When motherhood hurts
Growing up, I was often praised for my future motherhood potential. I had a great desire to be a good Mormon woman and I was constantly working to gain the skills to aid in my quest. I learned to sew, knit, bake, and keep a clean house. I worked with children and found that I loved being with little ones. I prized myself on my ability to calm fussy babies and quell toddler tantrums. Surely this motherhood thing would be the perfect fit for me.
After the birth of our first child, my ideals were mostly attainable. I found myself to be a gentle and patient parent and was happy to have my life absorbed into this tiny person. I baked and sewed and cleaned the house. I went for long walks and read books to my little one. There were still hard moments and sleepless nights but all in all, it really was heavenly–motherhood was everything I hoped it would be and so much more.
And then things changed.
My second baby was welcomed into this world after a traumatic birth followed by a lonely postpartum period. The copious family and friends who had been a stone’s throw after the birth of our first were now over 1,000 miles and a border crossing away. While I had made a few friends in our new location, most of them were also young mothers and unable to devote a significant amount of time to caring for me as I healed physically and emotionally. While I had been finishing up graduate school after the birth of my first, this time I had no outside goals or experiences beyond caring for two young children. I was lonely and dangerously depressed.
I tried to fight it off–I talked about how blessed I was to have this beautiful baby, to be home with my children, to have an amazing husband who did so much to provide for our family. I knew I should be happy–I had everything that a good LDS wife and mother could want. My life was on track, all that I had prepared for and dreamed of was a reality. And yet I couldn’t shake that feeling of devastation and darkness, the deep-seated desire to just not wake up in the morning so I could escape the heartache that this second motherhood had brought into my life.
I’m not sure how or when it ended, just that there came a day when the darkness was less foreboding, the emotional pain less severe and the scales of life tipped back in favour of continued existence. As I look back on that time, I realize that what I wanted more than anything was to be able to express how hard it was without feeling like I was rejecting my own personhood. Since I had always been taught that my highest calling in this life was to be a mother, when motherhood was deeply painful, life seemed futile. If I couldn’t find joy in motherhood then consequently there could be no joy in life.
When the talks from men come about the glories of womanhood and motherhood, I wanted to stand and show them the aches in my heart, the nightmares of repeated birth trauma, the fears of the dark days returning, the sadness that never truly leaves and the scars that never heal. But instead I hold them, fearful that to share my heart will only confirm their suspicions that I’m not who they always wanted me to be, constantly holding out hope that tomorrow I will be the woman I once thought I was.