Why being a mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done

I’m tired as hell. Baby T is experiencing the 4-month sleep regression, if that is even a thing. Or maybe he is just trying my patience. Or it’s the impending super moon. I don’t know what the root cause is, but the outcome is complete exhaustion. He won’t stay asleep, and is wakeful often during the night. Even if he isn’t up to eat or be changed, the noise from across the hallway is echoed eerily in the monitor on my nightstand. My under eye circles are so dark they make eggplants jealous.

The fun is multiplied during the day because every time I put him down, he starts crying. I am lucky to get him to take a nap in his crib, so I can eat, or shower. Usually eat. And go to the bathroom in silence. The rest of the day, though, he babbles happily away…as long as I hold him in various positions and keep him entertained. He is literally being a milk leech at this point, but latching to my breast isn’t enough. My little guy is like a cute tumor protruding from my body at all times.

No one told me it would be this hard. No one warned me that motherhood was the hardest thing I would ever do.


Okay sure, I knew being a parent would be challenging. I was aware, although not completely prepared for, the sleepless nights. I knew I would be responsible for a tiny, demanding human.

I didn’t know it would be this hard.

I am not only a mom. I am a caregiver, a teacher, a nurse, a chef, a maid, a wife, a lover, a sacrifice. I didn’t mention a woman. It often feels like there isn’t enough of me left to be one in her entirety. I try. I try to be everything to everyone, and leave little for myself. An unintentional martyr. I look for no credit. I only seek to make sure I give my boys everything they need. Their fulfillment is my happiness.

I didn’t know it would be this hard on my body.

My breasts are heavy and low from milky tissue. My belly jiggles from remnants of a 36 week pregnancy stint. I gave my body to create a little miracle, and I love him so much it often makes me teary. I don’t recognize the woman I see in the mirror much these days. Gone are the days of a full face of makeup and styled hair. Gone is the toned body I had worked hard to achieve.

I didn’t know it would be this hard on my mind.

Many days are mentally challenging. The hormones make me emotional, the sleeplessness makes me foggy. T often tries my patience. Some days I feel like I cannot be the mother that he needs. Some days I mark my success by keeping him fed, clean, and safe. Even when T is quiet and content during the day, having to constantly hold him and never being able to put him down is a mental challenge I did not expect. Who complains about a happy baby? I feel guilt. I just want ten minutes to myself.

I didn’t know it would be this hard.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to sometimes feel drained, if not somewhat resentful, that you can’t be you anymore. It happens. Creating a life means permanently changing yours. Change brings many things. There is no such thing as all happiness all the time. There is an ebb and flow with every life event.

I didn’t know I could be this happy and love this deeply.

I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror much. But I like who I see a lot better. She is strong and secure. She doesn’t worry about how she looks to anyone else anymore. She cares about what is truly important in her life. She works hard. She loves harder. She finally feels complete.

Motherhood is hard, but it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Taking ownership of our outcomes

Quite often I find myself excluded or sad because I wasn’t invited somewhere. A group of girls would be planning to go out or go off to a winery day, and I would lament about how I wasn’t invited. Recently I watched this kind of situation unfold as a third party. I had already invited the person to join me, but the answer was “maybe.” However, as the event got closer, I watched as the people she thought might take her with them made their own plans, get excited about the upcoming day, and I could picture her shrinking and shrinking further away. From this vantage point I gained some clarity. The girls were not intentionally leaving her out, she had to but ask to be included. This completely changed my experiences going forward.


She had but ask. I had to but ask to be included. People are social creatures by nature—ever noticed how close another person will sit to you in an empty theater? Inclusion is habit. I realized that I needed to take ownership of the outcome I wanted to see, and assert myself. If I want to go, I should ask if I can. If I want a piece of the pizza, I have to just ask (and offer some dollars, of course). I’ve found that frequently people don’t even realize the oversight, and the response is overwhelming positive. And if it isn’t…well that says something about the person, too.

Taking ownership of our own outcomes is just one thing we can do to start regaining control of our own lives. I have often left it up to chance—God, the universe, or whatever—and haven’t seen the results I was looking for. What is that saying? God helps those who help themselves? I’ve found that once I start being proactive, I not only feel empowered and encouraged, but also start seeing the pieces coming together. If I wait, I see nothing. If I act, I see movement.

Now that I’m pushing 30, I’m able to see myself more clearly. Strong but kind, with lots to offer in friendship and helping others walk their path. If I want something, I am more apt to articulate it.

