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“Is this my life? How can I feel this way? There is no way I can do this”.
These are the thoughts that went through my head as I held my beautiful baby boy. I felt my soul crush. I loved this baby more than life itself and wanted nothing but the best for him. Yet, I felt the best for him was to not have me as his mother.
At the time, I was not present enough in my own mind to know I needed help. Worse, I was not accepting of help at all, on any level. When my mother in law offered to hold him while I got some sleep; I felt like a failure.
When my husband offered to walk him up and down the hallway so he wouldn’t fuss while I had a hot meal; I felt like a failure. When my sister offered to bring over that meal so I didn’t have to prepare a meal; I felt like I was failing at both motherhood and being a wife.
Of course, none of this was true. And no one else thought that I was failing. In fact, I was so deep into those postpartum hormones that I could not see all the greatness of motherhood.
Before I knew it, my short maternity leave was over and I had to return to work leaving behind this little baby who had only been in the world for 6 short weeks.
Days before, I held him close. The house looked like a tornado had just come through, but I just held him and bawled. How could I leave him for 10 hours? I hadn’t even begun to get a grasp on how to navigate caring for him. Now, I had to navigate working full time, maintaining our home and attempting to be a good mama.
I cuddled that baby and thought, “How am I going to do this?” I have always been my toughest critic. That harshness that I judge myself in carried over into motherhood. I felt like I was drowning.
One night, after I had gone back to work, I distinctly remember attempting to put Jack to bed. He was not having it and was screaming. I sat over my ice cold dinner, stared at it, tears streaming down my face and wanted to walk right out of the door.
The thoughts that ran through my head were ridiculous. ‘My son won’t sleep through the night because I am a bad mom’. ‘I am putting my career first, which makes me selfish.’ ‘He hates that I am gone during the day, that’s why he cries all day. Worse. He doesn’t recognize me, that’s why he gets more fussy at night.’ ‘If I were a better mom, my husband wouldn’t have to help me so much.’
I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression. I, also, was never honest on the questionnaires or open with my doctor, or anyone really, about these thoughts I had.
As I look back now, I am certain I should have at the very least sought out counseling. If I could go back and give myself advice, I would let myself know that it is ok to need help.
It is ok to seek out the help from other moms, therapists or doctors. It is ok to find a postpartum program you connect with and spend the hours required to get yourself to a place of wellness.
I can’t go back though. I can’t seek that help, I can’t decide to thrive in the newborn phase. Unfortunately, I can’t go back and bask in those newborn cuddles, cherish those moments in the darkness while I fed him, truly rejoice at all his little, yet so huge, milestones.
I can’t decide to accept those generous offers from family and friends. I can’t decide to communicate better with my husband to let him know how much I was hurting.
But, I can give my advice to the next mama. To the mama that is in this season, it is ok to admit that you need help. Be it physical, mental or emotional help; it is ok. There is help out there. There are postpartum wellness classes. Sign up for it, commit to it and to your mental health.
To the mama holding their baby as each day of maternity leave seems to be fleeting, cherish those moments. You will find your strive, you will find the balance, and your baby will always know you and your heart.
To the mama wondering if she is enough as a mama, you are more than enough. You are the mama your baby needs. You are the mama your child seeks for love, comfort and guidance.
Even on the tough days, the days when it doesn’t seem like you can survive, you are everything your child needs.
To the mama who is too keen to judge herself, keep going. Ask for the help, no matter how much it pains you. You are not failing because you need help. You are doing best for your child when you recognize your limits.
Undoubtedly, you are setting the example for them. You are breaking the cycle that says you are weak for seeking the help you need. It is the complete opposite, you are actually so amazingly strong.
To any mama who is struggling: remember, you are the radiating light in their world, mama. So go on, light their way, radiating mama
About the Author:
Hi! I’m Stacy. I am a wife, mama and full time radiation therapist. I have many passions in life, but two major ones. These include my family and helping others. I have created the Radiating Mama blog as a place for women to connect, relate and vent all of their mamahood struggles. Hope to see you there!