Everyday Impossible: Momhood with Mental Illness

In the months following your daughter’s birth, you come to realize an important truth: being a mom with mental illness is not just hard. It’s impossible.

It’s impossible when you’re manic, postpartum and on medication to breastfeed your baby, so you have to let go of your dream and accept your limitations. While you’re at it, it’s impossible to get enough sleep, food and self-care to stay stable when another human relies on you for sleep, food and using the bathroom every 3 hours. At the same time, you face the enemies of exhaustion, weariness, boredom and monotony in addition to not sleeping enough, not eating enough, and not getting enough rest, because you are making damn sure your daughter gets enough of everything, and that makes it impossible.

Once you realize your job is impossible, you feel a sense of relief. Your mom friend affirms you when you come to her for prayer and the tears run down your face: “Yes. You fall apart.” You do fall apart, every day. And suddenly you know that your experience of momhood, while being extra hard because of your sickness, is some kind of normal. It’s normal to do the impossible when you are a mother, every day.

How do you do it? You find a way.

When your husband is sick for two days and you’ve got baby duty, house duty and sickness self-care duty by yourself, you leave the kitchen a wreck, let the laundry pile up in the living room and allow yourself to bake pumpkin popovers because they’re delicious, you’re still starving after your not-a-dinner and they give you a sense of accomplishment. You found a way.

When your mom comes over to help with the baby, instead of tackling your ever-mounting piles of dishes and laundry, you take a shower, get dressed, and go outside for 20 glorious minutes of yoga, prayer and meditation. You found a way.

When you’re falling apart because chronic sleep deprivation makes you constantly hungry, postpartum PTSD makes crazy mood swings and the overwhelming energy it takes to get somewhere besides your house makes you often lonely, you let it happen. You recognize that doing your damnedest for your baby, your husband, and your people means you must also create space for yourself, and sometimes that space is collapsing on the coach and sobbing after being awake with your baby from 9 pm at night to 1 am in the morning. You found a way.

Falling apart is okay. Being exhausted and overwhelmed is okay. You are okay. You are more than okay: you’re finding a way to do the impossible. Every day. And because you are willing to do this, to find a way where there is no way, a little person who would not exist without you finds out what love is by watching you: daily, consistent sacrifice, even when you’re falling apart.

So do it, Mama. Find a way. Do the impossible. Fall apart. And after you’ve found, done and let yourself fall, do it again tomorrow.

This piece poured out of my heart after a particularly difficult week. While it is an accurate depiction of how I felt, and how I am learning to cope with my sickness as a new mom, there is an important omission. I asked some close friends for feedback on it because I was thinking about submitting it to a broader online community. And while I received plenty of encouragement about the allowance for brokenness in being a mom, one friend pointed out “the absence of Jesus.” And she was right. This post describes my experience of being emptied and centers on that, along with my determination to press on, rather than the One to whom I must look to be refilled. Because His refilling and presence was very near that week, and would have been nearer still if I’d been more focused on His filling, and less focused on what He asked me to empty. What I wrote was true, an accurate reflection of my heart, a heart that was breaking and did not fully fall apart, because the telling of the tale made much of me and less of Him. Rather than retract the post, I’d like to leave it as a reminder to make my heart right before Him as a daily practice, so that speaking on a public platform such as this is for the right reason, and not because I think I’m all that. Which I did, and it shows. Make you greater, Lord. Make me less.

4 thoughts on “Everyday Impossible: Momhood with Mental Illness”

  1. Lauren, you are one of the bravest people I have ever known. Your daughter is extremely fortunate child to have you as a mom. Hang in there, she won’t be so little forever. I promise it gets easier. And the rewards are tremendous !! Love you.

    • Thank you Ms. Linda. It is all worth it! Grateful for your constant encouragement. All my love to you and your family.

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