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?