There is strength in release.
Say it again.
There is strength in release.
I have learned this lesson time and time again in my life. For some reason, however; this truth takes me by surprise every time.
I felt so secure in my role as mommy, that I truly didn’t see it coming. I feel that I’m through the storm now.
I’m aware that like anything in life, we go through seasons in motherhood so I am prepared to learn more about myself again in the future. I await that moment with open arms.
As I reflect, I feel compelled to make this vulnerable moment public, so as to help other mothers know that they are not alone. Once I opened up to other mothers, my age, older, it doesn’t matter, but women who have gone through this, it released the power the moment had over me. I found peace.
I’m at peace.
Just over 18 months postpartum it happened, at the return of my menstrual cycle. I found myself spinning within a monsoon of emotions that I just was not prepared to deal with.
My cycle started one month and two days ago. About a week after it ended, it was like a lightswitch turned on. Or off, for that matter.
I was different. I went to sleep one mommy, and woke up another.
I had an intense aversion to nursing, I didn’t want to be bothered by my own child, I didn’t FEEL like being NEEDED by anyone. I was spinning out of control, it seems, unraveling at a speed I wasn’t comfortable with, but like I have become so accustomed to from previous chapters of my life, I painted on a smile and pushed through, struggling in silence.
I nursed my child, I gave hugs and kisses. I never for a second felt that I didn’t love my baby, but for the first time in a year and a half, I wanted a break.
My son and I were in the midst of this battle– who would fold, who would surrender, mommy or baby. No more middle-of-the-night-feedings.
You’re a big boy now, honey. You don’t need it. Not until morning.” I’d say. I’d snuggle and kiss and hold and try to console him.
He screamed. All night.
He tested boundaries. All day.
The day would melt into night, and repeat, repeat, repeat, the cycle continued.
This is all just a story to my husband, to anyone who hasn’t experienced this…It’s just a couple of letters and words jumbled together to form a sentence. But the weight of that reality when you are living it day in and day out is incredibly taxing. Even the best mommy’s have their limits.
And just like that, I cracked emotionally. I couldn’t do it.
I left him in his crib on the umteenth night and I let him cry it out. I personally am not a believer in cry it out, but I couldn’t listen to it anymore. I couldn’t be around him anymore.
I texted my husband that he needed to be home NOW. It was his turn.
Just a few mornings before, he thanked me for all that I do, and told me that he could help me at night. I told him no, that this was my job. I’m a stay-at-home-mommy so that he doesn’t have to be the one to get up. He has his job and I have my job, and both of our jobs are hard sometimes, and right now my job is really hard. He smiled and kissed me and I felt a sense of pride wash over me.
I’m being a great wife and mommy,” I thought. How lucky are we to have it so together.
But I couldn’t be perfect forever, I needed support.
When I texted him that I needed him home now, that our son hadn’t slept and hadn’t stopped crying and I was losing my mind and needed him to take over, he left work immediately.
I cried saying that I had hit my limit, I couldn’t go on like this without sleep, I was losing patience, I was losing myself.
I felt like a bad mother because I was mad at our son for being so relentless and I didn’t want to do it anymore.
He understood, he was sweet and tender and told me that everyone needs a break and that’s what he is there for. I didn’t realize yet, however, that I had way more emotion that I needed to purge out.
The next day we went to New Jersey to visit family. He asked me to drive. I was apprehensive but I agreed.
My tired eyes misgauged how fast one car was going and I went to drive through the intersection.
The man slowed down to let me go but then I hesitated, and so he continued as to not disturb the flow of traffic. My husband LOST it.
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING! You almost go us hit!”
I pulled into a gas station to refill our tank and told him he would drive. He continued and continued and continued and I cried and cried and cried.
I told him I couldn’t take it, he would need to stop, stop lecturing, stop reminding me what I did wrong, stop. Because I wasn’t kidding when I said that I would get out of that car right now and he would have to leave me. I told him I was already on the brink of a breakdown and I couldn’t take another thing. Just stop.
He had to stop by his office to drop something off, and as soon as he got out of the car, I released.
I cried, one of those guttural, loud, ugly, whole-body cries. I sobbed.
I nursed him. He looked up at me with his giant, innocent, perfect green eyes, and caressed my face. In that moment I realized that in the middle of the night when he was so upset because I wouldn’t nurse, he just needed comfort. I knew this, of course but by the second week, I was losing patience and had lost my tenderness.
