Becoming a mother is truly one of the very best things that has ever happened to me. I get so much joy and satisfaction from raising my babies. But I don’t want to give the impression that it’s always sunshine and rainbows over here. And if I’m honest, I’ll confess that I’ve just come out the other side of a time when motherhood was a little dark and very difficult. A time when I’m faced with the fact that like anything worth doing, motherhood is really hard.
And sometimes that’s the way it is. I think motherhood can be a little bit like marriage. Sometimes it is just pure bliss. Other times, well, it’s work. And when you’re in the midst of those times, it’s hard to imagine that it will get better. But the truth is, it does and suddenly the struggle behind you is like a blip on the screen in your long journey.
I’ve discovered that my physical well-being has a huge effect on my emotional life and ability to “see straight.” If I’m sleep deprived and sick, I really can’t trust what my thoughts and emotions are telling me. It’s very difficult for me to have a mind over matter approach and not be affected by my physical challenges. What I can do is tell myself that this too shall pass. I won’t feel like this forever and when it’s all in the past it will be hard to remember. Kind of like labor pains, I suppose. When you’re in the midst of labor, you may know on some level that it won’t last forever and that you’ll see your baby at the end but the pain of those contractions can take away all sense of time. I get completely “in the zone” and it’s hard to imagine anything outside of the pain. But then it’s over! And you forget how much it hurt while you bask in the joy of new life.
I’ve had two really hard times in my journey as a mother. The first was during Benjamin’s first year. We lived a thousand miles away from family. We were 23. We had almost no friends with kids. I was working full-time while Daniel finished school full-time and we had a newborn that only slept in 45 minute increments for months on end and suffered from extreme colic. I was so stressed out and exhausted that I had almost nothing left to offer during the brief times at home that I actually got to spend with my baby. It was so hard. It actually physically hurt to be awake and I could barely think straight with the 3-4 hours of sleep I was getting a night (in 45 minute increment, mind you).
The second time was the 6 weeks or so during the first trimester of this pregnancy when I was so sick and so tired that I felt like I couldn’t be a good mother to my two little ones. Once the constant nausea and vomiting hit by Week 6, it was honestly hard for me to feel excited about our new baby. I really couldn’t think about anything but how sick I was and how I felt like I was letting Benjamin and Lucy down because I couldn’t get out of bed except to throw up. I also felt so overwhelmed by the state of my house because I physically could not keep up and I could barely set foot in the kitchen (the smells!). Since my husband works a full-time job plus a part-time job and I get to stay home with the little ones except for one afternoon a week, I consider keeping house primarily my responsibility. It was hard for me to see Daniel work a 10 hour day, then come home and clean up whatever mess had been made in the kitchen since he left, cook dinner, and then do the dishes and whatever else was needed to keep us afloat while I ate Preggy Pops in bed and tried to keep food down.
During these “survival mode” times, I also remind myself of things I know but might not be feeling. I remind myself how grateful I am for my babies. And I remind myself that I wouldn’t change anything. Sure, the baby might be waking up every hour wanting to nurse. It’s hard and exhausting. But, thank God I have a precious baby to wake me up and nurse. Yes, I might be miserably queasy and all I can think about is wanting to feel normal again. But would I rather not be pregnant anymore? No, of course not! It feels so ungrateful to focus on the negatives when we are being blessed with new life–a gift for which so many couples would happily give much more than a few weeks of throwing up to receive.
But I think it’s also important to acknowledge that the challenges are real. That we’re not bad mothers because we’re struggling. That we don’t love our babies any less just because we’re having a hard time finding the joy in our vocation. And those moments and seasons always teach me that I am weak. I can’t do it without God’s grace. Sometimes that grace flows out when I’m at adoration. A big wave of joy, gratefulness, and peace is given from being in the presence of Our Lord. Sometimes it’s receiving the Blessed Sacrament. Nourishing my soul with enough strength to keep going. Sometimes Our Lord gives us his grace through other people. My husband’s tireless servant-heart. A friend bringing food over when I’m too queasy to cook. A text saying, “How are you feeling? I’m praying for you.” The joy and lightness you experience after going to confession and starting anew. Grace.
When I’m able to look with clear vision on times I felt like I was drowning, I realize that I was actually floating in the boundless ocean of God’s grace. And those moments when motherhood is just pure joy….those moments are so sweet. I’m dreaming of that beautiful newborn smell. I am so looking forward to experiencing the sacred thrill of labor. I am reveling in the joy of my two littles. Grace.
Have you experienced a difficult time in your journey as a mother?
