On September 20, 2015 at 2:59pm I pushed out a healthy and beautiful baby girl. The moment I saw her face is when I finally woke up from my state of denial that God had called me to be someone’s mother.
I was 25 years old and only married for six months when we found out we were expecting. The first year of marriage is usually rough and we can surely attest to that. It was during the rough patch in our marriage when we received the news. To be completely honest, we were not thrilled about it at all. We were an ambitious couple chasing dreams, conquering goals, and traveling the world. We planned to wait five years into the marriage before having kids. THIS WAS NOT A PART OF THE PLAN. They say the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans. There He was, laughing hysterically at our behinds.
THIS WAS NOT A PART OF THE PLAN.
I was always the woman who never really cared too much for kids. I was never the mushy type when I saw infants. If anything, I was the more awkward type who would pray that the baby sitting across from me on the New York City subway train would stop staring at me so I would not have to entertain it. Being in the presence of children made me extremely uncomfortable. I did not grow up surrounded by younger cousins or siblings, so dealing with children was foreign to me. I knew one day I wanted to have children, but I did not envision that for myself until much further in my future, somewhere around my mid thirties.
Throughout my pregnancy I was in a state of denial. There was no way God called me, little old me, to be a mother. I saw myself as a career driven woman more than a homemaker. I was not qualified for this task. I did not know what to do with a newborn or how to even change a diaper. I would read a few articles online relating to child birth and pregnancy but I did not obsess over reading all the books out there in preparation for motherhood. To be quite honest, I did not read not one single book relating to motherhood. In my mind, even as I watched my belly continue to expand, I refused to believe I was having a child. I was patiently waiting for God to wake me up from this dream.
The day my daughter was born I woke up.
I gave birth in a hospital in Germany with only my husband by my side. It was a smooth delivery, a natural birth, with no epidural and no complications. It was a beyond perfect experience for me. I was left in complete awe at the supernatural event I had just performed and the beautiful baby that was a product of it all. All I could do was cry as I held my perfectly healthy baby girl. Due to regular protocol, I had to stay in the hospital for three days following my child’s birth. During those three days, the nurses coached me through breastfeeding and taught me how to change a diaper.
The next few months as a mother would prove to be extremely rough for me. When I arrived home from the hospital, my body was fatigued. Bearing a child takes a lot out of you. Instead of being able to rest, I had to stay up all night with my newborn baby. She would sleep in two-hour increments. As a result, I was unable to get a sufficient amount of uninterrupted sleep.
The things I enjoyed, such as sleep and silence, I could no longer enjoy. Every time my baby cried I would get anxiety. It was frustrating trying to figure out what was wrong with her and I just wanted the noise to cease.
As the weeks passed, I started to grow resentment towards my role as a mother. I hated every part of it. I struggled to understand what the other young mothers on my Facebook news feed loved about being a mother. Who likes being tired? Who likes being pooped and pissed on? Who likes not having any freedom? Did these mothers not experience the same thing I was currently experiencing?
The life that was previously all mine, no longer belonged to me.
I was on maternity leave for 45 days (thanks to the Army life) and I despised every part of it. I could not wait to return to work. I so desperately wanted to run away from it all. It was just so overwhelming. It was like staying at home with my very own personal Drill Sergeant. The baby told you when you could sleep, when to wake up, when you could eat, when you could shower. I felt like a personal servant trying so hard to please my baby any way I could. The life that was previously all mine, no longer belonged to me. It now revolved around this tiny human being who was so innocent and defenseless, yet possessed all this power to have me running at her every beck and call. I would reminisce on the days before I had a child and how much easier things were. Something as simple as running to the store that originally would take me five minutes would now take me 45 minutes with a baby. I felt as though having a baby was a burden and a huge inconvenience.
