12/10/2015 11:28 EST | Updated 12/10/2016 05:12 EST

Maintaining My Identity In Motherhood

Tara Mandarano

I remember sitting in the fertility specialist's snazzy chair and not quite comprehending what I was hearing: my baby was due on my birthday? Did this actually happen to people? 

It felt like I was winning some sort of cosmic, karmic lottery. What were the odds? What did it mean? It seemed like the ultimate gift: to share my special day with this little being I had been wanting for so long.


I wondered what it would be like to possess the same astrological sign as my offspring. Was Scorpio-Scorpio a good match for the parent-child relationship? Would we be able to read each other's minds, or would we drive each other nuts with our secrets and mysterious looks?


As my pregnancy progressed and the due date loomed large, my birthday took on a whole new meaning for me. The anticipation was all-consuming. When my fete came and went with no baby to show for it, my husband and I felt absurdly let down, like a pair of deflated balloons. 

My daughter arrived wailing and flailing three days later. I didn't care what day it was (or who I was) at that point; I was just ecstatic to be past the drudgery of 27 hours of labour. She had a full head of hair and a loud set of lungs - - what more could I ask for?


Over the following year, however, I noticed a distressing new trend: whenever we visited friends and family, they didn't really see me anymore. It was all about the baby -- how she'd changed, which adorable outfit she was wearing, or who she happened to look like that week.

It took a while to get used to this strange sense of invisibility. For a while it felt like I was just part of the furniture, something insignificant loitering in the background.

I realized that outwardly my entire role now seemed to revolve around my daughter's needs and wants.

People mostly seemed to acknowledge me when something had to be done, like changing her diaper or feeding her. Otherwise they were quite content to abscond with her in their arms and leave me in their wake.

I remember joking with family members, reminding them to greet me as well as the baby. Telling them how I was doing without being asked. They all laughed it off good-naturedly, but the unintentional dismissals still stung. 


Like any new mother, I was already struggling with the massive changes motherhood means for a woman's identity. Did I exist only through my baby now? Did I have anything left to offer on my own? How come no one noticed my cute dress?


When my daughter's first birthday rolled around, I caught myself feeling grateful that we didn't share the same special day after all. As cool as it would have been to mark our milestones together, I realized it was probably more psychologically healthy for both us to have our different days.


I share so much with her already -- we have the same eye colour, skin tone and shy nature. I don't want her to be confused about what we're celebrating on her special day. And it's also important that I get a moment just for myself, too. A distinct day to give kudos to my own uniqueness.


In the end, I'm glad the doctor got it wrong. My daughter's birthday will always be close to mine, just as her heart is always near to my heart. But this way we get our own parties.