Neika Seibold says
I have never met you but absolutely love you and thank you for this post. I have 4 kids (youngest is 7 months) and I know EXACTLY what you mean. I’m glad you are feeling better! Will say a tiny prayer for you that the positivity keeps flowing…
Thank you, Neika for the encouragment and the prayers!
Molly Makes Do says
Oh yes absolutely! I’m so happy when mom’s are honest about the tough times – it’s unifying for the rest of us.
I don’t know if you’ve read my post on my ante-partum depression, but I know what it’s like to have the sickness suck the joy out of your pregnancy too. http://mollymakesdo.blogspot.com/2012/02/glowing-motherhood-my-journey-through.html
I have read it and I felt for you!
Echo of my last few months… Glad for both of us to be so near the other side of it now.
We’re so close! Also, I’m nothing but impressed by the boys amazing Halloween costumes. Incredible mama!
WOW! love your honesty>
my eldest was diagnosed with smith magenis syndrome at 2 and half years old, we had no idea! i would never wish that moment in motherhood on anybody! i have 3 kiddies now and we have come a long way since tilly was diagnosed. i love motherhood but it can sure be work! xx
Thank you, Jane. I hopped over to your blog because I wasn’t familiar with SMS. So impressed by how you are facing those challenges. Your kids are precious.
Marta Pisco says
hope you are feeling better now!
I never had such bad pregnancy sickeness as you, but the smells… uuuh! That I remember! I was not a big fan of perfume anymore (because of yoga), but when I got pregnant, it really became umberable! Even washing powder – it had to be NEUTRAL! I still use it. Maybe you could try it? It really helped me.
Anyway, about how hard it is to be a mum: you know what I think about when it gets really difficult? I dive in. I go under water. I swim and I know I will come out on the other side of the “pool”. All sounds and images get a bit blurred, and that’s ok. I take my kids by the hand, we just go. I don’t do much, or expect much, or say much, I just “am”.
Maybe that’s God’s Grace for me: a beautiful blue swimming pool to dive in… 🙂
Have a good day,
love from Amsterdam
Marta, I hear you on the perfume. Four and a half years later I still can’t be near anyone that wears too much pefume (or reeks of cigarette smoke, but that is another rant)
That’s a lovely image, Marta. Thanks!
Thanks for your honesty. I think it is so easy to compare ourselves to other moms, and think that just because we might not see their struggles that they don’t have any. Ups and downs are both parts of the human condition, and it is great to be able to share and see that in those around us. I’m glad to hear you are feeling better!
This last year has been the hardest so far of our 9-year marriage. After 4 perfect pregnancies and babies, I had a miscarriage on Christmas Day. We found out ten days later that I also had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and had to have emergency surgery. Recovering from that double blow was a strange mix of despair and peace. We were brought together by our grief, and brought to appreciate the amazing blessings of our 4 children even more. Then in July I had another miscarriage, which lasted almost three months. To be honest, I still haven’t recovered fully from it, either physically or emotionally. It was almost three months of bleeding and anemia and weakness and being stuck in a hazy fog of depression. Most of the time I’m at peace with what happened–I don’t understand it, but I have seen how my family was strengthened and pulled together by it all. I’m still struggling with comparing my grief to that of others, and sometimes feel bad for being sad, since I have the amazing blessing of 4 children who are the best, while I have several friends struggling with a lifetime of infertility. And I miss and dream of those 3 babies that were here briefly but didn’t come.
I agree! I always assume other moms are perfect and I’m the only one. When I really get to know someone I realize that they’re struggling and growing just like me.
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your babies, Colleen. My heart just breaks for your family. You will be in my prayers.
Thank you for sharing the other side of motherhood!
amy robertson says
Haley…thanks for this. Sometimes it is so up and down. It really is. Thank you so much for articulating what so many of us feel -the hardships, the things that don’t compute – and also the bliss, the contentment, the ecstatic surprise of the blessing of these people who love us as we love them, who know us, and are implicitly part of us.
With 3 little ones, and our first “official” year of homeschooling, we’ve really reached new highs, and lows. It is important to keep on through the fog, and the haze.
I am so glad that you are feeling less ill, and so excited for your new baby.
Love from Texas.
“the ecstatic surprise.” That is so well put. It really is a joy that surprises me each day. Love to your boys and girl 🙂
Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times, yes. I am so glad you are feeling better.
Survival Mode… I love it, as the Mommy to five, I am often in survival mode. Some days I have absolutely no idea what I accomplished, but relish in the fact that we are all still alive 🙂
I know that feeling! 🙂