I love my children with a fierceness that hurts. My oldest just graduated high school, and my momma heart hardly knows how to wrap itself around the fact that my babies are leaving our nest. There is nothing in the world except my connection with God that brings me more deep joy than being a mom.
But just yesterday, I saw a man pushing a stroller and I got a sort of heavy, anxious feeling in my chest. I turned to my husband and asked, “How did we do it? How did we do that early stage of having three little children?” Being a mom of littles was hard for me!
Although I didn’t struggle with the kind of postpartum depression that leads to thoughts of harming a baby, the OCD that had almost left me as a single young adult came back with a fury the minute I found out I was pregnant, and I dealt with serious postpartum depression with at least my first baby. And anxiety? That was my constant companion from the time I was a child. Having to also care for children of my own only exacerbated that struggle.
So when I saw this Mormon Message (see below) about a young mom who dealt with serious postpartum anxiety, depression, and OCD, my heart went out to her and I knew I wanted to post about it.
In the Church, we talk a lot about how much motherhood matters to God. Now that I’ve been doing this motherhood thing for nearly two decades, I understand more why it is that God commands us to multiply and replenish. Family matters. Motherhood matters in ways that I think our mortal selves can’t really comprehend. It’s not just for the joy that can be there, but for the challenge of it all that stretches us to the point of recognizing all the more how much we need God.
Because family life can be really, really hard. Motherhood can be knock-you-to-your knees hard. Like the woman in this video, I had spent time in the professional world before I found my husband and became a mom. I’d served a foreign mission. I’d traveled the world meeting with executives and helping them work through complex operational and organizational challenges.
But nothing, nothing could have prepared me for how hard motherhood would be. And I was embarrassed by that. As this Mormon woman says, my world was turned upside-down when I became a mother.
If you are a mom and finding yourself shocked by the challenge of motherhood, know you are not alone. Like this woman says in the Mormon Channel video, don’t hesitate to accept offers for or ask for help.
I wonder if in our busy modern lives, we’ve lost some of the power of Relief Society when it comes to helping women who are moms. I know as a mom of teenagers I wish I had more formal ways to engage the women in my ward about launching children into adulthood and parenting adult children. We need each other!
I know that when I was a young mom, I needed a lot of encouragement. I am glad I had a few friends I could call, and I’m grateful for the visiting teachers who stepped in to help. But I really didn’t know it was okay to struggle with motherhood. All I knew is that I knew my weakness as a mom and wondered if my kids deserved better.
Now I know that those weren’t thoughts from God. Now I know that motherhood is a process. Now I really know that the Atonement is for parents (oh, how grateful I am that Jesus Christ is there to cover and compensate and comfort us in our mortal weakness as parents!).
And now I know that one of the ways to access the power of the Savior’s grace is to learn to work with my body and its weakness. Anxiety, OCD, depression — these are real things. They affect the brain, which is both a physical organ and a spiritual center in our lives. Like Rachel in this video, I struggled for years not being able to feel the power of the Atonement in ways that people often talk about it. Peace isn’t something you feel regularly when anxiety presses on you. Trained therapists can help us separate out the thoughts that come with anxiety so that we can create more space for peace to enter in and have better eyes to see tender mercies that extend beyond just what we can (or can’t) feel.
Again, if you struggle as a mom, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, OCD or other mental health issues, please share with someone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, including professional help. The pieces can and do come together as we seek for help. And God’s grace often shows up in ways that we might not expect.