Be apt. Start the changes to see the outcomes you want. Be proactive. Take the lead in your own play. I assure you the applause will be tremendous.

How to not let anxiety rule your life

When I was little, I thought I was awesome. I had the most confidence of anyone I’ve ever seen. I would go up to other little girls and ask if they wanted to be friends and go play, because of course the answer would be yes and yes. Why wouldn’t it be? Of course I would win a tennis tournament after just having learned to play the sport, why wouldn’t I? Of course I would be a marine biologist or paleontologist, or maybe both. I was that awesome. I was on top of the world at all times.

When I hit double digits—and middle school—I started to get bullied. Making fun of my name, being called a lesbian, and losing my group of friends took its toll. My confidence faltered. I was never the same.


When I got to high school I made up for my insecurities and lack of confidence by being overly loud. I had a lot of friends freshman year, but they dropped down to just a few good friends by my senior year. I was overweight and extremely insecure about who I was.

When I entered college, I had a great time. I found the love of my life, which helped my self-esteem. I was able to choose my friends, classes, and lifestyle, and my confidence grew. For some reason, though, as I reached the end of college and was contemplating graduate school, I started suffering with anxiety. When I would get bouts of anxiety it felt like extreme nervousness; I would even get body trembles sometimes. I was so frustrated that it was something beyond my control. By the time I was finished with graduate school and out into the real world, anxiety was something I dealt with several times a week.

When I started working, I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be, and I also had a hard time finding a career. I took jobs just so that I could be making some money, and for some reason I always got into work environments that were unhealthy. Gossip, immaturity, or adults acting like high school girls were the name of the game. I am still not sure that this doesn’t exist in all work places in some shape or form. My anxiety fed on the drama like a professional eater at a hot dog eating contest. It grew. And grew. And grew. It was debilitating.

One summer, something just clicked in my brain. I lost almost 30 pounds, ate healthy, and finally landed a career I was passionate about. I felt on top of the world. Soon after my husband and I became pregnant. I also finally stopped taking people’s bullshit. I was happy, direct, and confident for the first time in years. I had tried many strategies in my life to address my anxiety, and some were more successful than others. It took until the sunset of my 20’s to figure myself out and reclaim my life.

These are the best methods I found for coping with anxiety:

1. Find a creative outlet.

My thoughtful husband bought me an art easel for my birthday one year, and I started painting again. I loved smearing, sometimes aggressively, colorful paints across the canvas. I would put on soothing music and sail away. You do not have to be an intensely creative person, but creating allows you to channel emotions outward. This release activates a different part of the brain, creating a different pattern than your day to day routine. Try your hand at cooking, take an art class at your local community center, creating a garden with colorful perennials, or even pick up an adult coloring book and some colored pencils.

2. Meditate.

When my anxiety would peak and I wasn’t able to function at work, I would put on a meditation music channel and take five minutes to close my eyes and breathe deeply. Long breath in, long breath out. I imagined breathing in pure white light, and exhaling the dark energy out of my body. I am not new-agey by any means, but this simple exercise was enough to calm me down and allow me to continue with my day.

3. Create a list of your accomplishments.

I would often get worked up about my failures thus far in my life, and spiral downward with negative thoughts. Writing things down not only refocused my train of thought, but allowed me to see clearly that I was doing great and am very blessed. I always realized that I was doing way better than I thought I was.

4. Exercise.

To this day, nothing helps me more than exercising. Pre-baby I would go running and do toning workouts, feeling every muscle burn. Post-baby I am still in recovery mode and go walking almost every day. If I miss a day of exercise I feel it mentally and physically; the exhaustion and anxiety begin to cloud my day. Eating well, drinking water, and not drinking a lot are also key elements to feeling amazing.

5. Recognize your limitations.

Now more than ever, I am able to realize that I cannot be everything to everyone. My mom always told me to do my best, and that was all I could do. I repeat this mantra to myself often. Society calls us to do more than is humanly possible in any given day. I used to feel a tremendous strain trying to juggle a career, marriage, family, friendship, motherhood, blog, all while maintaining a physically and mentally fit body. In the end, something gives. We are human beings, not human doers. Sometimes we need to just “be.”

And finally,

6. Get help.

I didn’t end up needing to seek professional help. The universe had other things in mind for me. But I was a few days away from booking myself with a shrink. Sometimes the chemicals in the brain are just something that cannot be addressed solely by external coping strategies. Sometimes a professional and counseling is the helping hand to pull you up and put you back on the road. And that is okay. It is not a sign of weakness. No one is defined by depression or anxiety. There is no shame in getting help to get yourself back on your feet to take that first step.

