What are you struggling with right now? Milk supply? Mastitis? A nursing strike? A biting baby? A horrible mother-in-law? Money problems? An energetic toddler? Sleepless nights? Whatever it is that you are struggling with is small compared to what you have been through.
You are a mother. Does it get any cooler than that? Any braver, any more resilient, any more Badass? From the moment you get pregnant you begin an extraordinary journey. This vessel through which you live life becomes home to another being. Your body, after all of your years alive in it, becomes unfamiliar to you. Almost alien. From morning sickness, the most unique and horrid feeling, to rapid weight gain in the oddest of places. By the third trimester you might struggle to complete even minor tasks. And if you have ever been pregnant in the sweltering heat of summer like I was then you know the feeling of near drowning in… in… I don’t even know what. Air? Sweat? Skin? Your own body? There were times when I literally felt my body had consumed my soul. I was looking up and out from deep inside myself. “Help! I’m drowning! Get me out of here! Or at least spray a hose on me!”
Then there is birth. Ok, back up. There is labor. Your body begins a sequence of events that will occur whether you like it or not, whether you are ready or not, whether you are at the grocery store or the post office. Your body won’t ask you if you are ready because this body that was once familiar, then alien, and now familiar again does not need your help. Well, help would be nice, but here comes baby, ready or not. And no woman, no matter her birth story, no matter who was there, no matter what happened, ever got help from anyone else. You did it yourself. You delivered your baby. YOU did. You breathed, you changed positions, you pushed and you met your baby face to face. A familiar person, a total stranger, a part of you, an extension of your soul.
Mothers know a fear that knows no words. When your baby is sick, when you don’t know how to help, when you don’t know what is going to happen. You hold your baby, heart racing, eyes filled with tears. The doctors come in and out, take blood, run tests, and you wait and wait and wait. This agony eats you alive. You hold yourself together, you put your feelings aside as best you can so that you can comfort your crying baby. You stop all routine tasks such as eating and going to bathroom. You remain awake, aware and ready to act to get your baby through this. You will do anything at all. You can move mountains.
Mothers stay up late or give up sleep all together to rock, swing, sing, nurse, and stroke. You might stay in your pajamas for days. You might forgo showering and brushing your teeth, even eating, so that you can meet the needs of your new baby. You do this many times without complaining so that your baby is secure, nurtured and loved. You know that your time with your baby is precious and before you know it will be gone. You snuggle your baby close and never want to let go. You cry at the thought of your baby growing up, moving out or going off to college. You replay painful events over and over in your head and struggle to think straight in the face of such fatigue.
Women transform into new people as mothers. You let go of old habits easily that you had battled for years. You end relationships that should have ended a long time ago. You eat better, you exercise, you think about the long run now because that is how long your baby will need you.
You parent gently despite how you were parented. You fight through extreme exhaustion to remain attentive to your baby’s needs. You turn your back to nasty remarks about breastfeeding in public. You bite your tongue in the face of criticism about your parenting choices. You read and learn and open your mind and change your parenting approach based on what you learn. You refuse to become defensive or make excuses for past mistakes. Instead you cry and acknowledge you did what you knew how to do at the time, and you move forward empowered with information. You challenge every aspect of your life to make a better life for your baby.
You have been through all of this and you are going to let some new challenge get you down? Whatever it is that you are going through now doesn’t compare to where you have been. The worries and struggles in your mind are no match for the drive and perseverance in your heart. If you need encouragement you need only look to yourself. You have already overcome intense struggles. You are stronger now than ever before.
You are unstoppable.
Abby Theuring, MSW