I am totally in love with the phenomenon of "ghost mother" or "hidden mother" photography. Other examples here and here. Some may find these images of forms lurking behind infants and children creepy and disturbing, but I feel an overwhelming sense of connection and empathy toward these masked human figures. I can't see who's underneath, but I know them well. They are me.
I joke that, for me, the experience of becoming a mother was like someone shot at my head, exploding it into a million pieces, which I then had to figure out how to put together again. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic, and I know every parent goes through this in some way or another, but I was totally unprepared for what it's like to have a kid. It turns your entire sense of self upside down, and in my case, I felt more like I lost myself completely. Basic things that I took for granted, like eating and drinking, going the bathroom, or walking the one block to the mailbox near my house, were poof! overnight impossible. Everything took a back seat to this extremely difficult baby that never slept and screamed all the time. I stopped doing all sorts of things that I loved, like taking photos, working out, and even reading books, because it was impossible. To top it off, all the hormones and sleep deprivation gave me "baby brain" and I found my memory so fogged that I had a hard time remembering words and thinking coherent thoughts. This made it difficult to talk to other adults when I was actually around them. My physical isolation became an emotional isolation, which in turn produced more physical isolation when I started avoiding people because it was easier than humiliating myself and exhausting myself further by trying to communicate. I became like a lump, one of the shrouded figures, with a baby on its lap.
I did try to get out and meet other moms, but our talk never seemed to get beyond the basics of trading advice about infant care. I would walk away from long conversations, realizing that I knew the other child's name and seemingly everything about him or her, but nothing about the mother, not even her name. And when I'd meet other parents, we'd talk about other neighbors we knew, and referred to them not by their names but by their kids' names. "Oh, do you know Gabriel's mom?" "Kate's mom and I met at the playgroup." And so on.
Luckily, my daughter grew up (as they tend to do), and at about two-and-a-half, she stopped hanging on my leg and screaming whenever I tried to do anything. She started sleeping through the night soon after. I put all the pieces of my head back together (most of them at least) and I no longer feel like the hidden, ghost mother.