I wake up to crying.
My new baby is crying again, likely needing to eat. Never mind that the night before, she went 5 hours before eating after I last fed her. Tonight we’ll go three. Okay. Breathe. Open your eyes and move.
My eyes feel heavy and I struggle out of the covers and walk, blind in the darkness, to the closet where our little 4 week old baby girl was sleeping peacefully.
She nurses, I change yet another diaper; she nurses some more.
2:35AM. I can finally go back to sleep.
5:08AM. She’s crying again.
I nudge Danny on the shoulder, indicating sleepily that he can go try to pacify her, and if she doesn’t settle down, then I’d feed her. But honestly, every fiber of my being wants her to already be sleeping 8-10 hours at night.
My eyes close and I sleep lightly, jostled awake when Danny gets back into bed, but Tatum is quiet.
6:11AM. Cries come from the bassinet again. Time to feed, then some early morning snuggles, but just for a little bit cuz we’re waking up to the day in an hour or so…
7:47AM. Time to wake up. A little past time honestly.
My head is immediately spinning with all the things I feel like I need to do that day.
Laundry, meal plan, grocery shop, play with Joshua, get Joshua down for a nap, feed Tatum on time, every 3 hours minimum, fold diapers, pull out a freezer meal for dinner.
My list could probably go on.
Do you feel the monotony of my day? Writing it out like this, I sure can.
It’s no wonder it’s a struggle for me to want to get up in the morning right now. I’m obviously sleep deprived—what mother of a newborn isn’t right?
Ever since high school, I have been a type-A, checklist, to do list, get it done ASAP kinda girl.
I was always looking forward to the next big project, planning out in my color coded planners when I would complete which section of a paper due in 3 months; when I needed to do my math homework each week; when I could have time with friends; when I had swim practice; when I had a date.
Looking back, it’s no surprise that I have a hard time accepting each stage of life I’m in and just LIVING it.
But looking back to almost exactly six years ago, my senior year of high school, I can see where there was a shift. I’m not entirely sure if it was a shift for the better at the time, or if was just a little bit of an awakening to what I had going on in life.
Six years ago, I was a young, 18 year old senior in high school, planning on going into music education at Utah State University. I was working on my audition pieces, but my confidence was low.
It was low because at the time, I was in a relationship that was eating away at my spirit—both my passion for life and my actual spirit, in a religious sense. There’s no blame to be assigned to the boy or the relationship—I didn’t know, or didn’t believe at the time, that I deserved to have anything better. I was a stubborn teenager making decisions and choices that would continue to haunt me later as an adult. I made those choices, and I accept the responsibility for them.
Growing up, I was raised with strong morals and beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I often felt like I was thought of as a “molly Mormon” because I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in dressing immodestly (just wasn’t a temptation for me), in drinking or smoking; I was always raising my hand to answer questions, both in school and in church. I got straight A’s, I had a good number of friends from all kinds of social circles. All in all, I felt like a pretty well rounded person by the time I hit my senior year of high school.
Six years ago, however, midway through my senior year, I had what I remember being a pretty intense emotional breakdown after school.
I had come home and was feeling intensely upset with myself, ashamed even, because my straight A record was getting absolutely RUINED by my AP Calculus class that semester. Not even a full 2 months into the second semester and I had already had a C and D on major quizzes/tests.
Most of you are probably laughing a little inside. Honestly, I am too at the moment. Really? Freaking out over a C or a D on a quiz?
The problem though, wasn’t in the grade letter, or really even related to calculus itself.
The underlying issue was that I had such high expectations of myself academically, spiritually, morally. The fact that I thought I was failing miserably in all of those areas at the time was overwhelming to me.
I didn’t, and still don’t, deal with failure well. I’m not one to give up easily. Honestly, I probably take too much on my plate at times and then feel horrid when I can’t get it “all done.”
So back to this emotional breakdown I was having.
I came home from school on the verge of tears. My mom asked how I was doing and of course, the water works started. (I HATE crying. I don’t care if it’s in front of a group, in church, in an intimate setting with one person—I just don’t like the feeling of being so choked up you can’t talk.)
Being the wonderful mother she is, she helped me face some really difficult feelings I was having about myself:
Gremlins or dementors that were constantly whispering things to me, sitting on my shoulder; my little worry monsters would say things like, “You’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’ve made too many mistakes, why bother trying, no one cares about you…”
Over the previous winter break, I had made some choices I’m not proud of. In working to resolve those choices with the Lord, I unfortunately began to sink into a depression. At the time, I believed feeling so negatively toward myself was what I SHOULD be feeling. How wrong I was.
