“This isn’t me”
I told myself a couple of times as I stared into the mirror. This isn’t me. How did I get this bad? What happened to me?
From the fifth month of pregnancy until our daughter turned a year & two months old, I have been a house mom. I personally would say that I only fought half the battle because my relatives helped me with all the other chores. I just had to focus on taking care and breastfeeding Taziana. During that journey, I would say there were two depressing instances.
I love my daughter, I love my family. But this really is the truth that moms go through. A stage of confusion, exhaustion, and insecurity.
The first time I got depressed was soon after we got home from the hospital. Taziana was only a few days old and I was really overwhelmed by the fact that she’s really with us now. I don’t know why I cried about things like not having the money to send her to school yet, or why I was so sad about many things. I just spent a lot of time crying to my husband as he carefully listened. Long story short, I have had thoughts of suicide and I knew it just wasn’t right. I did my research and there it was: post partum depression. I didn’t know it came with different levels and that most (if not all) women go through it after labor. I felt ashamed of myself for having self harm cross my mind, but I knew I shouldn’t. I let my mom and my husband know. My husband agreed that if I get such thoughts again, or if I feel the slightest elevation to my sadness, he would take me to the doctor. Thankfully, I recovered.
The second time was when Taziana was about to turn 1 year old. I don’t know if depression is the right word, but every day started feeling draggy. It was a cycle I wanted to break free from. I’m even lucky to have relatives beside me and all I needed to worry about was Taziana. But how come it wasn’t enough? Was it because I only slept 4 hours a night maximum for a year? Was it because I exclusively breastfed her with no breaks for myself? Was it because I had no job, no business, and no sense of purpose? I didn’t know if it was sadness or disappointment, or was I really crawling into depression, all I thought of was I didn’t like myself anymore. I wake up to the feeling of exhaustion, my head used to always hurt, and my energy was at its lowest. I dropped weight to 92 lbs and was told that if I continued being the way I was, my health would suffer.
What did they mean continue being how I was? I was being a mom. A job that doesn’t have sick leaves. But I do get overpaid. It feels like overpay when my daughter smiles at me.
I cried day and night and I thought to myself, “this isn’t me. What happened to my body? My under eyes, my hair, my skin. What happened to my dreams? What happened to me?”
My turning point was this very painful day. My mom enrolled me to a fitness program so they could help me gain my weight back. It requires me to go to the nutrition club every morning for 11 days to have my breakfast and consultation there. On my first day, I brought Taziana. We didn’t have fun. She wasn’t used to the crowd so she cried a lot. I wanted to cry, too. Hehe. So I asked my grandmother if she could look after my daughter from 7 am to 9 am. She joyfully agreed. I was really grateful to her so I thought, “I have to get done fixing Taziana before I leave, at least”. I wanted to be able to feed and bathe her before I leave the house. That morning, Taziana woke up at 6:30 am. I had her clothes prepared, I boiled water for her bath, while struggling to even get myself fixed. I was in rush and panic. While I was carrying my daughter on one hand and the pot of boiling water on another, the hot water spilled on me. I just stopped and let my tears fall. I eventually left the house half ready.
Mark was away. He spent his weekdays in Bulacan (4-6 hrs away drive from us) and comes home to Laguna on the weekends. I messaged him and opened up to him, but instead he said, “Don’t overthink too much. Don’t make a big deal out of it”. He thought it was a proper time to get all “realistic”. He thought he was helping. I directly yet lovingly told him how I felt about his response. I told him how much that hurt and how much I have been going through. I ended the conversation there and stopped replying to him. I didn’t even have the energy to bring it to an argument. I just wanted to be alone and cry. Which I couldn’t be, because my daughter was always beside me.
When the afternoon came, I was ready for a nap. Taziana wasn’t. She was insisting on playing. Until I snapped, “Taziana! Can’t you see that I am tired?!”. My baby, my poor, sweet baby… she just cried. How could I have been so harsh? All she wanted was to be with me and spend time with me. It’s not her fault that I haven’t been so okay, she just wanted love and attention.
So there I told myself that I would take care of myself more so that I could take care of my daughter and my husband better.
Taziana fell asleep a little earlier that night. It gave me a chance to have a quiet time with the Lord. I asked Him, “Lord, why do You let me go through this? How come other moms have it all sorted out? Why am I such a mess?” The Lord touched my heart as if He was saying, “You need to rest in Me. You need to be kinder to yourself. I am teaching you what it’s like to start from the beginning, I want you to learn how to overcome battles so that you could reach out to others who have the same pain as you”. I didn’t know what it meant back then. All I knew was I wanted to overcome the depressing parts of motherhood and share the great experience with other moms who could be going through the same thing. My quiet time with the Lord ended with, “now, listen to your husband”. Whaaaaat. He judged my pain! How could I?! I should listen to him?! More like he needs to listen to me! But I wanted to obey the Lord.
