by Joy Martin, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
Ah, motherhood. That, my friends, is a loaded word. It can mean blissful joy, utter desperation, or anything in between. Some of us were blessed with amazing mothers who were attentive and loving, while some of us grew up with mothers who were distant and perhaps even abusive. Some of us are mothers ourselves and find joy in watching our own children grow, while some of us find ourselves longing for children of our own.
For me, motherhood has been quite the roller coaster. I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I can remember having conversations with my best friend about wanting a baby when we were only 12 or 13. Of course, I didn't want a baby at that very moment–I just knew even then that I wanted to be a mommy. So, when my husband Zach and I discovered we were pregnant, we were thrilled! I still vividly remember seeing those two pink lines for the first time and realizing that I was going to be a mom. Zach and I literally jumped for joy.
Nine months later, Justice was born. My day had finally come–I was holding my baby in my arms, and life was good. And then reality hit. Looking back, I think the depression started to set in that very night. I can remember sitting in the rocking chair and nursing Justice for hours. I knew he couldn't possibly be eating that entire time; he just wanted to suckle–all night. Needless to say, I couldn't sleep. I was exhausted, and I was sore. I think that's when it really started, but, of course, I didn't know it at the time.
I suddenly found myself with this tiny, helpless baby. I'd wanted him for so many years. I loved him–I really did–but at the same time, I felt somehow disconnected and lost.
Long before I even knew I was pregnant I'd made the decision that I would breastfeed my children. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I struggled with an extremely low milk supply. No matter how long or how often I nursed, Justice continued to lose weight. To make matters worse, we found ourselves battling yeast, which made nursing extremely painful. I absolutely dreaded the sound of his cries at night. I would take him out to the couch, get settled with pillows piled around me, and then burst into tears as I tried to get him to latch. I would sit on the couch and cry in pain as he nursed.
I felt like a failure. Here I'd been blessed with this precious baby, and I wasn't doing it right. I couldn't even feed him. I quickly slipped into a pretty severe postpartum depression. Luckily, I was lucid enough to ask for help after I found myself eyeing the kitchen knives early one morning and pondering who would care if I simply slit my wrists and let myself bleed to death on the kitchen floor. That's a pretty low and scary place to be.
I was fortunate, though. I had family and friends who rallied around me once they realized how bad things had gotten for me. And things did get better. I was able to seek help with nursing and went on to successfully breastfeed until Justice weaned himself at 20 months old. And once I overcame that initial depression, I was able to find joy in my new role as mother.
And yet even now, nearly 10 years later and with a three-year-old daughter in tow, I still find myself having moments when I question the wisdom behind my choice to become a mother. There are days when I think I may literally lose my mind. There are moments when I want to take it all back and go back to that carefree life when it was just me and Zach. I'd be lying if I told you anything different. But despite those moments, I take great joy in my role as mommy. It's my favorite name to be called. And when I look in the eyes of Justice and Julie, I see pure joy and love–I see happiness.
In spite of all of the pain (both literal and figurative), heartache, and stress, I wouldn't give up a moment of it if it meant giving up my children. I've heard it said that nothing worthwhile is easy. That couldn't be more true in the case of motherhood. The good news, however, is that even when it's hard, even in the darkest moments, there is hope, because God is with us even in the darkest of times.
In Isaiah 49:15, we're told, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you." Isn't it comforting to know that God cannot forget us? We're even further assured in Hebrews 13:5 when we're reminded, "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Yes, surely God remembers us and is near even when we feel that we're at the end of the rope as mothers. And on that we can rely.