I lay there on my dark coffee pleather couch with every cell in my body feeling as if it were weighed down by paper weights. I willed my arm to move, to reach for the remote that lay just a few feet away, but it just didn't budge. My kids were on the fifth show today, or was it the sixth? I'd lost count. I desperately wanted to get up and be productive — to bravely turn off the TV, interrupt the calmness, and initiate a coloring contest. Or, maybe wash the dishes piled in the sink that were beginning to smell like rotten chicken pot pie while the kids were content. My stomach rolled at the thought of those dirty dishes — cursed with the first trimester gagging. Scratch that plan. Physically I was drained. Emotionally I was empty. Each day was just about making it to bed time alive.
I was in survival mode and I felt like a failure.
The guilt we place on ourselves is often harder than any outside critic we can ever face. Worse than our own parents or in-laws, worse than the gossip magazines at the checkout line. As a mom of three kids under the age seven, plus another one growing in my belly, I condemned myself for this pit I was in. You can't even handle the kids you have now; why are you pregnant again? You have let them watch TV all day the entire week; what is wrong with you? What happened to your summer activity calendar? Their brains are going to rot. Take out again for dinner? What happened to your ultra-healthy eating priorities? What will your midwife say to us having pizza yet again? You are harming your baby! And that laundry... the pile has reached a whole new height. How embarrassing!
Frustration and sadness crept in — this isn't how I wanted to parent and run my home. I was better than this. Where was my joy? My energy? I knew in this low of low that it was time. Instead of reaching for the remote with my burst of motivation fueled by emotions, I reached for my laptop and made this post on my personal Facebook page:
“I’m just going to put this out there and be honest: I am struggling in this first trimester. I’m in near tears right now because I am exhausted, nauseous off and on, and just emotional. I feel like I’m back in the pit I was a year ago and it makes it really hard to be the mom I want to be. If anyone would be willing to help pick up groceries at Costco or Trader Joes whenever you go, I can pay in cash. My kids are also super bored and watching way too much TV as I am in survival mode, so playdates would be awesome if you want to hang out with one or two. And if you love to fold laundry, I have mountains of them. Other than that, prayers are always helpful.”
I'm sure I don't only speak for myself when I say that as moms we take pride in what we do. When our days go well and our kids make good choices, or we get most of our boxes checked on our to-do list, we feel pride. Pride that we are guiding our children in a positive way — at least in this one area. Pride that we were efficient with our time today. I don't know about you, but productivity in general makes me happy. Our supermom cape waves in the breeze behind us as we access our day, marking it successful overall with a smug look on our face. What happens though when you don't have the energy to do your job? What happens when productivity halts and the mom that upholds the family becomes pregnant and is so tired she falls asleep on the floor? Or the momma that is struggling with depression, stuck in a cycle of guilt and anxiety? What about when it is momma's turn to be sick after nursing the rest of the family back to health?
We have to learn to set aside our pride and take off our super hero cape to ask for help.
Does it make me weak that I had to ask for help? Does it mean I can’t handle all my kids? No, it doesn’t. It makes me human. We all need support and breaks at times to keep at our best. What happens when we leave the cape hanging up and use our words (as I often remind my children) to ask for what we need?
We get the help we need.
Soon after hitting “Post” messages and comments rushed to my screen. Not with judgment or criticism as my own voice had been whispering from the depths of my pit... but with understanding and even praise. “Leah, I commend you for your honesty and for being brave enough to ask for help. So many of us just suffer and try to put on a brave face instead of reaching out to the friends that WANT to be there for us.” I had offers left and right to fill the void within my survival mode. Friends offered to grocery shop for me, bring us home cooked meals, and to watch my kids so they could get out of the house — and so I could take a glorious nap! I had people offer to fold our clothes or simply were just a listening ear to be a friend in my loneliness. Before you ask, yes, my husband did help where he could after coming home from work each day. He was so compassionate and gave me grace where I was beating myself up for not fulfilling my high expectations of my own self. I felt like a failure, but no one else saw me that way.
Tell me, if you had a friend you knew was suffering... would you help them? You would. Yes, friends and family will do the same for you. But as someone told me once — they cannot help you until you tell them how they can help. The next step is to accept the offer. Trust me; that can be harder than it sounds. Humbling ourselves to first ask and then actually receive the help is, well, humbling. It admits we aren't Supermom.
But we don't need a Supermom hero — we need a village. We all will have times of needing help and we will have opportunities of giving it back. That's what villages are for.