This past week we celebrated one year together as a family of four. The anniversary had me reflecting on the last year. It hasn’t been an easy year for our family. We have had a lot of transitions and changes. It has also been one of the hardest years for me personally. Motherhood is hard. It's probably the hardest job I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. My road to motherhood and my constant journey hasn't been easy and this is my story.
Growing up I was never 100% sure I wanted to be a mom. I grew up thinking kids were great and I babysat every weekend, but I just didn't know if it was for me. Frankly, even back in my teens I just didn't know if I could be enough for my kids.
You see, I have the best mom. She's the kind of of mom who makes your favourite supper when you've had a bad day, the kind who takes you to the movies on Sundays, who rubs your forehead when you're sick, and who does everything in her power to make you feel loved and valued even if her day was rotten at work. Of course, she got mad and we would get punished or spoken to, but she was even good at that. She gave unconditionally and she set the bar high for what it meant to be a mom. She is just that phenomenal. I grew up wondering, could I actually do all that?
Into my twenties I realized that yes for sure I wanted a family. I didn't know what that would look like in terms of size, but I did know I wanted it and so did my husband.
When I first got pregnant I was elated. It had not been an easy go up to that point and so to actually be pregnant was a joy, and despite a lousy pregnancy I was excited about the arrival of our first born. That frigid cold day in November changed my life forever in ways that I never thought I'd change. I was plunged into motherhood head first and it wasn't pretty. I can look back at it now with a certain sense of accomplishment but in the moment I was consumed with depression.
I never understood my postpartum depression. We had wanted a baby so badly and she was here, why couldn't I keep it together? I felt like I was doing it all wrong, the feeding, the sleeping, the changing, and I questioned every decision I made and every action I took as a parent. Was I doing it right? Was I doing it well? Would my daughter be ruined because I hadn’t changed her when I was supposed to? At my lowest point, I felt alone, worthless and empty. All of this from my attempt to be this perfect mom. Even in a room full of people, there I was with this feeling of mediocrity rising out of me. I struggled through those feelings for well over 6 or 7 months. My family knew about it all and tried to help, but I wasn’t willing to go and help myself at that point. One day, out of nowhere, I woke up and felt differently. It wasn't like it was a complete 180 from the day before, but something was different, and I began to enjoy being a mom, instead of looking at it as a task that had to be completed. I cherished the moments with my daughter, and looked at everything that I had accomplished instead of what still needed doing.
Our second daughter was a completely different story and from the pictures of our family I’m sure you can imagine why. We adopted for many reasons, and chose to adopt internationally for specific reasons as well, but the process of adopting isn’t for the faint of heart. We started the process January of 2014 and went to court to officially adopt our beautiful daughter on April 7th, 2016. Adoption brings a whole other layer of uncertainty into your parenting. I went into it feeling fairly well prepared. I had a 5-year-old, who was amazing and thriving, and so this should have been simple. Simple, it was not.
We were matched with the most amazing little girl and within a week of meeting her we were officially a family of four. I had no idea what a huge leap it is going from 1 to 2 children. It is not double the work; it is exponentially more work, and something that I was not exactly prepared for. To say the transition was smooth isn’t a lie, that attachment to our family has been quite seamless. What wasn’t smooth were my emotions in the process. About a week after court, while we were still in South Africa, the feelings of despair, loneliness, worthlessness and failure came creeping back into my life. This time was different. Not only were these emotions circling my brain all day, I felt this weight of expectation like nothing I had experienced before. I felt as though I had to do everything the best because I had so many people counting on me to do it well. I had social workers, foster parents, a birth family, our family and then our own expectations. The expectations or the idea of these expectations was just too much for me to bear. When we returned to Canada I spent the first couple of days in a bit of a fog, who really could blame me with the jet leg, but after a week or so I knew I needed more than just rest to get me through life. I struggled with simple things, such as getting dinner on the table, getting kids dressed and out the door or even school pick-up. I just didn’t know how to be a good mom to two kids, and again I couldn't understand my depression. I had wanted this for 2.5 years and it just wasn't working for me.
Luckily for me, I have an amazing support system. My husband recognized right away that I needed more than just words of encouragement to get through and he was willing to pull up his sleeves and help where he could with whatever needed doing. That amazing mom who I first introduced you to, kept being amazing and it wasn’t just her; my dad, my in-laws, my friends all rallied behind me and to the best of my ability in those darkest moments I rallied. I knew my family was worth fighting for, but more importantly I knew I was worth fighting for. I sought guidance, and it made a world of difference.
My journey hasn’t been easy and there are still days where those overwhelming feelings of despair and loneliness take hold of me and won’t let me go, but as a family we have come so far. We have each other and that’s more than some can say.
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