After many calls and messages, I finally replied to Mark saying, “Hi. I’m ready to talk”. He immediately called and asked, “Do you want to share anything?”. Mark is my best friend but for a long time, I hid the sad thoughts I had because I wanted him to think I had it all in control. I didn’t want him to see me in my weakness. But that night, I just had to. I couldn’t take it in anymore. I told him how ugly I felt because of my drastic weight loss, losing hair, and getting dark under eyes. I told him how incapable I felt because all I did was take care of our daughter and forgot to take care of myself. He listened for a few minutes, and gently asked “Are you finished talking? Can I say something now?” I replied, “Yes”. He said, “Honey, I don’t know what makes you say that you have become ugly but you are the most beautiful for me- you and Taziana. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you that very often. I really appreciate what you do for the family. You might not be back to university yet but you are not doing nothing, you are raising our child the best way you can.” I suddenly felt that super power urge to really fight for myself, to redeem myself so that I can be a better wife and mom! That night, Mark and I talked for a long time, just like how we were when we were just friends.
The next morning was the start of the battle. A battle I knew I would win with the Lord. Redeeming my heart, redeeming my health, and redeeming my mind.
First, I worked on my body.
They say that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit really can’t do much work in me if I didn’t feed my body well and give it a complete rest. I can’t do my duties well if my body can’t keep up with me. So I started carefully listening to what my health coach advised me, doing the best that I can to eat a lot yet healthy. The physical results were slow but inside, I immediately felt healthy. I stopped wanting to nap so much. I suddenly felt alive and kicking. Just by dropping the junk and filling my body with the nutrients it needed. I stopped being so cranky and started smiling more, too!
Second, I laid down my pride.
I thought I was being responsible. I didn’t want to be a young mom who leaves her child to her relatives while she goes out with friends. I thought it was a bad idea. I had very rare occasions when I went out with friends and in those rare occasions, I always brought my daughter with me. I have fun, but I was also very haggard. Hehe.
What I thought was being “responsible” was actually being “prideful”. I didn’t want to be seen weak, I didn’t want anyone to think I don’t have things under my control. I thought that if I asked help, it would be too much for them. I didn’t consider that I was being selfish of my daughter and that maybe my relatives would actually love to have some quality time with her, too.
The Bible says that we are made to need others and that we are made because others need us. We are made for each other. I will always be here for my family and they always are for me, too. I remember a short conversation with my mom where she said, “Why don’t you ask for help? That’s why we’re here”. Even when Taziana was only a few days old and they offered to take care of her so I could catch up on sleep, I “humbly” declined. I thought I was being bothersome to them so I wanted to be considerate, when the truth is I have crossed the line and became prideful and selfish.
Not all proud people boast, sometimes it’s the withdrawal that screams “pride”. So then, I started accepting their kind assistance. Every day, I get to leave Taziana for at least 2 hours so I could go to the gym and have time for myself.
Until now, their support has never ceased. They are the ones who are taking care of Taziana while I finish my studies.
Third, I accepted accountability with my husband.
We didn’t get married so we can be together for life, we got married so that we could go through life together. And a part of that is showing him all my struggles, my weaknesses, and accepting his heart to help me. For a while, Mark made sure to call me every day and remind me of how beautiful he thinks I am. He always thanked me for taking care of them.
And true enough, a woman does get more beautiful when she feels loved. It was God’s work in my husband that motivated me to be better. Every time Mark becomes gentle with me and tells me how much he loves me and how blessed he is to have me, I get this magical feeling of wanting to be better. I wanted to become better as a person so I could give them my best.
Last, I started enjoying every season that God put me through
9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 6:9
It seems like I always find myself wishing myself out of a season. It was just so hard for me to love “now and today”. I realized that Taziana would soon grow up, and that one day I would miss these days. I realized that one day I would be back in university and would spend many days away from her. I realized that one day… it won’t be today anymore. So I wanted to live for the moment and live out that moment to the fullest, giving all the trials and triumphs to the Lord, trusting that whatever He gives for the day is what I need for that day.
And God was right when He taught me this. After a few months, I came back to university and I missed being home to my baby more than anything. But still, I remained joyful because I knew that every day, I gave her the best that I could. And until today, I do my best so that my days don’t just “pass by”. No matter how sad and challenging the day is, I want to make the most out of it.
If you share the same pain or have been through the same thing, I want to encourage you and let you know that being at home and taking care of the family is NOT nothing. While your husband fights the challenges outside your home, you fight for what is inside- what is in the core. And that requires great strength. That’s what you are: gentle yet powerful.
But I also want to share you a great realization that I had. I am a mom, but I am not a martyr. I can’t keep on giving what I don’t have. If I really want what’s best for my family, then I should accept that needing help from others is not a weakness. I should accept that it’s okay not be okay. I should acknowledge that there is no shame in wanting to take care of myself.
If I want to be able to take care of my family, I need to take care of myself first. I can only give them the best when I am at my best. I don’t want to serve them with a frown. I want them to always see me smiling and genuinely happy, because that would make them the happiest, too.
It’s important that I get to take care of myself on how I look on the outside, but that’s not the beauty that counts. The true beauty that my family see is the beauty of the heart I have for them.
Sometimes, I still don’t get to brush my hair and sometimes, I still get dark under eyes. But those moments only lasts a while. It’s the love I impart on my family will last a life time. Let’s be kind to ourselves so that we may be able to give our family what they deserve: their happy mom and happy wife.