During this time, my husband was awesome. I truly could not have asked for a better partner to share in this journey of parenthood with. We would pull shifts and alternate between staying up with the baby. He would help me change, feed and clothe the baby. My husband fully embraced his role as a father and truly did everything in his power to make my role as a mother less stressful. He would constantly offer words of encouragement and tell me how good of a job I was doing with our daughter. But I just was not feeling it.
I needed help. My pride would not allow me to ask for help.
In all actuality, I was suffering from Postpartum Depression. There were times when I thought about putting her out on the balcony because she would not stop crying. When she would cry, I would cry with her due to my feelings of hopelessness of being unable to stop her from crying. I would demand that my husband come home everyday on his lunch break because I needed a break from the baby and I couldn’t take it anymore. I did not completely trust myself being alone with our baby, and I could sense that my husband didn’t either. When we would go out in public and if I heard another child cry, I would get anxiety and have to leave the premises immediately before I broke out into tears. Raising a newborn baby was truly a traumatic experience for me. I needed help. My pride would not allow me to ask for help. I thought it showed a sign of weakness and people would view me as an inadequate mother.
During a prayer meeting at church, I put aside my pride and revealed to the group what I was going through. How I was struggling with depression and struggling with my new role as a mother. That simple act released an outpouring of support. A few of the women offered to take her off my hands for a few hours so I could get some rest. This support brought me to tears. Here I was CHOOSING to suffer in silence, not knowing I was surrounded by plenty of women in the church willing to help me. Even after the support, I still did not feel comfortable reaching out for help. Most of these women had children of their own and I did not want to burden them with mine.
My husband (being military) went to the field for a few days and I was left alone with our newborn. Unbeknownst to me, he took it upon himself to call one of the women we trusted from church to come to our house to assist me with our baby. The doorbell rang and there was the woman from church, Nikki, along with her 14-year-old daughter. She said “We are sleeping over. Get some rest. We will take care of the baby.” I couldn’t believe my ears. These women were heaven sent. They washed the dishes, fed, bathed and changed my baby while I rested. This was the break I so desperately needed.
This was when I realized the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” was not in vain.
Being a dual military couple living in Germany, we were thousands of miles from our family. But, the church members in this military community became our family. They were our support system through this trying time. They became our village.
Through it all, I realized you NEED a support system to raise a child or else you will snap or drive yourself crazy. Putting my pride aside and letting those in who wanted to help was one of the best decisions I ever made. Being a mother is a life changing experience that is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It broke me down severely, only to provide me with a super human strength I never knew I was capable of possessing. Once you adapt to the role and get over the hump of “mommy blues” or postpartum depression, you will be so proud of how far you have come. Postpartum Depression is REAL and far too common. 1 in 9 mothers will experience Postpartum Depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are struggling with Postpartum Depression, help is out there in the form of loving friends, supportive husbands, counselors, support groups and medication. Seek help.
It took me eight months to embrace motherhood and overcome my depression. Now here I am. Not a day goes by where I don’t stare at my child in amazement of my creation. Yes, being a mother will always be hard work but you get used to it. It becomes ingrained into your DNA. It becomes who you are. When you see the little victories such as your baby’s first words, first steps, etc., it makes motherhood all worth it. Seeing my baby’s personality develop right before my eyes brings me so much joy. God has made my heart so full with this blessing. Although motherhood is still very trying at times, I would not trade this calling in for the world.
Remember, my motherhood is not your motherhood and your motherhood is not my motherhood. Everyone’s experience as a mother is unique and it is up to you to define your motherhood for yourself. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help. We all need some kind of help on this journey. Very few have done it on their own. Remember, God gave you this responsibility because He knew His plans for your life. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. If you are a new mother, keep pushing. You WILL get through this. From one mother to another, I’m telling you it gets better.
Now that you have finished reading this, I just ask for one simple thing from you. Share this because there is someone on your friends list who is choosing to suffer in silence and needs to know she is not alone. Let’s unveil the social media facades of motherhood and share with others a far too common reality of it.