I don’t feel deserving of my child’s scribbled sentiment that reads “Best Mom in the World.” Because even though I am their mother, I know that I have struggled with being a good one. It’s a struggle that I am working on healing by reflecting on my battle with lingering postpartum depression and motherhood.
Memories That I Regret
When I reflect on my early days of motherhood there are many memories that I regret.
Like when I didn’t tell them it was okay when they dropped the box of cupcakes we made together on our way to their classroom. I yelled at them. I raged. And a decade later, that memory still haunts me.
I didn’t let them play with paint or play doh. I didn’t let them play with water or rice. The mess was one more thing on my heaping plate. So they watched TV instead. A lot.
I didn’t snuggle deep and long. I was touched out before the hug had even begun.
They longed for their dad to get home, waiting impatiently by the front door window. He was the nice one, the fun one. I was the disciplinarian that carved angels out of them, and a monster out of me.
I raised children so that they looked like perfect little people. Well-dressed and proper-mannered. I got the nods and accolades of everyone around me for having great kids. I relished that fame. It made me look like a great mom.
But there was a deep, dark secret inside my home.
Lingering Postpartum Depression
I was falling apart. My obsession for looking perfect was a disguise that my incompetency hid behind. I took care of them but didn’t care for them emotionally. I didn’t care for myself either.
I sat in front of a screen and binge-watched before it became socially acceptable. I ate. I yelled. I growled from my teeth at messes and spills. I felt feeding and clothing children was all that parenting encompassed. Because that is all I had the energy to do. I fell out of caring and living. I was just pretending and surviving.
Because the moment I birthed my first born child, I fell into a postpartum depression that lingered and lived on as I birthed my other children. Passed down from one child’s birth to another like our infant carrier, it was an era of postpartum depression.
I never really healed. And with dark clouds becoming my permanent weather, I became angry and sad all the time. It clouded my judgement. I didn’t understand that I was battling mental health issues, I thought my problem was the kids. They kept me from getting better. From stepping outside without strollers and bags and preparation. From being carefree and spontaneous. From the quiet. From feeling whole.
Of course, these are all reflections I have come upon recently. But when I was deep in the trenches, though I loved them greatly, I secretly hated motherhood.
“I’m Fine” Was the Biggest Lie
This piece is a hard one for me to write but an important one. It’s difficult because it brings to surface my deepest feelings of regret. I never thought I would be that mother. But these are the agonizing results of unhealed wounds from battling mental illness that bled into the lives of the most vulnerable.
I am guilty of that. I take full responsibility.
“I’m fine” was the biggest lie I told myself, and those around me. I wasn’t…I wasn’t fine at all. I was dying inside day after day, year after year. Until I realized that who I was before children and who I became after were two different people. I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. My close friends couldn’t recognize me either. So I began looking at other mothers and started teaching myself what a healed mother looked like.
I joined a community of mothers several months ago, and felt awakened to what I had been missing: the joy and reality of motherhood. The fact that struggles were real, but there was joy too. I had missed out on the joy.
I looked longingly at those moms who went on day-trips with all of their kids and smiled through all the pictures. I heard about moms who snuggled with their kids while reading books aloud. I heard about moms who had bad days and tough weeks but recovered eventually because they asked and received help. All the while, women were telling each other that it was okay to not be okay.
It’s Okay to be Not Okay
I thought that was a dangerous place– to lean into a space that gives you a pass for not feeling good. My shame told me that no one is ever supposed to know that, that we always had to appear all-together and “normal.”
When I accepted that it was okay to not be okay, I learned that it was okay to dig deeper and find out why.
So I began the difficult journey of inner work with a mentor. To understand why I flinched when they would come in for a peck or hug. Why was I so unhinged by a spilled glass of milk? Or unnerved by loud noises of joyful play?
It was because of resentment. A misguided resentment. I was ravaged by postpartum depression but I blamed the kids. Motherhood imprisoned me. It deprived me. It took my freedoms away and left me with those who were incapable of looking after themselves. I was approaching the kids from a source that was depleted. I was a prisoner of my depression, but held my children in contempt.
I didn’t know any better. I was wrong.
Looking Back, Reflecting and Healing
Above all, I am grateful that I no longer suffer from depression. How do I know this? Because I am able to look back, reflect, and heal. I no longer harbor feelings of resentment and anger. I am transitioning from shame to guilt to forgiveness. It is an ongoing process.
This Mother’s Day, I am giving my children the best gift I can give them.
I am giving them a mother who is eager to earn all those loving handwritten notes and cards. A mother who is working hard to be better and do better. One who feels grateful every single day that God has blessed her to be their mother. A mother who is ready to love them fully, openly, and from a place of abundance. Most importantly, a mother who is healing.
“To the best kids in the world, I am sorry for not being the mom you deserve. I tried my best then, and I will do my best now. Get ready for some serious hugging! Love, Mom.”
To any mother feeling burdened by shame and guilt, depression and resentment, anger and sadness, please know you are not alone. If you are currently suffering from postpartum depression or any other mental illness, please know that it’s okay to say that you are not okay. Please ask for help and don’t suffer because of what others may think or say. And if, like me, you are looking back at your battle, please know healing is possible and it’s never too late.
Help is available, and Lansing Mom is here to assist in your journey of healing. Find more Tips and Resources for Healing from Postpartum Depression here.