Motherhood: a beautiful work in progress.
Thatʼs how I choose to define it. From the moment of conception, motherhood takes flight. Our bodies begin the ability to house another human for 9 months, thatʼs beautiful. Feeling a child kick and squirm about in your womb, thatʼs beautiful. The love and bond that is created well before a mother even meets her child face to face, thatʼs beautiful. As for labor and delivery, which may be agonizing for some and a breeze for others, that too, is beautiful.
We bask in the beauty of something so amazing, but at the same time fail to realize that it is work. Coping with the physical, mental, and emotional forces that come before and after, is work. Learning how to combat the people and things that challenge your confidence as a millennial mom is work. Fighting that ugly face of postpartum depression is work. Finding time for yourself is work. Overall, adjusting to this major life change is work.
Thereʼs so much joy that awaits us as first-time moms; Itʼs a new and exciting experience. (It’s also a full-time job.) Iʼm almost 4 months in and itʼs been nothing less than amazing. This little human being whom Iʼve been privileged to nurture means so much to me. I love being a mom, though it can be exhausting and overwhelming at times. Taking a shower or eating in peace is almost nonexistent and sleep deprivation is still apart of my vocabulary.
Adjusting to being a new mom came at a time when other parts of my life were also changing. I was adapting to being a newlywed and living in a new state, simultaneously. Many days were spent alone with my son while my husband worked hours on end. At times I felt like superwoman, (feedings, diaper changes, baths, etc.) regardless of the little rest I was getting. Other days, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I was appreciative of my hardworking husband, but in the same breath hated that he couldn’t be present when I needed him the most. These moments sparked the onset of postpartum depression.
Some days Iʼd be at my highest high. I was in the best of moods and nothing could alter that. Then there were days where I was at my lowest low. I was extremely sleep-deprived and spent more than half the day in pajamas and a bonnet. Iʼd cry even when there was nothing that triggered those tears. I struggled with accepting what my body had now appeared to be and frowned at the sight of my reflection (head to toe) in the mirror. I had no doubt that the emotions and thoughts that occurred during the postpartum period were very real. I read articles, and heard stories from other moms, even from my own; yet I refused to accept that I too would succumb to them. I quickly learned that this journey involves more than becoming comfortable with the role of mother. It is a time of great emotional and physical changes.
So, what became my lifeline in all this?
For starters , I learned to SPEAK UP. As African Americans, our upbringing has taught us to sweep our problems under the rug. We’re supposed to put on our superhero cape and pretend to be okay, even when we arenʼt. I knew that there was no profit in keeping silent about my postpartum depression. I refused to continue to hide my feelings and drown in my thoughts.
It was foolish of me to assume that the obvious was obvious, so I began by first confiding in my husband.
Of all people, especially because we lived under the same roof, he needed to be made aware. I reached out to my fellow mommy friends. If there was anyone who could relate, surely another mom would be able to. I was comforted in knowing that my own mother also struggled with postpartum depression.
There is a great level of freedom and therapy in being honest about what we struggle with.
Secondly, I grew to understand that it was and is okay to GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO PAUSE. Becoming a new mom doesn’t necessarily put a halt to the other responsibilities we carry. If married, we still have to juggle being a wife. If we are entrepreneurs, we still have to juggle running our businesses. If we are active in church, we still have to juggle ministry. If we have jobs/careers, we still have to show up and play our part. Tending to self is the last thing on our checklist and some days we never get to us. As a first time mom, we feel guilty about taking time for ourselves without our baby. As difficult as it can be to find the time, allow yourself a moment to selfishly take a breath. Sometimes my moment is getting out the house and going for a walk in the park. I put music in my ears and allow myself to unwind. We can only be the best version of ourselves when we have an outlet and a way of recharging and reenergizing.
Lastly, remind yourself (as often as you need to) that MOTHERHOOD IS NOT A COMPETITION. It is not our job to look at the next mother and make comparisons. No two moms are alike and no two journeys are the same. As first time mothers, we are learning, growing, and finding our rhythm in our own time.
Iʼd like to believe that every woman who is a mom is doing their absolute best, even those of us who are at this for the very first time. Donʼt try to be better than the next mom and donʼt beat yourself up for not matching up either.
With all the challenges motherhood brings, our strength as moms remain unbelievably beautiful. Give yourself credit for a job well done!
Shanel is a mother, wife, and a rising voice for the millennial mom.
Follow her on Instagram: @shanel_alysse.