The Greatest Personal Growth of All: Parenthood
When I named my practice I put a lot of thought into the fact that therapy doesn’t always have to be focused on a problem. Oftentimes, clients come to me in the face of a difficult time, but the work is about meeting them where they are and allowing them to grow and evolve. My own experience has taught me that there is always room for personal growth, to learn about yourself and to experience new challenges.
Fast forward to motherhood, if anything will force you into personal growth, it’s becoming a mom. From the birthing experience, drawing on strength you never knew you had, to the roller coaster of emotions brought on by sleepless nights, raging hormones and caring for this tiny human that you love beyond what words can describe, becoming a mom has challenged me to grow in so many ways.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, something changed and there was a drive to be better. I already felt such a connection and had so much love for this thing growing inside me. I strived to be a good mom because he deserved the best of me. I hoped to leave some of life’s baggage behind as I entered a new chapter in my life. And so my journey of personal growth began. I read self-help materials, I connected with my own therapy, and practiced good self-care. I found that I felt grounded and centered from within my growing belly. I was able to really make some meaningful changes. I felt good about that and excited for what was to come.
I talked to people, asked questions and took in all the tips I was given. I read the pregnancy books, I ate a healthy diet and took my prenatal vitamins. My husband and I took a thousand trips to the baby stores, we decorated the nursery and got all the baby gear under the sun. I now know that I couldn’t truly appreciate any of the “mom advice” until I was in the trenches of it. Nothing except bringing this sweet baby home could have prepared me for how I would feel with this new title as mom, simultaneously my most difficult challenge and my most rewarding role to date
Here are some lessons my baby has taught me…
As a therapist, I have a good understanding that we can’t control everything and our attempts to do so can create quite a bit of anxiety. As a mom, I am constantly reminded of this and challenged to let go of my desire to control things. When labor doesn’t go as expected and you end up with a C-section but you have a beautiful baby boy, that’s OK. When breastfeeding isn’t coming naturally but begins as a painful and stressful experience, you do your best and no matter how he is fed baby is getting the nutrition he needs, that’s OK. When your To-Do List continues to grow at a rate that you can’t keep up with and all your tasks seem to get started and left unfinished, that’s OK. When everything seems to be going wrong, you leave the house without realizing there's spit up in your hair or you spill your coffee when you really needed that caffeine fix, you allow yourself to laugh becuase there is nothing else left to do but laugh. Free yourself of the pressure and mom-guilt. Learn to let go of unmet expectations and embrace what is.
The first weeks at home with a newborn are a crazy time warp and such an emotional and difficult time that just isn’t talked about enough. I connected with postpartum supports and it was a big help to know what I was experiencing was normal. Gradually a sense of normalcy returns. In the chaos, my motto became “stop everything.” Sometimes I needed to just slow down, stop everything else, and just attend to one thing at a time. My time at home with baby has also challenged me to be more mindful and live in the moment. Even though that nagging To-Do list is always there, I recognize that it will always be there, it’s not going anywhere so sometimes it’s perfectly ok to just sit and rock with the baby. I will listen to his soft little baby snores and smell his sweet little milk breath, I will give him my undivided attention to watch those eyes light up and that silly smile, because he will only be little for so long. He has taught me to slow down and enjoy these moments.
Trust Your Gut
Mother’s Instinct is no joke, but there are a million things that will make you question it. Pretty much daily I have a moment where I ask myself “am I doing ok?” “am I cut out for this?” I’m pretty sure these doubts are normal and all those confident mamas who seem so on top of it have been there too. It’s the looks you feel when the baby is crying while you’re in line at the grocery store and you’re contemplating abandoning the contents of your cart and running out of there. It’s the random stranger who asks if you are nursing and gives you their opinion as if it’s any of their business. It’s that other mom whose baby is sleeping through the night or has already met some milestone that you’re now wondering if yours should have. Honor what feels right to you and don't question yourself, afterall as mom you know what's best for your child. Motherhood most certainly requires a thick skin, but my thought is if you’re doing your best then you’re doing it right.
I’m confident that I will continue to be challenged and grow in these lessons throughout my time as a parent and for that I am grateful.