October is Mental Health Awareness Month and I want to talk about the impact of motherhood on mental health. I lost myself in motherhood and my mental health took a knock (note that I said mental health and not mental illness). Mothers go through a lot, sometimes in silence and in isolation. With the hopes of breaking the silence and letting you know that you are not alone, I am sharing my story of how motherhood affected my mental health.
There is so much uncertainty that comes with an unplanned pregnancy:
- The sudden changes you have to make
- Not knowing what will happen to my relationship
- Not knowing what comes next
- Feeling disappointed at yourself for Ruining your own plans
- Worrying about the financial implication that will come with becoming a parent and more
It really can be a lot to handle considering that one is unprepared. In my case, I stressed a lot because I had never imagined myself getting pregnant before getting married and before getting my qualification. Parents were disappointed but they forgave me, my boyfriend and I got married and we began raising our daughter together. However, the disappointment that I had towards myself lingered for years. I was ashamed and felt guilty for breaking my promises I made to myself. I was always stressed and my mental wellness was affected negatively. I entertained negative thoughts and labeled myself unworthy to dream because what use will it be if I will end up breaking the promises I made to myself again. This contributed a lot towards putting my dreams on the back burner which I will still talk about. Going through all of this while still having to show up as a mom and as a wife was hard, and I am grateful for healing and self forgiveness.
I went into the birthing room holding the belief that “natural” birth was the way to go and that strong moms give birth virginally (Nothing could be further from the truth!!). Nonetheless, I believed this, consequently I felt like I was failing when I got so sick that the nurse suggested that we might have to consider a C-section. I didn’t even allow my husband into the birthing room because I did not want anyone to come and see me fail. It was a lot.
The postpartum journey was hard and I did not know what I was really doing. I had my moments of thinking “It is not supposed to feel like this”. I had times when I wanted time away from my daughter, when I wished I could call the child’s mother to come fetch their child but remembered I was the mother. I tried to live up to the societal expectation of being a happy mom so I kept quiet with my struggles because I did not want to appear ungrateful. The honest truth though is that I was fatigued and I needed help, which I did not ask for because I felt like I deserved to have it hard since I was the one who went and got pregnant unplanned. I literally cringe just thinking about this.
Loss of self
Going from being independent to having an entire human being entirely dependent on you is no joke! I wanted to do it right, given my own childhood (I wasn’t raised by my mother even though she was alive and I never lived with both my mom and dad in the same home). Therefore, I wanted to give my daughter a childhood better than mine. I put my dreams aside because I felt like they were in competition with motherhood. My husband and I had a long distance marriage for about a month because I had just started a new job. I later resigned because I did not want a long distance marriage and long distance parenting situation. I honestly would do it again if I had to but I will not downplay the struggles that it presented for me.
I felt like just a mom, I missed hearing “Job well done Busie” from completing a project at work, I missed having something else to look forward to other than house work and nappies. I missed doing something for myself outside of being a mom and a wife. And not having that to some degree made me feel hopeless.
How I take care of my mental health as a mom
I have done a lot of unlearning and learning when it comes to motherhood and parenting. Including:
- That it is okay to need time out as a mom
- That is is okay to ask for help
- That you can love you child and still want to be away from them and that’s okay
- That all birth is natural, whether C-section or vaginal
- That wanting to be someone and do something outside of motherhood doesn’t make me a bad mother.
There are a lot of misconceptions that just add on to the stress of being a mother and we have to unlearn them and redefine motherhood for ourselves for the sake of our mental health. I prioritize “Mom time” so that I can get rejuvenated and you should too because nobody can pour from an empty cup. Let me know how motherhood has affected your mental health.