It was 2016.
I was in the living room holding my baby girl, Molly. She was only a few months old at the time. It must have been early evening because my husband had just come home and my son who was just over two, was in bed.
Stuart was sitting on the couch, his jacket and work-bag abandoned at his feet. I was sitting in the rocking chair holding my baby, crying.
I can remember so clearly how sad and hurt and exhausted I felt. I was so tired of pretending that everything was ok, that I was ok. I so desperately wanted to be heard, to be listened to. I wanted to say out loud all the things I had been feeling since I became a mother over two years prior to this moment in time.
I wept as I spoke of how difficult I was finding the jump from one to two babies. I felt like I was failing at motherhood. Why was this so hard? I was more in love than I had ever been and yet I had never felt so wounded and bruised. I didn’t want my husband to do or say anything, I could see that he was frantically searching his mind for an answer, a solution to help the woman he loved. There was none that he could offer me, I knew this.
I opened up to the fears I had kept hidden, I spoke of how motherhood had changed me and how it felt to be unsure of who I was now. Motherhood challenged me in ways I never could have imagined, it took so much of me, my energy, my time and my dreams. As I spoke these thoughts and feelings, I knew with certainty that this was my truth. My husband sat there and listened to me tell him that I felt lost in my own life, a life that I had dreamt of. Here I was, happily married with two beautiful and healthy babies, I appeared to have it all and yet I wanted to howl and rage. I wanted to cry for the loss of the woman I was whilst looking in awe at the gaining of the woman I was becoming. I wanted to speak to the depths of my emotions without fear of being labelled hormonal or depressed.
I was worn down with guilt – how dare I feel like something was missing from my life! I told myself that I was being dramatic, that I must be the only woman who felt like she no longer knew who she was.
I wondered where my confidence had gone, I didn’t notice when it disappeared. I felt like I had no time for myself, I was so consumed with the mothering of my babies. Their needs are so intense when they are little, we have to give up part of ourselves in order to nurture them.
Stuart and I sat there in the living room for a while, both of us silent, honouring the truth of what had just been spoken. I felt like I had finally allowed myself to crack wide open, I hadn’t realised I had been holding on so tightly to all my thoughts and feelings, that I had been slowly suffocating trying to contain myself in a version of motherhood that didn’t feel like my home.
What I understood to be true in that moment was that motherhood is bigger than us. To try and reduce it down to a series of ‘To do’ lists or ‘Three Steps To Be Being a Better Mother’ is an insult to us and every mother who has gone before us. Part of me knew that I had to let go of the books, to stop listening to the advice of others and to stop trying to live up to a Pintrest persona of motherhood. I felt like I could breathe easily for the first time in a long time. It had taken me over two years to get to this point, I had to wait until I felt like I was losing my mind before I was able to say out loud the things that had been eating away at my soul.
The conversation I had with Stuart that evening changed things. I had addressed the elephant in the room. I was not depressed and did not want to be treated as such, I just didn’t know how to move forward with my realisation that the version of motherhood I had bought into wasn’t complete.
So I did what I always do, I researched. I scoured the internet for women who spoke about motherhood in ways that I was experiencing it and I came across a woman who I will forever remember as the woman who blew my mind and my heart wide open.
It was late one Friday night. I was in bed, Molly beside me in the co-sleeper, and I was numbing out with the internet. I don’t even remember how I came across Beth Berry’s page but I remember sitting up in bed, heart racing, excited at what I was reading. At last I had found someone who seemed to understand what I was feeling. I devoured her blog, reading every one of her posts with tears streaming down my face. I wept with happiness and relief but also sorrow for the time I had spent feeling so lost and broken.
Her words changed everything. In that moment, I knew with complete certainty that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. There was no way round what I had been feeling, I had tried to swallow it and hide it and deny it but it was hurting me to do so. When I spoke to Stuart about how I felt, without even realising it, I had been giving myself permission to feel how I was feeling and to challenge all the false constructs of motherhood that I had bought into.
I looked back over my life and I saw clearly that I have always been led from the heart. I made decisions based on the inspiration I drew from others around me, I was open to opportunities and possibilities that presented themselves to me and I embraced them fully. When I had children this changed. My focus shifted from the world around me, I put my head down, concentrating on putting one foot in front of another, getting through the days with a baby took all of my focus and concentration. And then after a while, I didn’t even realise that I was still head down, closed off to the world around me. I had another baby and it took even more of my energy to learn how to survive with two under two.
