Motherhood is Not Always Joyous. The Truth is That It Can Be Incredibly Painfully Lonely
Are you a pregnant woman who has a lot of worry about being a mother as your childhood was traumatic?
Do you feel a lot of guilt and shame because you regret getting pregnant?
Was the brith of your baby traumatic?
Is motherhood harder than you imagined and you secretly hate being a mother?
Are you a single mother by choice who is planning on becoming pregnant, pregnant now, or recently had a baby and you’re wanting additional support during this journey?
There Is No Such Thing As The “Perfect” Mother Who Always Has It Together
We are all told that becoming a mother is one of the most important and special accomplishments a woman can have. Mothers are held up to high esteem and what we see online is just how beautiful every moment of parenting is. Women are expected to know exactly what to do and have a special bond from day one with their babies. We expect mothers to put their lives on hold and to change their whole identity once they become mothers. There are more mothers coming out and sharing their ups and downs but there is still a lot of pressure and judgment that we all place on mothers to do everything right. Not only is there pressure for mothers to do everything right and they are the first to blame when their child misbehaves, but there is also immense judgement if a woman is not enjoying motherhood. All of this pressure and judgment will lead any mother to feel alone and unsupported in her journey. If a mother has a history of feeling alone and unsupported from her own childhood then this can trigger her own stress response system (fight, flight, freeze) to respond in ways that lead her to self protect. This includes numbing out (dissociation), anger outbursts (fight response), tearfulness and crying spells, heightened anxiety and worry, depression, apathy, guilt and shame.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 has only exacerbated this problem. You, like millions of other women, might have either lost your job or had to quit because there was no way you could manage staying at home with your baby and working. This profound loss can also impact your identity. How you see yourself not only as a partner/wife but as a mother and an independent woman.
But the truth is that all mothers struggle in some way. One mothers struggle might look different than another mothers struggle but I guarantee she is struggling with something at some point in time. These struggles don’t just start when the baby is born but can even start when a mother is trying to conceive or all ready pregnant. If you're someone who has been hit with unexpected fertility challenges then you become consumed with trying to become pregnant and carrying to term. Then there is the financial aspect of fertility treatments that can put a strain on your families finances, which might spill into other parts of your relationship and again your identity.
For other women the struggles occur during pregnancy when you’re forced to confront some of the trauma from your own childhood that you thought was resolved but has shown up in the form of nightmares or worry about your ability to protect your baby from harm.
There can also shame and guilt when you find out the sex of your baby is not what you had hoped for (gender disappointment is real and if ignored can impact bonding between mother and baby).
Then there is labor and birth. There is so much unknown here and this can make you feel incredibly anxious. Obsessive thoughts and meticulous planning are ways that one tries to soothe these fears but often drive you and others around you nuts. When they try to intervene you are left feeling unsupported and misunderstood. Alone.
Finally your baby is here and you feel like you should be overjoyed. But your baby isn’t sleeping. Your partner isn’t helping. Breastfeeding was harder than you thought or you can’t breastfeed at all, so your feeling like you have failed as a mother. Questioning why you can’t provide for your baby like nature intended.
You are struggling. Your thoughts and feelings are valid and when you feel like you have no outlet to share all of these struggles then it just compounds your loneliness. This loneliness can leave you feeling like your a babd mother and questioning whether it was a good idea that you even became pregnant. You might even start to think that your baby and family would be better off without you. This thought can be really scary and shameful but also a little liberating. (If you are having these types of thoughts they are indications of suicidal ideation and should be taken seriously. Please reach out directly to emergency services-911 in USA, suicide hotline and seek out mental health support. You are not alone)
National suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
National Postpartum Depression 1-800-PPD-MOMS
Knowing Something Doesn’t Feel Right and Seeking Help For It Is An Important Step To Healing
A lot of what was described above is typical for mothers. New mothers and veteran mothers a like. Each pregnancy journey and baby is different. Triggers can arise at any moment. This doesn’t make you a bad mother because you have these thoughts and these feelings. The fact that you notice them and they are concerning you shows that you want to take action so you don’t have to feel this way and so you can be more available to your baby in the way you want to. This is the first step, reaching out for therapy, and I applaud you.
I want you to also know that you don’t have to continue to suffer alone and in silence. Therapy will not only give you an outlet but also help you process some of your feelings. Often unhealed and unmetabolized trauma is showing up in these moments when you are not at your best and also what is adding fuel to your shame, guilt, sadness, and worry. In therapy not only do we work on processing what is unhealed but you are given tools such as:
- how to ask for and receive help from others
- manage your own anxiety and fears with loved ones and care providers so you can leave your baby and take car eof yourself
- alleviate guilt for wanting to do things on your own
- set boundaries with others
- support with bonding with your baby if your concerned that you aren’t bonding in the way you want
- renegotiating/settling into your new identity as a mother. What do you want from motherhood, as a woman, as a partner etc.
The above tools are only a small snippet of what therapy can give you.
What Therapy Looks Like: You and I Working Collaboratively
In our work together I will support you with working with what is most important to you. Whatever your concerns are and whatever your desired goals are we will work collaboratively together to achieve them. You are the expert on yourself and your baby, I know this can feel like a lot of pressure, but I am here to support you in finding your voice. To helping you feel safe and settled in your body so you can listen to and trust the wisdom that your body is trying to share. I know that not only does this sound foo foo but it can also be scary.
We are taught so very early to be disconnected form our bodies and not listen to the wisdom of our bodies. But science has told us that trauma is stored in our bodies memory. When we have trauma that goes untreated, unprocessed, and unmetabolized it shows up in unexpected ways. This can leave us feeling out of control and like something is wrong with us. The unhealed trauma can impact parenting which is the area where you are most concerned. You have a vision for motherhood, and yes it might be going very differently than you thought but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as fulfilling and overwhelmingly positive-even with the ups and downs.
So I join with you on your journey into motherhood and we move deeply into what is weighing you down. We give it a voice rather than stuff it down. The stuffing down may be a temporary band-aid but eventually that traumatic energy will burst forth. Again it often comes in unmanageable and unbound ways that leave you feeling worse. So let’s give it a voice in a safe and contained way. Let it move and digest on its own so that you can feel more open, free and settled in your own body. This will then help you be more present for your baby and other loved ones. It will be a powerful and rewarding experience.