be just a mum?’ I had to understand why I thought like that. The narrative has always been ‘just a mum’. It’s only when you become a parent that you realise what hard work it is.
“I feared I would be perceived as someone who was no longer ambitious, I had six months maternity leave and had an extra six months… because there was nobody to help. My husband still had to work and I didn’t want to put [my son] into creche before one - it was a personal decision.
“I feared people would think of me as less-than or less ambitious. I had to get over that.”
Stylist’s Lisa Harvey adds: “A lot of my friends have had children and babies already, and we were discussing this recently. One of my friends, before taking her maternity leave… was running at 100 MPH so they didn’t think she was incapable of working. When she had her first child she ended up going back to work four and a half months later because she felt so determined not to lose that ambitious side of herself. Now she feels she wishes she could have a word with herself back then.
“It was probably a massive case of imposter syndrome.”
Ambition and identity has always been a tough road to travel for pregnant women and new mums, but never has it been tougher than in a pandemic. With most people working from home and pregnant women – despite there being no evidence they are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus – being categorised in the moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) group, it’s a lonely place to be.
Listen to Baby On The Brain here to hear the women resolve the identity in motherhood issue.