As I tried to sleep that night after reading so many posts that set my soul alight, I felt like I had fireworks going off in my head. I was too excited to sleep, this felt like the first time I had lifted my head and opened my heart back up to the world around me in over two years. I attended a conference that weekend and it was if I had become a magnet for mums who needed to speak the words that were held hostage inside of them. Over the course of that weekend, I cried and laughed with other women about our joys and our sorrows in motherhood. We witnessed each other in our healing truth; there is a shadow side to motherhood that is not spoken of so openly and it becomes a secret to bury, a thing to be kept hidden away.
Of course there is darkness in motherhood, how can there not be? In order to become a mother, you must descend to the deepest recesses of your soul and bring back with you a strength and courage and love and integrity like you have never know before. We cannot undergo this journey if all we believe to be true is beauty and light. Your soul will not allow this falsity, for you are more than that.
You are a woman who became a mother. There are parts of you that had to die in order for you to be reborn as the mother you are today. Let us stop pretending that becoming a mother is just one more thing to achieve, because it is not. It is a process of transformation so intense that we must lose sight of where we have come from in order to be able to navigate in the dark. This seems like such a terrifying lesson because it is terrifying. We have to unravel all of who we thought we were in order to make way for who we are becoming.
I left the conference feeling determined and hopeful. I had the evidence I needed in order to start challenging the sanitised version of motherhood that we are encouraged to aspire to. We should not expect motherhood to be any less intense and raw and messy than the birth itself. In amidst the beauty and the love is the darkness and the sorrow. They are so innately intertwined that no wonder it hurts so much when we try to deny one half of our experience, one half of ourselves.
I knew then that I would work with mothers to change the narrative on motherhood, I just needed to figure out how best to do that. It took a while for me to untangle myself and my worth from all of the deep-rooted conditioning I had hidden in my beliefs around motherhood and the role of a mother in a family. I worked hard to address my guilt and shame around finding motherhood not all it was cracked up to be and I had to face my fears about speaking openly and honestly about my experience. Letting go of the fear of being judged as a ‘bad’ mum or being seen as a woman who ‘wasn’t coping’ with motherhood was a big step for me – I had to figure it out as I went along and trust what I knew to be true for myself.
Fast forward a few months to when Molly was almost one and my son almost three. The possibility of studying to be a life-coach enters my life but I tell myself that my kids are too young, it’s not the right time and I’m not sure if it’s for me. Conversations are happening all around me about motherhood, I’m getting messages from other women who are telling me about their experiences and asking if me I work with mums to take them through the process I had taken myself through. I knew deep down inside of me that there is very rarely a perfect time for something and so I embraced the chance to study coaching in order that I could work with mums.
I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was lost and unsure, hurt and upset, all of that was necessary in order for me to be able to do what I do now. It was a rebirth of me so that I could become a guide for mothers as they begin the healing process of reclaiming all the parts of themselves, the parts that were left abandoned at the entrance to motherhood. The parts that society has told them are ‘too much’.
I’ve been coaching mums for over three years now. Step by step, woman by woman, I have continued to challenge the fantasy version of motherhood that so many of us get caught up in believing. I have witnessed the life-changing transformations that occur when a mother embodies what deep down she knows to be true. Motherhood changes us. It wreaks havoc on our souls in order that we begin to see what we are truly capable of. When you understand that the only person getting in the way of your becoming is you, there is no stopping you. I have seen it time and time again. I have sat beside mothers as they wept in the belief that they were broken. I have read countless messages and emails from mothers as they tried to put into words the feeling they have of something being not quite right in their life. I have sat in silence as I listened to mothers tell me they feel so guilty for wanting a life outside of their children.
I will sit in silence no more.
You are not broken and you do not need to be fixed. You are not failing, you cannot fail in your own motherhood. You are not, and never will be, a ‘perfect’ mother, for she does not exist. I can say this easily and with confidence now because I know it to be true. I have seen it and I have lived it. It is perfectly ok to acknowledge that motherhood comes with a price and that price is hefty. This doesn’t mean you won’t pay the price, I would pay it again and again in order to be a mother but that doesn’t change the fact that it has cost me a lot. It is as challenging as it is rewarding, it is as difficult as it is effortless. We walk through our lives forever changed, we have parts of ourselves that walk the earth outside of us, separate from us. Let us honour the depth of what motherhood actually means, we are mothers.
Worry less about what others are thinking about you and honour yourself by living what you know to be true. Motherhood is not all that it is cracked up to be, it is so much more. It is a powerful and primitive state of being that requires us to break free from the shackles of perfection that society wishes to keep us in. Motherhood is made up of blood and sweat and tears, don’t waste your time or your precious energy thinking otherwise. The version of motherhood that hurts when you compare yourself to it, is not real. I promise you. There is so much more for you than what you have been led to believe, the constructs are not real.
I have seen what the descent into your soul looks like, I have lived it. Now I guide other women through it. Do not be afraid of what you know to be true. There is a freedom to be found in the places you keep under lock and key.