I love being a mother and having a special bond with my children. Some of my favorite motherhood moments are when my young children are immediately comforted just by sitting on my lap and getting a hug from me.
But motherhood was a difficult adjustment for me.
After my first baby was born, I felt conflicted by so many emotions. I missed my husband as he finished college while also working long hours. I missed socializing at school since I had graduated. I missed seeing my friends, enjoying my hobbies, learning, and feeling challenged by assignments. My routine was now dictated by the eating and sleeping habits of a tiny baby. I tried to make the most of his nap times by showering, doing housework, balancing the checkbook, and a million other things I was behind on.
Eighteen months later, our second baby was born. My husband and I immediately loved him and were grateful to have another child. But in the middle of this joyful time, I felt like something was wrong. I cried multiple times a day. I even apologized to my children for being sad and too exhausted to play with them. I felt so guilty for not enjoying every day. I slowly started isolating myself. And I felt more alone than ever.
The first time I had a suicidal thought, it surprised and frightened me. I didn’t want to cause anyone grief or pain, but I found myself planning how I could get away from the loneliness and hopelessness I felt at the time. I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I was convinced that I didn’t have the selflessness and unconditional love that seemed to come so easily to other mothers. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. The only option I could see was to give up.
My loving husband saw me slipping away, and he didn’t leave me alone in my pain. He sat with me and held me close. He encouraged me to talk to our bishop, which I resisted at first because I felt weak and humiliated for not feeling the happiness I expected to feel. Everyone else seemed to thrive in the joys of motherhood, and I hadn’t felt any joy lately. But the fear of having more suicidal thoughts and not being able to resist them motivated me to finally meet with my bishop. I had faith that Heavenly Father knew exactly what I needed and that if I trusted Him, He would show me how to find joy again (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:82–83).
Our bishop was a doctor, and his additional perspective helped me find what was right for me to heal. He taught me about postpartum depression. He recommended that I see a therapist and seek direction on taking antidepressant medication. He also gave me insight about the healing power of prayer, priesthood blessings, the sacrament, and the Savior’s Atonement. And then he gave me advice for maintaining my mental health: getting fresh air, exercising regularly, and spending time doing something I loved.
Using All the Healing Tools
After months of following his insights and direction, I saw a dramatic shift in my mental health. Yes, I still spent late nights nursing my baby and struggling to entertain my toddler during the day. I still felt lonely at times, but changes in my routine gave me what I needed to cope with trials as they arose. I felt a boost in confidence. I had renewed energy to take my children outside, and I was able to enjoy the warm sunshine.
I worked with my doctor to eventually wean myself off my medication and therapy sessions, because I had all the tools I needed to press forward. I learned to make it a priority to take care of my physical, mental, and spiritual needs. And I now had the reserves to care for my family and reach out to those who needed a friend just as much as I did.
I now understand that it’s completely normal to feel a full range of emotions as a mother. Each day is tiring, joyful, fulfilling, and sometimes frustrating. But if you are feeling sadness and anxiety that doesn’t seem to fade, please reach out for help. You are not alone. You have people who love you and who will support you through this new phase of life. Once I learned to not feel guilty for not loving every aspect of motherhood, I enjoyed the good moments so much more.
It takes effort to make time for friendships and hobbies, but in making time for myself, I became a much happier mother. I could be the supportive, loving, caring mother I always wanted to be because I recognized that I was happier when I focused on my personal growth in addition to the well-being of my children.
I’m grateful for my compassionate husband, an inspired bishop, a caring doctor, and a loving Heavenly Father who helped me heal. I know that with the guiding hand of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can heal from our sorrows, our pains, and our imperfections (see 2 Nephi 4:20). We can be strengthened by Their perfect love for us, because They know who we are and who we can become with Their help.