I yearned to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories writing a piece in the third grade that said when I grew up I wanted to be a mom and have my own daycare so I could take care of my baby and other kids. So when I became pregnant with my first born at 29 years old, I was beyond excited. I would finally get to follow in my mother’s footsteps and be a kind, nurturing and loving caretaker for my family.
Well, soon after my son’s birth, I struggled daily dealing with what my vision of what I thought motherhood would look like and what it actually was turning out to be. Heck my eyes were opened that very first day in the hospital when I imagined that after I snuggled my newborn and gazed into his eyes for a couple hours, he would be taken to the nursery so I could rest after the long labor. Then I would awake after my slumber and go look at him lined up beautifully next to the other recently birthed babies. I would stand behind the nursery glass, embracing my husband smiling to him saying, “I am so happy”. Hello, every television show ever showed this as the norm!
Instead that baby came out of me and after a quick rinse, he was with us 24/7 and I was constantly worried about his well being and keeping him safe and alive. No one could prepare you for the pressure this puts on a new mom, who is also sleep deprived, hormonal and lets be honest, out of sorts. On top of that, you have no control of what each day entails. Before children, I really had no idea how much I appreciated knowing how the day was going to be shaped. I guess it makes sense as a list loving, organized Virgo. Well motherhood is full of unknowns. Will they sleep or will they cry for 4 hours off and on. Will you make it out the door in 5 minutes or 30 because your toddler filled their diaper and it is a must change situation. Will children eat the meal you prep for them, or will they throw it all over the ground in disgust. While some may learn to go with the flow, I had such a hard time dealing with the daily ying and yang of motherhood.
On top of lacking control, as mentioned, the hormones and little sleep were absolutely driving me to be someone I didn’t recognize. I felt extremely anxious, sad, unmotivated and at times, angry towards my new life for a solid few months. No longer could I just leave my house on a whim or head to meet up with my childless friends without considering the baby and his needs. And let me tell you, whenever these thoughts cropped into my head I felt like a horrible mother, who didn’t love her child, when nothing could be further from the truth. Nonetheless, the guilt at times was completely debilitating.
My mom guilt reached new levels when I constantly compared myself to other mothers I came in contact with. In my head, I would tell myself that I was the only one that was struggling, while they were doing a great job. Plus, they looked like they were enjoying caring for their little humans while I felt like I was drowning in diaper changing, feeding and caretaking. And lastly, I often compared myself to my own mother who in my eyes can do no wrong. She provided my brothers and I a dream childhood of making each day full of fun, adventure and endless love. With all of this on my mind, day in and day out I would talk negatively to myself about my abilities as a mother and of course, that is no way to live your best life.
The days turned into months and then even years and I found myself riding the wave of emotions that came with each new stage and while there were definitely glimmers of happiness, never did I feel like I was who I thought I would be as a mom. I was simply in survival mode…a very exhausted and tired survival mode. Then the unexpected happened and at two and half years old my son was diagnosed with cancer. And I thought I was a mess before…this took things to a whole new level (that is another post for another day).
Fast-forward through nine months of treatment and on the day we celebrated him being cancer free, we also celebrated a new pregnancy. We were going to have a sweet baby girl added to our family. While this was awesome on paper, it once again brought back all my struggles from the first time and yet, this time they were magnified as there was also a toddler along for the ride. Let’s just say, I cried a lot trying to manage and cope with it all. Yet again, this is not to say I didn’t have moments of joy, but I still yearned to be the mom who I always thought I would be and I wasn’t even close.
This all changed a day last year when I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with a third child. It was a very difficult time because we were not planning for a third, but of course, I was questioning it all and thought maybe it was the universe telling us we were supposed to be a family of five. However, the baby didn’t survive (as it was conceived despite having an IUD). To say it was a wake up call was an understatement. I can truly say, I hit rock bottom and had the saddest thoughts that I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy. But what resulted was what I am most proud of. After years of trying to deal with it on my own and saying I was ok, I sought help from professionals. With the support of my amazing husband and family, I took the time to work on myself and transitioned into a proud and happy mother of two.
I became the mom I thought I would be….
When I sought help for my maternal anxiety and depression
When I realized I would not have another child of my own and embraced each kid stage for what it was, good, bad and otherwise
When I gave up on seeking control of our days and worked on going with the flow (forever a work in progress)
When I gave up doing too much and made time to just be in the moment with my kids (even if this meant I didn’t cook every dinner or keep a tidy house)
When I stopped comparing myself to other moms
When I stopped trying to be my own mother and invented my own path
When I stopped talking negatively to myself about my abilities as a mother
When I stopped thinking about the things I wasn’t doing right and focused on what I was doing right
When I realized that emotions come and go (thank you therapist)
When I took time for myself without feeling guilty for leaving my family behind
And most importantly, I became the mother I thought I would be when I was getting enough sleep and not living each day in survival mode
So it only took me six years to become the mother I always thought I would be, but I say, it is better than never. Now I am a mother that is genuinely happy and fulfilled. I am the mom that truly loves and feels love back in return. I am the mama that throws mid day dance parties and celebrates little and big achievements. I am the mom that sometimes just drops what I am doing to read a book or do a puzzle. Are there still hard days? Oh you had better believe it. But I have learned that that is also the best part of being a mom. The long days make the good days all the more worthwhile and fulfilling.
So with Mother’s Day approaching, I am sharing my path through motherhood with the world in hopes some can relate, some are inspired and most realize that motherhood sure does challenge us. However, I can also truly say, it makes you a much stronger and better version of yourself if you let it.