I found my road. I have never felt better. There is a path for all of us, we have to but find it to start walking.

Why making mom friends is a lot like dating

I nervously introduce myself after group one day. It seems like we have a lot in common, so why not give it a go, I think. Maybe this could be great. “Hey I’d love to hear more about what you do, do you want to meet up for coffee sometime?” “Sure!” she answers. She said yes! I think, but keep cool on the outside for fear of coming off like a weirdo. Gosh I hope she likes me.

No I’m not talking about picking up dates, I’m trying to make mom friends.


In college making friends was easy. The person sitting next to you in class, a sorority sister, someone in your grad school group; the possibilities were endless. As an adult, I find that meeting women who make great friends is extremely challenging, even more so once I became a mother. Not only do I have to find women my age and with a young enough baby to start a conversation, but also hope that a friendship flows organically. I try to attend lots of moms groups and classes, primarily to keep my sanity and get out of the f—cking house, but also to try to make some friends that feel just as isolated and alone.

Writing this I feel a little pathetic. But there is something about the way I am able to connect with another woman who has gone through the same experiences I have in pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. There is a new kind of sisterhood that unites us, and opens the door for an easy introduction. Talking about cracked nipples or baby poop isn’t off limits, in fact it’s a hot topic of conversation. Dishing about your forever-changed love life while boobs-out breastfeeding in a restaurant? Common place.

Hearing that I’m not alone in clinging to my sleep-deprived sanity by a thread is assuaging. The fact that I’m not alone in letting my infant watch TV so I can have 20 minutes to myself helps me let go of my bad-parent guilt. Reassuring another mother who sobs about feeling so isolated and alone with her family thousands of miles away is uplifting. I feel that way, too, I tell her, but we can do this. Let’s get together more often.

Creating a circle of not only powerful women, but strong mothers, around me has been crucial in getting through these early and difficult months of motherhood. I never knew motherhood could ever be this challenging, but I’m not alone in my struggles. Getting together with these women allow us to celebrate our accomplishments thus far, while not forcing us to look far ahead at the challenges to come. I always feel grounded after getting together with mom friends. I feel that I am doing okay. And I realize that I am.

Find your tribe of women that lift you up, share common bonds, and that you can enjoy spending time with. Call your local hospital and ask if they have a new moms support group. Search Facebook for Your City + Mom group. Sign up for Meet Ups in your area. Go to song and story time at your local library. Google baby swim classes near me. Think outside of the box. If there is a hobby, you can be sure there is a group for mothers doing it. Get out there mama!

The moment I gave up the life I had created for myself so that I could help you create yours.

One mother’s choice of walking away from her career to rear her child.

It felt like opening my eyes to the sun for the first time. As the light of realization poured in, I felt the warmth in my soul. My eyes welled, as tears of fulfillment and peace rested on my lower lids like you rest content in my arms. My connection to you has never felt stronger, pulling on my heart and bringing a feeling that there is no analogy for, only the experience one has to have had to understand.

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Postpartum has brought many things: sleep deprivation, joy, anxiety, love, and pain. One of the most significant sources of anxiety and depression was the thought of going back to work after 12 short weeks home after giving birth. I realize that I am lucky to have had a full 12 weeks with you instead of the typical 6, but the thought of leaving you pains me worse than bringing you into this world did. My head and heart clash against one another. The societal demand and practicality of returning to the work force to make money in a job I had fought so hard to acquire. The emotional and primal desire to stay at home with you and help you take your first steps, say your first words, and watch in amazement as you achieve your milestones one day at a time. This internal battle has raged like titans inside me for weeks. Sometimes I shove it aside and avoid coming to terms with it. Sometimes I lay awake at night as you slumber beside me and obsess about my imminent decision.

Today is the day, and right now the moment, that I decide to give up the career path I had created for myself so that I can be with you as you create your own path. Eleven simple words on a mommy blog post changed everything for me: “Child life specialist by trade, stay at home mom by choice.” Choice. This is my choice, not society’s. I am choosing to give my notice at a job I got a scant year ago. I am choosing to walk away from the shaming of mothers who decide to give up everything to stay at home. I am choosing the most challenging job there is, the one of raising another person to be kind, loyal, and strong.  I am choosing to create a new life for myself, thus giving birth twice this summer, once to you, and once to my newfound passion for helping new mothers in their journey to a fulfilled motherhood.

