Reflections of a suffering mother

As Mothers’ Day approaches, the mother in me begins to wrestle with the idea of being celebrated because motherhood, though filled with joy and love, has also surfaced many feelings of inadequacy and failure. Motherhood has been such a trying time in my life that it has shaken my identity at the core. But God, in all his grace, has taught me so much more about myself during this difficult time than I ever thought I would. There is one big lesson that He taught me in my journey of motherhood that I will never forget: that my journey as a mother was never meant to just be about motherhood. It was the rude awakening for my life that I didn’t even know I needed.

My story begins when I became a mother to Cohen 3.5 years ago. Though it has been full of joy and goodness, it has also been one of the toughest times of my life to date. This difficult time started soon after Cohen was born. Of course, there were the expected struggles: physical fatigue, lack of sleep, and learning to manage diaper explosions and inconsolable crying. There was, unfortunately, one struggle that I was not expecting, which ended up debilitating me more than I could ever imagine: loneliness. It felt small and, honestly, a bit confusing at first. I mean, why was I lonely? My husband, Doug, was always around. He helped take care of Cohen. He was very involved, helping with night feeds, diaper changes, and housework. Our families were very present, coming to visit and bringing over meals. Even our friends were caring and supportive during this time. Yet deep in my heart, I felt lonely, almost empty, and I didn’t even know why.

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Over the next few months, this loneliness started to grow and creep into more avenues of my life. I would feel it at 3 in the morning, having woken up to feed Cohen and holding him in my arms, feeling like I was the only one exhausted beyond belief. I would feel it when I was talking to close friends and family, who only seemed to ask about the well-being of my son. I would feel it at church, feeling like I only belonged in the backroom nursery, alone and tired. I began to feel increasingly resentful, hurt, bitter, and angry. Did anyone care at all? Did anyone understand? Eventually, I began withdrawing myself from my community and shutting everyone out. I started to prefer retreating to the nursery, avoiding the turning heads and darting eyes whenever Cohen made any noise during church service, and avoiding all superficial conversation that only worsened my feelings of loneliness and hurt. Surely no one could understand what I was feeling. Heck, I couldn’t even understand what I was feeling.

One day, someone asked how I was doing. I took hold of this opportunity and shared how insanely tired I was that day. “Cohen kept waking up last night, every 2 hours. I’m honestly exhausted.” This person paused, gave me a blank stare for a few seconds, and eventually mustered, “I’m sorry Jess, I really wish I could understand how tired you are, but I just don’t.” The walls of my heart went up then and there. Surely this confirmed how little others cared. I was utterly alone in this journey.

And this went on for months: loneliness that seemed characteristic of motherhood. “Maybe this is what it means to be a new mom. Maybe this is what happens to friendships when time goes on, when we go through different seasons.” I tried to numb this loneliness by seeking out other moms and going on play dates, but it only ever provided temporary relief to a deeper problem. I would get suggestions to try sleep training like this or teaching my child like that. I started demanding that my husband understand me more, or that my friends ask more about my well being, only to feel like I still needed so much more from them to lift my spirits. I was asking them to fill a void inside of me that they couldn’t even access.

But the truth of the matter was this: It never really was about motherhood. It was a truth that I couldn’t get myself to admit, because that meant it really had nothing to do with the circumstances or the people around me. The root problem was within myself. I blamed my community, my husband, my sleep-deprivation, and even my son. I dare say that I even blamed motherhood itself. The good news was that God took the opportunity in motherhood to pull me out of my everyday routine and give me a chance to really see myself for who I am. I got the chance to ask myself, deep down, “How are things going?” It was a wake-up call, a rude awakening that came disguised as the burdens of motherhood but really was the way by which I got to take a good look at myself. When I felt purposeless as a mom, it was because I had been placing my worth in my work rather than on who God created me to be. When I felt like my community was letting me down, it was because I was letting my hurt build up like a wall between myself and those who cared about me. When I felt like God had abandoned me in this season, it was because I had been the one shutting Him out in the first place. He was at work in my heart at a level that runs deeper and has greater value than motherhood itself: He was pulling me closer to Him once again. He is doing simply what He promises to always do: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.“(Psalm 34:18)

The biggest thing that God has taught me to date through these trials is this: We all experience trouble in this worldThe only difference is the type of trouble we experience in our individual lives. Motherhood, cancer, divorce, loss, depression, rejection. It may all look different on the outside for each of us, but deep within, our hearts are all waging war. We all wrestle with things that tell us that we are not good enough. We struggle with remembering that God created us to be in relationship with Him. We fail to live like we are loved by a perfect Father. But the good news remains: He will continue to work in our lives for His good. He is faithful to remind us that we are in good hands.

So what does this all mean?

For me, it means that I don’t need to be discouraged in the face of struggle. My struggling through life will only remind me that God is inviting me to draw closer to Him.

And for you?

For you, hopefully it means that you realise your struggles too are only the beginning of a greater work at hand.

Hopefully it invites you to look deeper into your own heart in the face of trials.

Hopefully you will take up God’s invitation in the difficult moments to draw near to Him again.

Lastly, hopefully you will begin to realise that you have more in common with this struggling mother than you originally thought. We are all not so different. It was never really just about motherhood; it has always been about the awakening in our hearts. That is the rude awakening we all need to have.