When my second baby was born at 11 pounds, I was peppered with the same statements about sleeping that I was given when I had my 9.5 pound baby, “Oh you know the nice thing about big babies? They sleep!” I would kindly nod when these parenting experts would share their wisdom about sleep and then I would resume drinking my double shot latte.
As I suspected, the “big baby sleep theory” was unfounded and only served to ignite the madness I felt in my sleep deprivation and did nothing to comfort my feelings of being overwhelmed as a new mom.
I felt underwater.
I felt scared.
I felt angry.
I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.
I felt like I wasn’t doing anything very well: mothering, working or being a partner.
I felt alone.
I quickly grew sick of the motherhood mantra, “It will get better.” The statement while made with pure heart, felt disingenuous. It became cringe-worthy.
Hearing, “It will get better,” was the equivalent to “Suck it up, mama.”
I wanted someone to hold me and say, “I know.” I didn’t want my isolation to be dismissed. I wanted to feel like my situation mattered and that I wasn’t alone in my struggle.
If I could just get my head above water I could keep swimming in my motherhood.
Sometimes getting my head above water happened because there was a long stretch of sleep, other times it was because my husband and I took a date night and sometimes it was because my mom helped me fold and put away laundry. Sometimes it takes small acts to lift you up so your head can get above water.
And I’m not going to tell new moms that it will get better. Because maybe you are like me and your kids still don’t regularly sleep all night. But I will tell you that it gets different.
The truth is, as time goes on there will be new motherhood storms that pull you underwater.
And all those same feelings of being alone, scared, angry, unsure of what you are doing, and feeling like you aren’t doing anything well, they aren’t just feelings reserved for when you are a new mom.
These motherhood storms will be those you never expect. Storms that make you think you really can’t handle anymore. Storms that make you feel like you keep getting pulled more underwater.
Last week my husband, daughter and son all had strep. My daughter stayed home from school on Monday so my husband and I rotated staying home. On Tuesday, the school called and my son was sick again. Minutes into our house, he had the stomach flu. Then pink eye hit. My husband and I spent the rest of the week trying to cover staying home and working. The shuffle of work schedules, writing deadlines, a cooking segment and one of my most important annual events at work weighed on me. I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. I felt so overwhelmed and completely underwater.
And my head eventually came above water. It always does. I have a 100% record for coming above water and surviving motherhood storms.
I recognize the actions that help lift me out: both the expected and unexpected, the controlled and uncontrolled actions. It can be a random night of good sleep, a cup of coffee from a coworker, an offer of help from a relative or just a phone call from a friend to say, “I know.”
I tend to think I’m perfectly able to face the hard storms of motherhood alone but deep down I do crave grace and compassion from others, especially from other moms. I want to feel like I matter and the motherhood storm I am facing can be overcome. Words and actions make a big impact. They lift mamas up from underwater.
Mamas underwater aren’t just mamas with newborn babies.
Mamas underwater are dealing with a death in their family or issues in their extended family.
Mamas underwater are nursing their family back to health.
Mamas underwater are trying to heal their own bodies.
Mamas underwater are dealing with marital issues.
Mamas underwater can have children in college or children with their own families.
Maybe you know a mama that seems perfectly strong facing her storm. Maybe you see her post pictures and share her struggle. But maybe she is silent in her struggle. Reach out to those mamas you know are underwater. Bring her a coffee or send one via email. Drop off a casserole, cookies or a bottle of wine. Offer to pick up some things she might need at the store. Be available to babysit. Send her a text, email or pick up the phone and tell her she is a great mom.
Talk to her.
Show her grace.
She may be overwhelmed but let her know she isn’t alone. We need each other. We are all one motherhood storm away from being pulled underwater.