It was this emotional breakdown with my mom that helped me realize that I was not in a good place, and I was able to start seeing the positive a little better. I graduated, moved on, met my husband, was happily newly married, got pregnant with our first baby, and finished my degree.
But unfortunately, 4 years after high school, all those feelings, those nasty little gremlins, reemerged.
2 years ago, in March 2014, I had a 6 month old baby boy. Our little Joshua. I had carried him 41 weeks and delivered him at 10 pounds 2 oz. He was and is an absolutely JOY to have in our lives.
2 years ago, I was starting to sleep better. I was getting past the sleep deprived state I described earlier. But I wasn’t feeling better.
I didn’t like myself most days, I felt disappointed in my abilities as a mother all too often, I stared in the mirror and wished the baby weight away. I honestly felt like a shadow of my former self. My identity had changed, but now I didn’t know who I was, or how I was contributing to the bigger picture.
I’ve always been a social, get out and do stuff, easy to talk to kind of gal. But I felt out of place in social settings that I had once been totally at ease in. I felt excluded from life because I was still “trapped” at home with my baby a lot more than I wanted to be.
The feeling of being trapped as a new mom caused a lot of those old dementors to come out of my closet. Suddenly I was feeling guilty and ashamed all over again for the choices I had made and repented of back in high school.
Satan literally felt like he was standing heavily on my shoulder, whispering the worst of thoughts at me, only I didn’t realize they were his ideas; they felt like mine. I had thoughts that I wasn’t good enough to be Joshua’s mother, that I couldn’t ever have more kids, that I should have been able to lose more baby weight by now. Thoughts began to surface as the months past that no one would care if I was gone because I wasn’t worth much anyway.
When thoughts as serious as that began to taunt me, I immediately shoved them aside, hid them away and ignored them. And I most certainly never talked about them with anyone. But I was fearful they would come back. And the more I feared having those negative and depressing, and even suicidal thoughts, the more they would come.
I felt like I was going crazy in my own head. I couldn’t share with anyone because if I did, it would be admitting that I had something wrong with me, that I couldn’t just “handle” things on my own.
It took until May of 2014 for me to finally admit that something was wrong, that I needed help. My incredible husband, my circle of close friends and family, and an amazing counselor helped me see through those thoughts and clearly recognize them for what they were.
It took until September of 2014 for me to begin to consistently FEEL like myself, and for those who had been helping me on my journey through postpartum depression and anxiety to recognize that I seemed “better.”
Fast forward to today. I have a 4 week old beautiful little girl, and I have a LOT of fears that I’ll sink down into that same depression again with her. But I also have an inventory of tools to help me. A host of family and friends near and far who love and support me. And I am a much more open and vulnerable person than I used to be.
I am recognizing already things that are triggering my negative thought patterns, and I’m combatting them. I have positive affirmations written all over my kitchen (it’s my favorite room in my house…lol). Post its that say things like, “You are enough. You are a great mom. You are a positive person. You have incredible talents.” If I find myself avoiding looking at those little sticky notes, I know I’m not in the best place and I take a step back to figure out why. It helps, a LOT.
My story seems a little jumbled; mom brain is kinda taking over.
And honestly I can say I had lots of little nasty thoughts come into my head while working up the courage to just sit down and WRITE this post. “You’re not a writer, your story won’t help anyone” thoughts that I know for a FACT are false.
But I just want each of you reading to know that you’re NOT alone. No matter how alone you feel. Every one of us feels it at times and when you do, you’ve gotta look those feelings in the face and know that they’re not your thoughts. They’ve been placed there, carefully and sneakily, by the father of lies whose sole goal and purpose is to degrade our confidence in ourselves as women, as mothers, as men, fathers—whatever your role in life is at this time.
The best thing I’ve learned in struggling with my big and little worry monsters who like to perch on my shoulder is that the more I listen to and fret over something, the bigger he gets. The more I talk back to him and put him in his place, the smaller and more insignificant that worry monster becomes, until suddenly the gremlin is being drowned by the light of joy, happiness, peace, and love.
I am worthy of love. I am worthy of belonging. I am worthy of joy.
And you are too.
Negativity only has power when we give up the light. So don’t give up the light.
If you want to hear more from Danet here is her website. Tell her I said hi!
I’d love to hear your story and share here for next month. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org