Welcome to the vulnerability hour. Today’s message is straight from my journal and it is super personal. I kept quiet and suffered alone for so long. Today I feel brave enough to share. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
A couple of months into Spring of 2020, I started to reflect on the way I felt about my best friend and how she treats her firstborn son. She is so in love with him! I remember that feeling…being so in love with my firstborn before I became a mom of two.
When you are pregnant with your second child you may wonder if you will love your next child as much as your first. And yet, there I was, five months into life as a mom of two and wondering why I only felt what I can describe as “a lack of love” for my daughter? I never thought I would have to go searching high and low for the grandest love I had ever felt, similar to the love for my firstborn child. I just looked at her differently, I felt differently and navigated different emotions than I did before I had my son. I started to wonder: why don’t I feel the way my friends do? Where did that intense love go?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I also started observing my daughter, constantly sharing and telling me she loves me as way to obtain my love and affection, as if it was something she had to earn. It was heartbreaking. I realized she felt it too. My heart sunk. So one day, I got the courage to call up my employer’s Employer Assistance Program and request to speak to a counselor. A woman comes on and I begin to describe my feelings of discomfort. I explain to the counselor that I’m scared, and have detached from my daughter, after having my son, five months prior. After a few sessions, she assured me it was a normal response to raising a defiant strong-willed three year-old girl and that I could benefit from brushing up on some parenting skills. She suggested I read, Parenting with love and logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. I went through a few chapters and implemented some of the suggested approaches of discipline, only to realize I did not agree with the approach. For example, it suggested I should send my daughter to her room to have her tantrum by herself, as a means to teach her to “behave”. It made sense at first, but then I realized that something about making her be alone when she was distressed and vulnerable, as opposed to showing up for her and loving and supporting her in this moment -did not sit right with me. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
At 4 years of age my daughter was well aware of my sarcastic and often times passive-aggressive traits that I so desperately wanted to keep her from. She was catching on to my extreme irritation with her, leading me to feel helpless and unsure of what else to do. Nothing is worse than watching your own child play back to you all of your unfavorable character traits. It was then that I finally understood that you must first recognize the pain within you; so you can then heal it. This is what led me to work on my postpartum depression. I finally faced all the different scenarios and realized the longer I avoided talking about my feelings the longer I would fuel my irrational thoughts. These thoughts were weighing on my emotions and making me feel like a bad mom. I recognized that this behavior was not in line with the mother I aspired to be. After searching multiple providers, I finally found the right fit and my healing journey began. After a few weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, I understood that my relationship between my thoughts, emotions, and behavior were not in sync. I learned that not all thoughts have merit. I learned how to assess if whether a thought is rational. I recognized how to assess the feelings presented by my body from said thought; and how it impacts my overall behavior. After 16 months I finally realized – I am a damn good mom. Those intrusive thoughts were wrong, and I recognized the triggers that led me to believe them so I could tackle them too.
So my message to you is: if you ever feel like you don’t belong, or don’t deserve to be where you’re at, or receive the things you’ve earned, and convincing yourself that you are a bad mom – just remember you are not alone in these feelings. We all navigate postpartum depression differently and these intrusive thoughts should be challenged because you are worthy. Born from infinite love and capable of loving without measure. There is no shame in seeking help – the key is recognizing it as one of the greatest forms of self-love.