As a millennial mom, it often feels as though real connection with other moms is hard to come by. At the click of a button, we see images posted online by others who appear to be doing the mom thing better. We are all living incredibly beautiful but very messy lives and we insist on convincing one another that the mess is not there.
We may not be aware of the internal battles moms around us are fighting in themselves. Perhaps some of us feel that we are drowning in our lives, hopeless and feeling alone in the midst of our big picture perfect families that we present to one another on social media. We may be so afraid to show any blemish in ourselves for fear of judgement from others that we present ourselves in a way that masks the messiness inside of us.
How many of us have the outward appearance of happiness and holiness but are numb and fading on the inside whether it be ourselves or our families as a whole? Nothing is kept hidden from God. We only hide from each other, and in the process, convince ourselves that we are alone in our struggles.
I have been learning to accept the mess that comes with being human and trust the work that God is doing in me and in my family. After all, he is the only one who truly sees my mess and accepts me in that mess. What I have found is beauty. I see the pieces of the mess being molded by Christ to sanctity my life.
Anxiety & depression
I have spent years grappling with bouts of anxiety and depression which only intensified after becoming a mom. I had been so accustomed to this battle I was not even aware of the postpartum depression after the birth of my first child. My daughter was a very easy baby and I was not overwhelmed by taking care of her physical needs.
My struggle was with sadness, crying for no reason, and feeling disconnected from my husband because I was not overjoyed by her like he was. Thankfully, this perpetual sadness went away after a few months as I gradually began to form a bond with my daughter and create happy memories. But I am aware of the fact that for some new moms this experience may linger for much longer and become more intense.
I remember being curious as to why so many first time mothers describe this overwhelmingly joyful and fulfilling experience associated with the birth of their first child but it somehow missed me. I did not have many answers to these questions until my son was born, 19 months later.
After the birth of my son, I remember the joy and the bond that came right away which I did not expect. I thought to myself, if I am capable of this bond with my newborn son, why was I not with my newborn daughter?
Sharing my struggles
After researching postpartum depression and finally telling those close to me about my different postpartum experiences, I realized that I likely had suffered from this with my daughter but had not known it. I was astonished that I had missed it. I knew this was something that I needed to pay closer attention to in myself and in the mom world as a whole.
When our third child was born, I felt nothing but joy and happiness. At first this had been a fairly easy transition. After all, I had done this twice before.
Due to my awareness of perinatal mood disorders, my husband often asked me how I was feeling just to check in. A few weeks later I began to notice similar moods that were unique to my experience after my first daughter was born; sadness out of nowhere and heightened emotional sensitivity to the slightest things. Having three children in three years was a challenge in itself and the anxiety hit me like a train.
One day I realized I was afraid of myself because I felt that I was no longer in control. I felt trapped with no where to escape. I could not do the slightest things without breaking down.
I knew it was time to reach out. I had to snap out of my introverted and reclusive nature and tell those around me how I felt. My husband was prepared to leave work if I ever needed him here with me. My parents live down the road from us so my mom offered to come over anytime, as well.
Within a couple months I felt that I was getting better and I attributed this to the support system that I had relied upon. Once I reached out I realized how quickly helped arrived and how willing they were offer suggestions for practical ways to structure my time and environment as they saw were contributing to my mental state. It was through this experience that I learned the importance of letting go and doing what works for me and my family.
Let it go
My youngest is now three years old and in those three years I’ve been learning to continually let go. Sometimes I feel the depression seep it’s way back in. Sometimes I have bouts of anxiety. But I’ve learned the warning signs and I’ve learned how to manage it. I am more open about it all now and I’ve relied heavily on faith, prayer, and the sacraments. When my faith is weak, I pray more. When I don’t have the strength to pray, the sacraments are my life source. These are the things that define my life.
Outer comparisons are detrimental to my soul. My heart and will must be aligned to the heart and will of God. That is where I have found true freedom and autonomy. All life comes from God and it is our purpose on earth to give our lives back to Him.