As you coo and grunt happily on my chest, I watch the rise and fall of your back and feel at peace. I kiss your forehead very lightly so as to not wake you. Life has never felt more right for me. As I tear up again, this time in awe of the love I feel for such a small and helpless creature, I know in my heart that there really was no other choice for me to make after all.


An abbreviated version of this article was originally selected as an essay winner for the Transitional Seasons of Motherhood contest in Tribe Magazine. The article can be found here

9 Things I wish I had known about being postpartum

Having a baby is nothing short of a miracle. A woman’s body takes the [small] contribution of DNA from her partner and creates an entire human being. I’m always amazed every time I stop and think about the process. As amazing as all that is, the scariest part is the ending—the baby has got to come out somehow. Labor and delivery can be terrifying (read more here) but then a woman goes through a whole new, and often difficult, experience of postpartum. Yippee ki-yay mother f—ker.


I took the classes, I read the books, but nothing truly prepared me for my postpartum journey. I fortunately had a good friend that told me some of the not-so-glamorous, in fact downright nasty, truths of a woman’s postpartum journey. And I’m so glad she did! Let me demystify the mysteries of what happens after the baby comes out. Why not start in the delivery room?

1.The labor doesn’t stop at the baby.

Exhausted, my baby was finally out. THANK YOU JESUS. My entire body collapsed into a jelly-like state. “Oh no,” the doctor said, “you’re not quite done yet.” Say what? She then proceeded to rub and knead my lower abdomen like pizza dough. A procedure performed by either a nurse or doctor, the uterine massage is an effort to help the placenta release from the uterine wall, which you will then push out and “deliver” like a baby. Fortunately, this is nothing compared to the actual labor, and it is fairly easy to push out. Word of warning, the placenta is EFFING HUGE. I wasn’t ready for my baby’s internal anchor to look like a veiny, multi-colored dinner plate. But it was actually pretty cool! If you have a c-section, the doctor typically removes the placenta before closing you up.

2. You still look pregnant after birth.

Basic reasoning stands that after the cause of your bump goes out, you should deflate right? Wrong. Sadly, so wrong. After birth, there is still a lot of blood, fluid, and a giant uterus still left behind. It takes time for your body to get back to normal, so don’t expect to look like your old self right away. Typically, a woman looks about six months pregnant after the baby comes out. I was super surprised that I still had a big belly when I looked at myself in the mirror. But hell, by that point I didn’t really give a flying f—k. Your body has undergone nine months of logic-defying distortion, so be kind to yourself. It’s okay to still have a little Buddha belly months later. It’s just a friendly reminder of the work you put into your offspring.

3. You bleed like an M-Fer.

Like your baby, the extra accumulated blood you’ve been holding in your uterus for nine months has to come out somehow. The books lead you to believe that this will resemble “a heavy period.” My ass it does. This was like no period I’ve ever had. And since you cannot wear tampons (like you would even want to after pushing out a watermelon), the hospital graciously gives you school-bus sized maxi pads. These babies are like three maxi pads put together. No worries, you won’t have to be concerned about how to keep the pad in your underwear, because the hospital also gives you fancy mesh undies that stretch up to your waist and can hold your pad, witch-hazel pads, ice pack, and whatever else that nurse wants to put up under your vagina, in place. Score.

4. You become a human sprinkler.

Breastfeeding can be an incredibly difficult (but worth it!) journey. I just assumed babies latch on and the milk is there ready to go. Not so. It takes a few days for the milk to fully come in, and when it does, you will be shocked at how your body changes. When breasts engorge they look like a Dolly Parton bad boob job. Huge, heavy, and rock hard, I almost cried in the dressing room at Motherhood Maternity trying on bras—so do NOT go nursing bra shopping on your engorgement day. Once your boobies adjust, it gets a lot better. I had always assumed milk just came out in a straight line (i.e. a water gun) and not a full-fledge sprinkler system (i.e. multiple streams spraying in every direction possible and soaking everything). It was insane. So just be prepared that you will definitely spray your baby in the face, probably quite often!

5. Postpartum depression can manifest as anxiety.

I was screened many times for postpartum depression by the hospital, OB, and my baby’s pediatrician—fairly standard for any new mom. I didn’t have any immediate problems, so I was happy to report that I felt great! However, about 3 months in I started having a lot of anxiety. I couldn’t pin point the cause, and felt relieved when I talked to other mothers that experienced the same. Depression can manifest in many ways to varying degrees. If you feel blue, or just off your game for any reason, talk to someone. Don’t feel like a failure or that it means you can’t handle motherhood, because it doesn’t. Your hormones don’t define you, your bomb-ass mothering skills do. You got this, girl.

