Saturday, January 5, 2013

From One Mother to Another

Tonight my heart is heavy with concerns for mothers who feel insecure, scared, and alone. I don't think that personal struggles are expressed openly in our society and I fear that it is causing more mothers to feel alone in their struggles. For example, postpartum depression is not often talked about amongst friends and yet it supposedly affects 11-20% of mothers. Personally, I wonder if the number would be higher if women did not feel guilt when admitting their struggles. 

Let me start by saying that I truly feel that motherhood is an amazing gift from God. I am so blessed to have my children and wouldn't change a thing. 

Now that I have said that, I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Motherhood is hard... actually it is not just hard. It is physically and emotionally exhausting. It is overwhelming, stressful, tedious, frustrating, painful, and the toughest things I have ever had to do. There are times that I am so overwhelmed that I can't decide whether to yell or cry. There is overwhelming fear that controls you when you think your child is in harms way. There is frustration that can lead to your body physically shaking in anger when you have no idea how to get through to a disobedient and disrespectful child. There is the exhaustion of waking up through out the night with a baby or a sick child. There is the physical pain of trying to carry everything and care for everyone. Motherhood is hard. I am not saying all of this to bring you down or create fear if you are expecting a child. I am saying this to let you know that you are NOT ALONE! You are not a BAD mom for having these emotions! All of these things are completely worth it and can actually bring you closer to your child. It doesn't matter whether you have a newborn or if your child is already an adult, some of these feelings still apply... most of all the feeling of inadequacy. 

So often I will feel that I am not a good mother. I am not doing enough. I didn't respond the right way. I didn't do things like other mothers. We feel like we could have done more to help our child. I truly feel that my mother is an amazing (perfect if possible) mother. She is everything that I wish I could be. Yet, I know that through the years she herself has felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted. She is always wishing she could help us more, protect us more, and show us that she loves us more. Though it may sound twisted, it gives me great relief to know that my amazing mom struggles too. She understands me all that much more after facing it herself. Even though I am in adulthood, I know that my mom still worries about me at times. It doesn't matter how old we get... she is still a mother. 

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia defines postpartum depression as  "moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later." (If you click on the link the page describes some of the symptom.) After I had Abbie, I struggled with postpartum depression. I had heard of it before from my doctor but I had never heard friends openly discuss it. It seemed like it was a embarrassing secret. At first I would fear that others would think of me as a bad mom or that people would take my baby away from me if they knew. As I began to open up about it I realized how common it really was. This is my story...

After Abbie was born I didn't feel as connected with her. I loved her as I thought I should but I didn't feel attached to her. I was already battling with bipolar but something seemed different. My husband was working two jobs, one of which was overnight. When Abbie was only a few weeks old I went to give her a bath. As I was bathing her a terrifying thought came into my head. "I could just hold her under and drown her." As soon as the thought entered my head I grabbed her out of the bath and put her in her crib. I didn't even throw a diaper on her but instead placed her blanket over her and left the room. I sat the the recliner for hours weeping as she slept. I was so scared that if I told my husband, he would take her away from me. When he got home I told him what had happened. I also told my mother. I was so scared that I would harm my baby. What kind of mother would even think of hurting her child? We setup a plan to protect her. My husband and mother would give her baths and if I ever had thoughts like that I would make sure she was safe and physically separate myself from her. I held onto the guilt from that incidence for years. It wasn't until much later that I realized how common it is for some mothers to have thoughts of harming the child. The thoughts aren't what makes me a bad mother.. it was the actions if I had gave into the thoughts. I never had that thought again after that day but I still use the guidelines for myself. If I am angry or emotionally upset by something I do not punish my children. I separate myself until I am ok or until their father can handle it. 

It is ok to need physical and emotional space from your child. I call this a mommy timeout. When a newborn is crying and you are exhausted and feel like you are on edge, it is perfectly fine to put the baby down and walk away for a few minutes. Being hormonal, sleep deprived, stressed, and not know what the baby wants can be perfect setup for disaster. Another tip is to have a friend that you can be open and honest with during the situation. It is nice to have the extra help but even just venting can help. 

Being a mother is hard. It is physically and emotionally exhausting. It is overwhelming, stressful, tedious, frustrating, painful, and the toughest things I have ever had to do. It is also the most amazing thing I have been blessed to do. There is the times that they smile at you full of love and melt your heart like butter. There is the pride that comes with the times they do something new for the first time. There is laughter when they say or do something hilarious but have no idea what they did. There is the the peace when you watch them as they lay sleeping. There is the hope you feel when they realize a mistake a change their behavior without being disciplined. There is the strength you feel when they run into your arms for protection and care. 

I know that I am a good mother not because of what diaper they wear or what grades they get. I am a good mother because I do my best, I love them with every cell of my body, and because I point them back to God. 



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