I wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember. At eleven years old I was picking out baby names and dreaming of the day I would get married and start a family.
In college, I met my husband and we agreed that we both wanted lots of kids (seven to be exact). My family all thought I was nuts, but my heart was bursting with excitement at the thought of a houseful of little feet and laughter.
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It was my dream. We spent three years preparing for a baby as we waited for that positive test. Not by choice, mind you, but because our bodies weren’t cooperating.
I spent hours researching and planning and waiting for the day that I’d be able to to put my precious little baby into those tiny booties and go for long walks in the best stroller we could manage to get our hands on.
I dreamt of lovingly gazing into my precious baby’s eyes as I nursed him to sleep or listening to her sweet coos as she stared at my face.
When the news finally came that our hopes and dreams were coming true, I couldn’t have been more excited or joyful. We were going to be parents! But I was blind to the storm that was waiting for us just around the corner…
(If you want to skip straight to the goods and learn how I overcame my challenges as a new mom with mental health struggles, click here!)
How Motherhood Was Nothing Like I Had Planned
Even before Samuel was born, motherhood wasn’t like I expected. I was sick a lot. Not like morning sickness or anything, but more like I was just constantly drained and depleted.
I didn’t have energy or an appetite and I just felt like crap all the time. During my pregnancy, I got food poisoning twice and bronchitis once – neither of which I had ever had in my entire life prior to this pregnancy.
And then I was diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Because of the pre-e, I ended up being induced about two weeks before my due date, which was far from the picture perfect plan I had mapped out in my head.
I had wanted to deliver without medications, without induction. I wanted to labor in water. I wanted to have skin to skin contact right away. I wanted to exclusively nurse my baby. I wanted an intervention free birth.
Ideally, I wanted to give birth outside of a hospital (in a birth center or even my own home), but none of that was possible for me.
My labor was induced for two whole days of pain and frustration. I ended up missing out on many of the things I had planned for. And that was difficult for me to handle.
After Samuel was born, he became jaundiced and so we had to drive 35 minutes one way to take him to the doctor every day for the first week of his life for blood tests to make sure his levels were going down like they should.
On top of that, only a few days after bringing him home from the hospital, he began having trouble keeping his food down. I had been around tons of babies before as the oldest in my family and having babysat for years as a teenager.
His spitting up was beyond what is normal, and I knew that. I told the doctor at our first visit which started us on a path of more appointments, trial and error with his food, and lots of tests.
We ended up seeing specialists and having x-rays done. He was suffering from severe GERD (a form of acid reflux). It was so severe that he was struggling to gain weight.
I had given up on breastfeeding after less than two weeks because it was so hard on me emotionally and physically, and now we were trying formula after formula to help him keep his food down and gain weight.
But nothing seemed to make a difference. Friends and family told us all babies go through this and doctors told us he would outgrow it eventually. I felt entirely overwhelmed.
In the midst of these struggles, I was also dealing with my own emotional issues. I had battled anger and depression on my own for years, never being brave enough to seek professional help.
I had been through a 12 step program, but what I truly needed was medication. Add to that my post-partum hormones that were going haywire, and it was a recipe for disaster.
I remember one night being so emotionally triggered. I honestly can’t remember what even happened, but I was so angry with my husband.
I was screaming at him and saying we should never have had a baby, we couldn’t be good parents and maybe we should just split up.
I bawled as I held my baby whispering, “I’m so sorry, baby. I love you so much” and telling my husband that our precious miracle deserved better than this. My poor husband probably felt completely helpless.
The Moment That Changed Everything
One day in April, when Samuel was just 4 months old, I hit rock bottom. It was a beautiful, sunny day. But inside my house a storm was brewing.
My husband was at work and I was alone with Samuel. Because of his GERD, he also struggled with pain and sleep issues and would cry frequently and intensely.
On this particular day I just couldn’t take it anymore.
He had been screaming for hours off and on. Nothing I did seemed to calm him. I had no one around who could help me, and I was at the end of my rope.
I snapped. I literally got in my baby’s face and screamed at him to shut up. Immediately I regretted this action as I saw the confusion, horror, and fear in his eyes as his cries changed from angry to terrified.
I backed away as a realized what I had done. This is not how I pictured motherhood. This is not the kind of mom I wanted to be.
I took a few deep breaths, strapped Samuel into his car seat and we went for a drive as I sobbed. I didn’t have a destination in mind, I just needed to not be at home.
I needed fresh air. I needed to get away. And driving calmed Samuel, too.
But I just couldn’t calm myself down. I couldn’t come back to reality – my emotions had gained complete control and had caused me to lose all ability for rational thinking.
I was scared of who I had become and I didn’t want to keep living this way.
After about 30 minutes of driving, I finally had gained enough composure to talk, so I called my husband. I told him what happened and that I needed help.
I had always been too afraid to seek the help I needed, but this day changed that. I was going to get help no matter what.
My pride didn’t matter anymore. I was Mom to this precious little life, and I was not going to let my struggles hurt him.
How I Began To Overcome My Struggles
After seeing a therapist and a psychologist, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and intermittent explosive disorder. I was given a prescription for medication and things began to get better almost immediately.
I felt like a completely different person and I was so ecstatic to finally have something that helped me feel human.
But after less than a month of being on medication and seeing a doctor, I found out I was pregnant again.