6. You don’t need sleep.

For the first 3 months, I was so high on motherhood and adrenaline that I felt invincible. An hour or two of sleep at a time? No problem. I didn’t need sleep! I actually dreaded sunset because it meant that a night of being constantly woken up just when you fall asleep was imminent. I sighed with relief at daybreak, because it meant I could just stay up. Unfortunately, I learned why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture. I know everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps, and it gets super annoying. It’s not always possible! We aren’t newborns, and can’t sleep like they do. However, heed my warning, and take a damn nap, ok?

7. You lose your hair.

Every woman dreams about that shiny, full, healthy hair that comes along with pregnancy. Unfortunately, the change in hormones once the baby is out means that the hair comes out with it. I didn’t gain a lot of extra hair during pregnancy, but I have been losing a decent amount… daily. It’s a little unnerving to say the least. This begins about the third month and lasts for about a month. Don’t worry, anything lost will grow back.

8. You’re hungry AF.

As a breastfeeding new mom, I couldn’t believe how hungry I was every hour, even at night! I was hungrier postpartum than I ever was while pregnant. This makes sense, considering a breastfeeding mom needs to consume 500 calories+ per day to keep up with her baby’s feeding demands. Listen to your body, if you are hungry, eat! I enjoyed superfluous amounts of lasagna and ice cream postpartum. Sorry, not sorry.

9. You’re officially a bad ass bitch.

GIRL. You successfully grew and birthed a human. You are so bad ass! Even though my journey to motherhood is just beginning, I have never felt so powerful. I have an inner peace that I didn’t think possible, and love that little chubby, balding boy more than I ever could have imagined. Major, major kudos to you mama, what an accomplishment!

Finding peace in the darkest days of motherhood

This has been the hardest day of motherhood yet. I am frustrated and overwhelmed. I haven’t showered in two days, I have to go to the bathroom, and it’s 2:30 p.m. and I’ve only had a bowl of cereal to eat.

Last night Baby T had his worst bout of gas yet. His stomach stuck out like a pot belly, his intestines gurgled, and he cried. He pushed. He cried. He pushed again, forcing out tremendous farts. It would almost be comical if he weren’t so in pain and it wasn’t 2 a.m. T was so upset and angry that he wouldn’t latch on to my breast, and the lack of food made him more upset. Having to resort to a bottle made me more upset. We were quite the pair—exhausted, hungry, smelly, and angry.


The sunrise brought a new day but no relief. T has passed a lot of poop but still seems gassy. I bottle feed him again. I am so very tired. I feel like a failure because we had made so much progress in the breast feeding routine, but it seems to be coming undone. When I offer my breast, he thrashes around at the nipple like a goddamned barracuda, but he won’t stay on. Latching on to a large bottle nipple is so much easier than a real breast, and T grabs it with gusto. Another stab in my heart. I hope he knows how hard I’m trying. I tear up. My confidence wanes, my frustration grows, and I’m sure T senses it and responds in kind.

Finally I give up on trying to get any more sleep today. I try breastfeeding him just one more time. By some miracle T latches on and stays on. I feel a little relieved. Once he’s done, I get him to give up a nice juicy burp. I put him in his rocker, hoping the motion will soothe him for more than 15 minutes. I grab some clothes (my standard post-partum uniform: nursing tank and granny panties) and head to the bathroom. I shower, reveling in warm water and honey-oat soap suds. I think about my day. I think about being a mom. I think about T. I think about going back to work and then think about going out to anywhere but the house. My immediate emotional recoil to these thoughts tells me what I already know deep down; no matter how hard the days are, and how much the harder the nights are, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.

I step out of the shower and try to find nursing pads and maxi pads, another established post-partum routine. I write. My Reiki and meditation station on Pandora sends out soothing tones into the room. T wakes up, and we engage in a battle of wills, the plastic nipple versus the flesh one. This time I feel different. I feel calmer and more confident. Finally I win, and T settles in for a long feeding on both sides, much to my surprise and delight.

I feel contentment, love and adoration for this adorable, albeit sometimes frightful, little being. When I look into those eyes, those precious newborn eyes, I know it is worth every sleep-deprived second.