I had disappeared. And I didn't know where I might be found.
'I just want to feel like me again,' I said, tearfully, two weeks into motherhood. Perhaps a wander out alone might help? But the half hour spent loitering without purpose at the shops just left me feeling anxious. As I meandered the aisles, I felt bereft, as if part of me was missing. Who was this impostor purporting to be me? The woman I had known before would never have felt a lump form in her throat over such an innocuous task as choosing a shower gel.
'Starting to look like me again,' I said as aesthetically I took control with straighteners and eyeliner and mascara. But even the successful donning - albeit with effort - of a once favoured pair of jeans, rediscovered after nine months without wear, didn't bring me back. The person I saw in the mirror, staring intently as if searching for recognition, was a stranger.
'An evening out will do me good. Like old times.' But old times had never been like this. My eyes fixed to the screen of my phone, wondering if it was too soon to call again, before flickering briefly away to my watch, silently willing the dinner to be served quickly and bring about a swift conclusion to the evening. And the wine, which used to make me giggly and chatty and merry and glad, just made me feel tired, and more than a little despondent.
'It will be nice to get back to normal.' Yet this felt anything but. The once familiar seat, the desk still piled with notes scribbled in my handwriting, the keyboard upon which my hands used to dance easily, felt alien. How can just a few months create such a distance?
I didn't feel like me anymore.
And then I realised: this was me now.
The person I had been before had gone and she was never coming back. How could she? Where once I had carried my heart around in me, now it existed outside, encapsulated in my precious daughter. And nothing would ever be the same again, not now I had the consciousness of my child with me at all times. I would always be checking my phone, thinking about her, worrying about her, missing her and carrying her with me. Which meant that never again would I feel as I once had. Whatever I was doing, be it working, socialising, or simply going about the mundane chores of my daily life. This search for me was fruitless as that 'me' didn't exist anymore.
This is me. And as soon as I recognised this fact, I could stop looking and relax, accepting myself for who I was now without worry or fear or regret. I didn't mourn the loss of the person who had gone before, the person who had disappeared forever in the moment my daughter was born, though I was glad that she had existed. This now, this person, was who I was always meant to be; mother, above all else, at the core of who I am. All the other things that used to define me - work, play, likes, dislikes - were still there, just less important.
I'm not searching anymore for that woman. I don't need to.
Because this is me, now.