I had a five month old and was now expecting a second child and I had to go off of my meds. I was terrified of what this would mean for my mental health and my family.
But by the grace of God, I was able to find ways to manage my depression and anger in healthy ways without medication. And I’m happy to say that my second pregnancy and birth went almost flawlessly and I now have two completely happy and healthy sons who bring so much joy to my life!
Of course we have our struggles still. And I was able to get back on medication after our second son was born (although my current medication is different and very low dose).
I can truly say that my life is 100 times better now than before. I’m a completely different person than the new mom who screamed in her little baby’s face.
I have to daily choose to live with a healthy mindset and to physically care for myself in order to manage my mental health struggles (plus continue to be medicated), but I have found a few things that help me immensely and, honestly, these practices can help anyone who’s ever struggled or had a bad day or anything really.
The next time you’re having a hard time dealing with life, try one of these things!
Meditation may mean different things to different people, but we all have basically the same purpose in mind. We want to allow ourselves a time to sit and reflect quietly without distractions or interruptions.
I personally enjoy listening to guided meditations on YouTube or through apps on my phone. Guided meditations help you train your mind to focus on your breathing which teaches your body to remain calm in tough situations.
Meditation has helped to reshape my thinking which changes the way my body reacts to outside triggers. Now, instead of reacting in anger to situations out of my control, I can choose to be in control of my words and actions and respond reasonably.
Another way I like to relax that’s similar to meditation is called ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).
If you’ve ever gotten that pleasant tingly feeling in your scalp when someone plays with your hair or has an especially soothing voice or when you hear certain sounds, you are experiencing ASMR.
Not everyone experiences this, but for those of us who do, it can be incredibly relaxing and calming. You can find tons of videos on YouTube ranging from audio and visual trigger videos to roleplays and even some that include food.
To those who’ve never seen or heard of ASMR before, the videos can be quite strange. But don’t write it off right away. Even if you don’t get the tingles, ASMR can be incredibly relaxing with the right triggers.
Here are a few of my favorite ASMR channels:
One way I’ve found helpful to get through tough situations with my kiddos is just to understand their development and perspective better. When I can take a moment to empathize with what they are feeling and experiencing, it helps me be more compassionate to them even in their most difficult times.
I do a lot of research on current practices, recommendations, and opinions about parenting. And there is lots of information available.
There are also lots of opinions about the right or the wrong way to do things. My perspective is that as long as you are meeting your child’s basic needs and are loving them well, you’re doing a great job!
As much as I love learning more about parenting, I do have to be careful not to let the opinions of others derail me from the journey God has me on.
But even with all the different advice and opinions and information out there, the simple act of learning has helped me to feel more in control of my life which in turn allows me to stay calmer in situations that used to upset me.
I have become more empathetic to those with differing viewpoints as well. I’m much more capable of having an intelligent discussion with a person even if we don’t agree.
Educating myself on important topics has also led me to positive parenting which has completely changed the way I understand and respond to my children’s behavior.
Where I used to get angry and yell, I now am able to respond much more calmly and show love and empathy to my boys in their moments of difficulty. And I’ve seen a huge positive change in their behavior as well!
Anyone will tell you that self-care is one of the most basic essentials in a person’s life. If you want to truly be able to care for others, you must first take care of yourself. This, of course, is true in motherhood as well.
But what does true self-care really look like? Well, the specifics may be different from person to person. But there are a couple of forms of self-care that are the same across the board.
First and foremost, you need to take care of your basic human needs. This includes eating a balanced diet, taking care of your personal hygiene, and getting adequate sleep.
Believe me, I know this is hard for us mommas, especially in those early years when our littles need so much from us. But it is essential to a healthy family balance for you to be at your best so you can help your kiddos be their best.
Of course, there will be times when things slip through the cracks. But don’t let that become the norm.
The second form of self-care is taking care of your desires. This includes things like finding and enjoying a hobby, taking time for yourself, and having some downtime.
Everyone has something they enjoy. Find your thing and figure out a way to include it in your life more often. If you have an opportunity to, get out of the house alone.
Go window shopping or sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Whatever it is, you have to have something, no matter how small, that is just yours.
There are some major regrets I have about that first year with my oldest son. I was not the mom I wanted to be and motherhood was not what I thought it would be.
But with the right help and support, I’ve come so far since those days. I’m still working on repairing some of the damage I believe was done early on in the relationship between me and Samuel.
He doesn’t remember, but I can just tell when I see little sparks of my temper or my isolation tendencies peak out in his personality.
I am glad to say, though, that I’ve been able to build a great bond with Elliott and, by God’s grace, he’s never experienced my rage or depression like Samuel did.
Our family is doing pretty well now and I owe it all to God for opening my eyes to the truth and giving me the strength and ability to seek the help I needed.
Being a mom is one of the most rewarding yet challenging jobs in the world! When you have those moments of anger and overwhelm, take a deep breath.
Implementing meditation into your life, educating yourself about things that are important to you, and creating a solid self-care routine can make those moments all the easier to handle.
If you are a mom who struggles with depression and you find it difficult to manage your emotions, you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning, and you just don’t have the willpower to face another day of draining tasks, you’re not alone!
Talk to your doctor for more information and to get the help you may need.
May we all experience true joy in motherhood and in our lives. <3
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and all opinions are purely for informational and entertainment purposes only. Always seek the advice of your doctor before making any changes to your health care routine.