My oldest child turned 10 last month, which prompted me to look back on the last decade of being a mom.
I know we have Mother’s Day, but I wish we had a more intentional celebration around the anniversary of becoming a mother. Whenever my firstborn’s birthday rolls around, I usually find myself looking at old photos and reflecting on that beautiful, but immensely difficult, time in my life. For me, looking back on the season I became a mother is bittersweet. My husband and I were in an unhealthy community at the time, which is putting it lightly. Also, my son had colic and reflux issues. We didn’t live near family and were new to the area, so our support system was slim.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and perfectionism my whole life, and depression has been an on-again-off-again experience. But, that postpartum season was by far the most challenging time. I barely left the house, I stopped going to church, I couldn’t bond with my newborn, and I was doing the absolute bare minimum of self-care. Most of my memories from that time consist of holding my crying baby, trying all of the shushing techniques, and crying along with him when nothing worked.
I read all the books, called our pediatrician an ungodly amount of times, and talked to every mom I knew.
People told me about techniques, sleep schedules, and products to try. They gave me books to read. Some would say things like “all babies cry.” 🙄 I’m sure many of those people were trying to be helpful. However, what I heard was “you aren’t doing enough,” “you aren’t doing it well enough,” and “everyone else can figure this out, why can’t you?”
We left that unhealthy community with a three-month-old baby in tow. I have the words now to describe that season as traumatic. It took years of healing to get to the point where I can name it for what it was. For a long time, I was barely able to think about that time, let alone celebrate the good that happened during it. Trauma is tricky that way. It requires you to be strong to move on, but sometimes in the moving on you lose the happy memories along with the bad.
I recently read a quote from Aundi Kolber about her new book “Strong Like Water” that describes this idea well.
“In my experience, especially with trauma survivors, there is often grief that requires tending as we honor *why* a certain kind of strength was required in the first place. That doesn’t mean we can’t heal or ultimately be proud of our journey — but it often requires a both/and. For so many people, it is essential for them to name that they should never have had to be a certain kind of strong.”
Honestly, I grieve that the experience of becoming a new mom wasn’t more joyful, that I didn’t easily bond with my baby, and that I shamed myself for doing it all wrong. I grieve that we had to pack up and move with our newborn to seek safety. I grieve the years that were marred afterward and the toll it took on my marriage and parenting. Perhaps most of all, I grieve that I needed to be strong.
And, I am grateful for the strength I had to recognize things were not okay and the resilience developed over the years.
I celebrate my son’s birth and the 10 years of his life. Every person that held space for me to name the trauma and process my story gave me the gift of healing and connection. I’m thankful for restored friendships. The growth that has transpired in my marriage and in the way I show up for my children is truly remarkable. I’m grateful for the story I have to share with others. While reading this, my hope is that you feel less alone in your own struggles. Because the truth is that you are doing enough, and motherhood is just really hard.