Every once in awhile I receive an email from a struggling new mama who feels hopeless, and alone, and they ask for my advice. The thing is… I don’t have advice. For the most part, all I can offer is support, encouragement, and some tips that I learned from trial and error. Because the truth is…I am there with you! I struggled to!
The biggest mistake that we make as mothers is not supporting each other by being honest about our experiences.
We do each other an injustice when we pretend that we are perfect.
We fear talking about our struggles, because we don’t want to be judged. But, the truth is, we ALL feel that way at some point, and we SHOULD talk about it.
So, I’m going to talk about it….
I struggled, and I still struggle sometimes.
If you struggle, here is my letter to you…
Dear Struggling Mom,
I want you to know that I FEEL you!
Many of the struggle stories that I hear are part of my own story as a mother.
Just because I have a blog, post high quality photographs of Kaia being cute, and talk about how sweet life is on Instagram, doesn’t mean that I am perfect. Sure, our little family is happy a lot of the time, but that doe not mean that we are always happy. The truth about life is that it is bittersweet; and that means sometimes it has to be bitter. (And, nothing is “wrong” with bitter, it’s just part of being alive!)
Birth was exhausting, tough, beautiful work, which left me exhausted for weeks after. I had a complication that made my recovery hell-ish, and I was stuck in bed for nearly two weeks; unable to even carry my newborn baby, Kaia.
Next came the breast feeding. Breast feeding was the most difficult thing I ever did. I remember feeling so tired, and hopeless, that I almost gave it up several times. My breasts were painfully engorged, and I couldn’t get Kaia to latch for days. She had nipple confusion, and was very fussy, and I didn’t think we would even make it to 2 months (You can read the breastfeeding full story in Ellen Fisher’s blog here).
During this time I remember thinking “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Other moms make it look so easy! Why am I the only one who struggles so much?”
Then came baby carrying. Let me tell you: I was NOT prepared for how physically demanding motherhood would be. I returned to my 110lb pre-pregnancy weight very fast, and Kaia was a heavy baby, weighing in at nearly 18lbs by 4 months old. I was in a lot of pain trying to carry her around. I remember the same challenges and feelings that many new moms describe when they are trying to baby wear.
I remember thinking “Why can other mothers do this? Are they stronger than me? Are their babies smaller than mine? Do their babies like the carriers?”
Since Kaia didn’t like the carriers, I ended up having to carry her in my arms almost constantly, and she only ever wanted to face outwards, never towards my chest. As I am sure you already know, that is awful for the spine, and creates horrible back pain. When she was 6 months old she finally let me use the carriers, but by that point I was in the worst back pain of my life. I finally decided to see a chiropractor when Kaia was 15 months old, and that helped tremendously.
Sounds rough, doesn’t it?
It wasn’t all that bad. I actually loved all of this. It helped me learn, and grow as a mother (and as a person).
You see, I am not telling you about this to complain. I am actually very thankful for my experience, and would not change a single thing about it. The reason I am telling you this, is so that you understand that you are not alone.
I think every mother finds themselves in this place where they had plans for how they wanted to parent, and they come to find that sometimes things just don’t work out how we expected. Sometimes our babies have other ideas of what they want, or circumstances like physical barriers that hold us back. All I know is that I tried my absolute best. That was the only thing I could do.
Taking care of a young baby is the toughest job on earth. I truly believe that. It is also the most blissful, beautiful job, but it is also the toughest. It is very physically demanding, and many of us moms are not prepared for that. The truth is that as humans we were designed to raise children in tribes.
In tribes, all of the women would help care for each others children. If we still lived in the tribe, this would benefit us tremendously. We would have someone to leave the baby with so we could care for ourselves, we would have a woman to ask for advice when it comes to breastfeeding, baby wearing, and so on. We would have a support group to help us through these tough moments. We would share the responsibilities of taking care of all of the babies, and children.
Sometimes, doing all of these “natural” parenting techniques without our tribe can feel unnatural (or like it is TOO much work) because we are lacking our “sisters”.
Now, that doesn’t mean that natural parenting doesn’t work, because it does. It simply means that we either must find our own tribe (or support team), accept that we are going to have to work extra hard to make everything work by ourselves, or in some rare circumstances accept that we have to make compromises with our ideals.
Don’t feel like a failure because you can’t fulfill every aspect of being a “natural” parent, instead take comfort in the fact that you are doing your best, and that you have a lot of victories to celebrate.
I’ve learned to imagine a scale in front of me that weighs how secure Kaia feels due to my parenting techniques, and I always try to keep the scale favoring the “secure” side. I’ve come to understand that I won’t be able to do it all, and that is ok.
As long as you are loving your baby, and offering your best, you are doing it right! 🙂
Sometimes we just need to hear “You are a good mom”, so I am telling you right now, “YOU ARE A GOOD MOM!”
I may not know you personally, but I know you, because I am you!
So, does it get better?
Now that Kaia is a toddler we have our fair share of ups-and-downs. Most days are fun, beautiful days playing in the sun. Others are cranky, temper tantrum days, where we both are not feeling our best. I am learning how to parent a toddler, and she’s learning how to be a little human. It’s bound to get a little messy, and that’s ok.
So remember…. when you’re struggling, and things feel bitter…. Smile! Because you are not alone, and a sweet moment is around the bend!
With so much love,
PS*If there’s anything I want you to take away from this… it’s that you aren’t alone. We are all feeling this way. We are all worn out, tired, and struggling from time-to-time.