In my first few weeks as a new mom, I was in tears nearly every other day as I questioned the new role that I had been given and who I was “supposed” to be. I didn’t recognize my face in the mirror. This woman was exhausted, without a shower for three (okay, maybe four) days and continuously nagging and snapping at my husband. I kept reiterating to myself, “This isn’t who I am. I have become the person I promised myself I would never be.” But it is very much who I was. My identity was shaken.
I thought that my life of ‘glamour’ and freedom was gone. The days of sleeping in whenever I chose, having some form of “date night” with my husband every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, getting dressed up for a dinner with friends or just driving to get a Starbucks simply because I felt like it – that life seemed so far gone. I longed for the ability to be selfish again. To be free.
I had been warned that being a mother would “change my life”, others said that I “had no idea what i was in for”. I refused to acknowledge those words of caution because people offered the same advice about marriage, yet I had never experienced so much joy and fulfillment in my life as I did with my husband. But when I first became a mom, I did begin to wonder why I hadn’t listened to “those people.”
As the months passed, I finally acknowledged and understood that I was battling relatively severe post-partum anxiety, extreme exhaustion, lies and condemnation daily. It affected my state of mind and stole all of my joy. I was always present with Sutton, but I never felt mentally present. I couldn’t stop daydreaming about the “what if’s”, yet I felt guilty every time I did.
I didn’t want to be without my son for even a moment, but I couldn’t figure out who I was with him.
I left a profitable career and established position that I had pursued for quite a long time because I chose to be a stay-at home-mom. It was, and is, important to me that I was present with my little guy and I was blessed to have that option. In the midst of my anxiety, I did still believe that that was a calling in my life and what I wanted to do.
Yet, I struggled with confusion and comparison as I watched my friends from college go off to do ‘amazing things’ and I envied them with every fibre of my being. Traveling the world, pursuing huge careers and new, exciting adventures? I’m covered in spit up, doing the dishes for the fourth time today and desperately searching for somewhere to pull over because my screaming baby can’t last 5 minutes in the car.
Did I choose the wrong path?
These thoughts ate away at me – I believed that I was a terrible mother for even thinking this way. I was afraid to put him in the carseat and had no logical reasoning as to why it scared me so much. My husband changed nearly every diaper and outfit for the first three months because I illogically feared I would break his bones (there are no words to describe what an amazing and hands-on daddy my husband has been from day one. I am so grateful for him.) Needless to say, my postpartum anxiety was debilitating.
When Sutton first started smiling and laughing, nearly every single time I would break down hysterically in tears, hurt and heartbroken, and say to him, “Why can’t I always enjoy you this much? Why am I living in fear?”
As time passed, I acknowledged that taking on any new role was a challenge. The anxiety was the main factor, but this was also a very new experience that I had to adjust to. A new job brought on its own frustrations, relationships are challenging at times and this, along with everything else, was just one of those things – it was a change of season that called for assimilation and adjustment.
I sought relentlessly for a solution of some sort that would pose as an emotional bandage and just make it “all better.”
In this season of confusion and desperation tightly woven together with joy and excitement, God reminded me: This – motherhood, family – this is not my identity. My identity is in Jesus.
My hope, joy and freedom come from Him. Although this job can be thankless, tiring and redundant, it is the greatest and most rewarding gift that He has ever given to me. My family is my greatest ministry and there is no successful career that could ever replace the joy and light that they bring to my life.
On his 5 month birthday, I woke up smiling and realized that I was finally coming out of the blinding, debilitating fog of postpartum anxiety. I began to see my life and my son for what they really were.
There was so. much. joy.
And now, as time rolls forward as quickly as every parent promises that it will, I find myself a few days before his first birthday. And although I still have some hard days, I see now the work that God has been doing in my heart and that the good drastically outweighs the hard.
So, as a loving letter to “those people” who warned me about this new role: Yes, there have been hard moments. But a novel filled cover-to-cover couldn’t be enough to ‘warn’ me about the beauty and elation that comes with being a mom. There is nothing in this world that compares to the blissful feeling that I experience every single morning when I wake up next to my husband and we go to get Sutton and see his smiling face. Nothing I have ever done, nowhere I have ever been can beat the rewarding moments when he learns something new.
I thank God every day that He has chosen me to be Sutton’s mom – I’m in awe that my heart has the ability to explode with a happiness so great that I never would have fathomed it existed.