“His eyes were so dark. There was a depth to them that overwhelmed me. I need a sandwich, a nap, and for everyone to leave the room. ‘Oh no,’ I immediately thought next—those aren’t supposed to be a mother’s first thoughts after birth. This is supposed to be love at first sight. Where’s the rush of love? Put on a brave face and hold your baby, people are watching.
‘Hello!’ I muttered, as I grabbed my wriggly newborn son from under his armpits and pulled him onto my chest. It was all I could put together after an arduous 3-day labor, birth center transfer, and so many changes. I spent so much time anticipating this moment, hearing from so many others who had experienced birth that the moment you meet your child is indescribable. Love at first sight. And my first thought after seeing his beautiful deep brown eyes was, ‘I’m tired and need a sandwich.’
Clearly, they must have forgotten to install my mother’s instinct. I’d ask the nurses when they came to check on me later that day if it was something I had to specifically request. The next few days were a whirlwind. Navigating breastfeeding, an extended hospital stay after expecting to have a peaceful water birth and same-day discharge, and eventually, a NICU stay.
Let’s just say, my initiation into motherhood was less than graceful. There were a lot of tears those first few months. Wondering why my transition was so hard. Why my body failed my son. Why I failed already. The pain of feeling like you’re alone in motherhood and failing your family just by existing is indescribable.
There were days my tears would flow unexpectedly and I’d wonder if they’d ever stop. If there’d ever been a time when I wasn’t so sad. And others where the rage would well up inside of me like a volcano. I felt trapped between worlds. Missing my old life and ill-equipped for my new one. This isn’t how motherhood is supposed to feel. This isn’t right.
For a while, I kept these thoughts and feelings private. Tucked away like my shameful little secret while I put on a brave face at story time, mommy and me yoga, or anytime I ran into a friend. ‘You make motherhood look so easy!’ was the compliment that stung the most. While on the surface it looked like everything was okay, I was drowning. And everyone who walked past me just told me I was doing great at treading water.
It wasn’t until I began to share in private conversations the rage and thoughts I was having. How scary my mind began to feel. And instead of my greatest fears being realized, I was crazy and the only one experiencing this, I was met with compassion and shared stories.
I realized in those conversations there was a big piece of motherhood not being talked about openly. Behind the veil of curated Instagram feeds and Pinterest crafts, there was a generation of moms experiencing paralyzing guilt, intense rage, and questioning if they’re cut out to be moms. The pressure to suppress these emotions and the hidden side of motherhood only strengthened the pain and fed the isolation.
I experienced a freedom in sharing my story more liberating than anything I had experienced up until this point of my healing. Storytelling became my way of connecting with other moms. Of releasing our pain by bringing it to the surface and letting it be seen. Because once it is seen, there’s nothing to hide.
I remember many of those early conversations fondly. Some happening in Instagram Messenger during sleep-deprived 2 a.m. feeds, and some happening in the shared spaces with other brave mamas facing the dark reality motherhood wasn’t what they expected, either.
Storytelling became a powerful outlet for me. It helped me release the shoulds, the expectations, and the guilt of motherhood, and in those moments I found parts of me that had been hidden away for years and parts I had yet to discover. It was in those conversations I realized an identity in motherhood gets to be defined by each one of us uniquely. Not by the latest parenting trend or magazine, or what the motherhood influencers had to say.
It didn’t have to be pristine or perfect. It could be messy. Creative. Loud. Adventurous. It could be freeing. Mama, if you are in a season of questioning your abilities, feeling the fog of your identity, and wondering why it seems everyone else has the hang of this while you’re barely hanging on, these are my words of wisdom for you…
First, I want to let you off the hook. None of us really know what we’re doing. There will be days when you’re on Cloud 9 and celebrating the flow of your routines, and there will be days where you think about hopping in your car and running for the hills. You are more than your expectations. In fact, you are allowed to release any expectations of motherhood that shake your foundation and have you questioning your worth. Because no one does it more perfectly for your kids than YOU.
You know more about your baby than Google ever will. Especially at 2 a.m. Your relationships may change, but the ones that are meant to stick will. You are not a burden for expressing the need for extra help and support during the challenging seasons of motherhood. There is an immense strength inside a mom who is willing to reevaluate what she has told herself needs to be the standard of motherhood. We are not meant to do this alone, your story is worth sharing.
And lastly, you may stress about all of the meals or parenting strategies, but at one point or another, your kid is probably going to lick a public park swing or eat a stale Goldfish you’re not sure where it came from. And you’re still a d*mn good mama, anyway.
Healing while being a mom is a challenging experience. No one tells you how triggering it can be to become a mom when there are parts of you that still need tending to. You deserve to be nurtured just as much as your family does. And on the other side of your healing is an experience in motherhood that feels messy, blissful, adventurous, and joyful. You’re a good mama. ”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carly Jean Wright of San Diego, California. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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