I had become colder and “This is how it is, you don’t need it and that’s that” and in this moment, as my son comforted ME for a change, he taught me so much. I cried for this tender moment too.
We drove for over an hour and I was still crying. It was like a broken, leaky faucet, the water just poured.
I felt like I was gasping for air.
I texted both of my sisters. First, the one who lives on Guam. I told her to pray for me. I told her that I hadn’t felt THIS out of control from my emotions since our brother died in 2010.
This was scary for me. I felt like I was losing myself. Just a month ago I wrote an entry talking about why I DIDN’T want to wean my son at his age. How much I adored being with him.
Now I felt like a totally different woman. And it happened over night.
I texted my oldest sister and asked,
Did you notice an extreme change in yourself with any one of your babies when your period returned? I started night weaning after it came back because I started resenting getting up in the middle of the night so bad. This has been a struggle and hes up a lot at night SCREAMING and having tantrums rebelling because of it, so no sleep. Which means no patience and he’s also going through two’s and testing boundaries and trying the tantrums and I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep or my hormones are imbalanced…because my life is GOOD but I am so overwhelmed and just SAD and I don’t want to be around him. I feel really depressed. Like probably what postpartum depression feels like except I didn’t just have a baby. I can barely keep my head above water emotionally and I don’t know what to do anymore.”
She texted me back immediately and said, “Yes, I can give you some really great insight on this for sure, will call you in a minute.” Instant relief flowed through my body. I was able to exhale.
My sister has 4 kids and so I knew that if this sounded familiar, it had to be semi normal. My husband was looking at me like I had three heads, but someone in the world understood me and wasn’t scared of me.
When she called me, she told me that this WAS normal. That I am a mother but I am also a woman. I am “Mommy,” but I am also Paige.
Before my cycle returned, I never felt the need to leave my son. I could bring him anywhere. Of course, there were days that were trying, that he would test the boundaries, or want to run around in the store when we needed to leave, or get grumpy in the car, but I felt that I had tremendous patience. I was willing to whip out my breasts for him at any given moment, it didn’t bother me.
As my hormones readjusted, my body and mind had a new need now.
My body was not solely for my son. I belonged to me, too. I could share most of myself, but I had to leave some leftover for me, too.
My sister who lives on Guam confided in me when she was going through this. I was a few months behind experiencing this myself, so I had NO IDEA. I talked her through it, but just like birth and postpartum recovery, you have no idea until you experience it yourself and taste the bittersweet flavor on your own tongue.
I learned that opening up to women who have gone through this as well–and sharing these raw emotions– helped to nourish my soul and soothe me.
I realized that this is part of motherhood, womanhood, as well as one of the natural seasons of our journey.
Making peace with that fact and honoring the fact that I do require some “me-time” every once in a while was enough to get me through this.
I’m back to the me I recognize, only stronger and with a deeper appreciation. Which makes me appreciate the beautiful moments I share nursing my son even more now. I am not ready to wean my son fully and honor the fact that he is not yet ready either. But I now know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I am allowed to create times in which mommy cannot nurse and when mommy will always be available to. I am finally at peace with that.
I learned that venting to people who haven’t experienced it wasn’t helpful at the time. I felt as though I was spinning my wheels.
My advice for any woman who goes through this is to open up to women that you know and trust; those you feel comfortable turning to.
Turn to those who have nursed their children long-term, who have more than one child perhaps, or who are simply a more seasoned mother than you. Anyone who loves you will be willing to listen, but sometimes the only thing we need– to not feel so alone and lost, is to spill our soul out to those who just understand on such an excruciatingly personal level.
This is so comforting.
I had tried yoga, I tried lavender epsom salt baths, I tried calming music. But sometimes we just need to get away to be by ourselves. We need to need ourselves. And that’s okay.
My husband now knows that on the weekends, he can give me an hour or two alone, where I can either go to a coffee shop and read alone, go take a walk, or just anything my soul craves at the moment.
Mommy is just one part of our identity.
Exploring the other parts of ourselves is necessary and crucial so that we don’t lose ourselves to this beautiful gift. We are allowed more.
Take care of your babies.
Take care of your husband.
Take care of your home.
Just remember to not leave yourself behind in the process. Take care of you, too.
I’d love to hear about any of you mommies who have experienced the same thing. I think opening the dialogue to each other helps us and gives comfort as we navigate on our individual journeys. ☺💛
With love and light,