By Cathy Spooner
I remember sobbing uncontrollably, wildly even, as I sat with all three of my babies in my arms. I felt deep pain that I was failing at this because being a mother had stopped feeling good.
I had been spent years working through mental health issues, but had been feeling good for some time. The arrival of baby number three made me feel as though I was a brand new mum all over again. I had been stuck in a phase of complete nervous system and emotional overwhelm. It felt as though the walls were falling in on me. Uncomfortable and painful feelings around my relationship to being a mother started to creep back and I was losing joy for almost everything in life.
That day on the lounge as I sobbed tears that felt as though they were flowing from the deepest parts of my soul – I wondered if anyone else felt like this? If anyone else had this kind of deep sadness? I was surrounded by the loves of my life, the three very beings that have made my life so full and complete – and yet I felt empty and resentful.
I was trying to compute how I could love them so much and how I could have such a strong feeling to escape it all. And as triggering as that statement sounds, it was truthfully what I felt inside. The extremes of these emotions are what ripped me apart the most. How could I possibly feel like that about my own children? What kind of mother actually feels as though she wants to escape her children?
The guilt ravaged me. And I knew better than that, like I said, I had been working through mental health issues for 6 years now. I knew the processes, I knew my triggers and I knew what supported me in navigating out of that space. But yet still, I was here, wondering how I was gifted such beautiful children yet could not manage to stay fully present and connected with them and my heart.
But what I’ve learned over time is that those very feelings I had are in fact normal for many mothers at some stage. And perhaps more importantly, even if no other human on this planet felt that way, my own experience was valid and important regardless.
Over time as I’ve sat with the darkest parts of myself whilst navigating becoming a mother, I’ve had a powerful realisation – none of this is on my shoulders. We have all let mothers down. All the fears, worries, dark yet very real feelings I had were all valid but they were fed by a story I didn’t create on my own. The stories and society’s depiction of a mother was not congruent with my own experience which was feeding the internal struggles I was feeling. The story we tell each other through the decades, the images we see surrounding us – they all tell a story we could never live up to. It’s this story that is breaking us down.
This story is placing a huge weight on our shoulders and it’s no wonder some of us are drowning in silence. The isolation of holding these types of feelings about motherhood is crippling. We need to talk to someone, it feels almost as though a desperation for someone to help. Yet, in the same breath we can’t bear to tell anyone these truths. We are worried they will judge us, fearful they won’t understand and terrified they will take our babies.
This situation is a crisis. The women raising the next generation of this world are crumbling. They see a story of motherhood that is shaped around perfection, self–sacrifice and unrealistic expectations. If we don’t change this perception we will continue to fail our mothers.
Let’s start having open and truthful conversations about motherhood, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel. Let’s open up discussions about the real story of women’s mental health issues and how this is impacting us and our families. Let’s normalise asking for help, whether that be from family, friends or a trained professional.
I hope that by the time my grandchildren are here, we aren’t still watching women struggle under the pressures of being the perfect mother. I hope by then, we honour this process for women. I hope we stop telling them what they should be doing and how they should feel and we start listening to their truth… the gloriously imperfect and beautifully mad truth of being a mama.
Cathy Spooner is a Motherhood Coach and Author who supports women to reconnect with their true self after becoming a mother. She offers 1:1 support, group programs and her book Conscious Motherhood is available online where all good books are sold. Find out more: www.cathyspooner.com.au Instagram @cathyspooner_author