I’m failing as a mom. I’m helpless. I’m incapable. I’m weak. I’m a mess. Am I ever going to be a good mom? Am I ever going to be as good of a mom as (insert every other mom I knew)?
I had assumed every mom struggles with constant self-doubt and mom guilt. It’s supposed to feel hard, right? If it isn’t big and scary, do I even understand the weight of the responsibility I hold?
I was sitting in my therapist’s office expecting to talk through the same struggles I had been facing for almost 2 years. I was 3 months postpartum from having my second baby, struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety and drowning in insecurity and overwhelm.
Then, she asked me the one question I needed to start my journey to healing and wholeness.
My therapist asked me, “when do you think these feelings about yourself as a mom started?”
It hit me like a ton of bricks that these feelings started when I laid down in the hospital bed to give birth for the first time. When I walked in feeling prepared then quickly felt overcome by the experience and decisions to be made while giving birth. Each time the nurse brushed me off or I felt pressured to comply with medical decisions knowing my gut was telling me something different, I lost a little bit more confidence in my intuition as a mother. Anxiety overwhelmed me when the numbness from the epidural set in, and I felt trapped in the hospital bed feeling disconnected from my baby and my own body. When I gave birth and my daughter screamed for two hours, it didn’t feel like the euphoria I envisioned when I met my baby. The mom guilt set in of not feeling that instant bond or connection to my baby and feeling shame for being so ungrateful for my healthy baby and “uncomplicated” delivery. I had failed to have the birth I planned. I was incapable of bringing my baby into the world with joy and gratitude the way other moms do.
I had never allowed myself to process my birth trauma before that day. The labels I put on myself in labor, the feelings of failure, the guilt of not feeling the way I’m “supposed to” feel, I took all of those things and built a narrative of what kind of mom I am. I walked in that narrative for two years.
When I acknowledged my birth trauma, it lost its power over me. When I reframed my birth story, I wasn’t the victim anymore. I was the hero. I persevered through debilitating anxiety in labor to bring my baby into this world. I was strong and resilient, and I protected my baby with all I had from the very beginning. The words I used to describe myself during my first birth used to be “trapped, helpless, overwhelmed, and out of control.” The words I use to describe myself during my first birth now are “strong, resilient, and capable.”
It wasn’t overnight, but little by little, I started to see the way I lived my day-to-day life as if I was still trapped in that hospital bed, helpless, vulnerable, and insecure. Each time I heard that narrative in my head, I acknowledged it as a trauma response, refuted it, and let it go. I started to build a new narrative. I finally let go of the shame that had held me back from getting the help I needed for my mental and physical health. I started to speak up for myself and hold firm in my beliefs as a parent. I started to look to my mother’s intuition as the ultimate authority and tune out the noise of other people’s opinions. I started to challenge everything I did that wasn’t serving me or my family. I stopped comparing myself to other moms and their experiences, and I started to focus on seeing myself as the strong, capable mom that I am. I leaned into my insecurities, instead of hiding them away in shame. I finally started to accept myself as perfectly imperfect, and through that, I had a clearer view of my strengths and weaknesses.
I am forever grateful to my therapist who asked me that one question that changed my life. Once I was able to see myself as a good, capable mom, I was able to receive love and validation from my closest friends and family in a way I never had before. I know that the healing had to start with me. My birth trauma was a wall between me and living out the best version of myself in motherhood. There are days when my old narrative tries to creep in, but it never wins. I am a work in progress, and I wear that badge with pride and anticipation of the journey ahead of me.
Jess is a registered nurse turned stay-at-home mom of 3 littles, 4 and under. She has experience working as a perinatal public health nurse and bedside pediatric nurse. She currently coaches new moms through the transition into motherhood. Her professional and personal experiences come together to form the foundation of her work as the founder of For Love of Mom and Baby. You can follow Jess on IG at @forloveofmomandbaby or shop her services at her store in MPM called For Love of Mom and Baby