When we talk about the transformation of becoming a mother, we acknowledge that it's a tiredness like no other, but mostly we hear how it is a beautiful, indescribable, wonderful transformation that you couldn't even imagine. And while that may be true, that wasn't my experience.
The truth is, becoming a mother was very difficult on my mental health. I struggled to bond with my baby and he struggled to breastfeed. This led to supplementing with formula which made me feel like a horrible mother. If you chose to formula-feed, or were forced to, or had to supplement, or exclusively pumped, or breastfed, or did a combination of these, know that however you feed your baby, as long as they are fed, does NOT make you a horrible mother, or better or worse than any other mother. We all do the best we can, and it is enough.
Beyond that, motherhood made me feel very helpless, and after awhile that made me feel hopeless. I felt helpless when it came to nourishing my baby, getting him to sleep, controlling my emotions. And as he started to grow, so did my negative feelings. I felt helpless when he would get in trouble at school, when he wouldn't listen at home, when he randomly decided he no longer wanted to eat fruits or veggies, ever again.
See, I had built my coping mechanisms on control. As a teen and young adult, I'd learned to control everything around me in order to manage the anxiety that had developed from losing my mom at 14. I was, of course, completely out of control of the outcome in that situation, so it made me anxious any time I was out of control. Even if being in control meant making poor choices because they were easier to control the outcome, like choosing not to do school work because it meant a guaranteed bad grade instead of the possibility of a good grade.
So when my son became a very headstrong toddler, and wouldn't listen to mommy (like toddlers often do), it severely triggered my anxiety. Over the years as I've grown, I've learned that when my anxiety is triggered it manifests in outbursts of anger and violence. I once threw a book across the room at my husband because I was angry (long before we were married), I threw a phone at the wall and put a hole in it, I've kicked holes in numerous apartment doors. I'm (fortunately) not prone to striking another human being, but there were certainly times that the urge was there. I'm (unfortunately) more prone to self-injury, something I learned to do before I made it out of high school.
I knew I was struggling with my mental health, realistically that I had been struggling for a long time, and that being a mom was making it worse. And then I got my wake up call. I can distinctly remember that day. My son was not listening (again), I was yelling, and had finally had enough. I needed to get his attention, and get the rage out of my body. So I picked up a toddler chair and threw it across the room. Then I took his toddler table and flipped it. I looked back and him, and the look on his face horrified me. He was scared of mommy. I'd made him feel (rightfully) unsafe.
Of course I was mortified, felt so much mom shame, and wondered if he would need intense therapy because of my rage issues. I knew something HAD to change or our family wouldn't survive. I talked to my insurance company and found a therapist who I thought would work and started seeing her. On my second visit, she shamed me for self-harming. I never went back.
Fortunately, a new friend shared that she was seeing a therapist to help her through her divorce, so I asked for a referral. This time I'd found a good therapist who clicked with me, and I never looked back. There were times it was excruciatingly painful, but little by little I could feel the chains start to fall away. I started to learn how to control my reactions to situations that were beyond my control, even when I got triggered. It's not always easy, especially in seasons of chaos, but I deserve to be a whole person, my boys deserve a peaceful mama, and my husband deserves a life without abuse (physical or emotional).
If you have struggled with motherhood like I have, know that there is a judgement-free community where you can share your struggles and learn tips to help you cope with the chaos of life. You deserve to be a whole person too, pinky promise.
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