She's Come Undone
by Alexis Barad-Cutler
I do a pretty good job of holding my shit together — at least on the outside. With two boys who are now at an age where they’ve become pretty damn observant, I can’t even rely on the privacy of my apartment as a place to just let go. Are there days when I want to walk into my house, drink half a bottle of Pinot, and watch all of Friends, from the very first episode? Yes. There are plenty. I think many of us moms grapple with those feelings. But what about a complete undoing? One of those “how the fuck am I supposed to manage doing life while feeling this way” times? I’ve had more run-ins with that kind of feeling than I would like. Last week, I asked Mom Group:
As usual, we had a lot to say.
Some moms expressed that the big moment of undoing for them, was a realization that motherhood was completely different from what they had thought, or planned, for it to be. One mom wrote that her “undoing” was, “The reality that being a stay at home mom (my lifelong dream) was absolutely not fulfilling to me.” Motherhood often brings with it a sense of complete loss of control and autonomy. Giving into the chaos of #momlife is not something most of us fall into without some initial (or prolonged) resistance. Another mom wrote about being thrust into the role of Single Mom, and the shock of that experience.
For other moms, it was the physical demands of motherhood that did it: The endless pumping, the 24/7 demands of the “job" of motherhood, and — for some — the transition to suddenly being caretaker of both children and home.
Anxiety and loneliness, brought on by or exacerbated by motherhood, was another big one. Whether it was anxiety over sleep loss, going back to work, or feeling a compulsion to soothe every crying baby one hears out in public (yes, this was an actual response), or crying every single day — a lot of us are handling some pretty big and complicated feels, while also trying to kick ass at our work and home life. One response that took my breath away, was this one.
So many of us grapple with that loss of identity that comes when motherhood hits — and the enormous effort it takes to find oneself in the rubble. Some, find that the thing they worked so hard to achieve (after years of fertility treatments, and pregnancy losses), is the very thing that erases who they are. That feeling of coming awake to the fact that we have become someone’s mom, and lost all the other things that made up our sense of self — can be terrifying.
“. . . none of us escapes from motherhood unscathed.”
There was so much more (e.g. all the horrible birth complications, and health stuff that women deal with after giving birth, not to mention the long roads people took to get pregnant in the first place). Reading about these unmooring experiences made me look at the women I pass on the street in a different way. I’m usually quick to assume that there is something lacking in me, that has made motherhood such a difficult thing for me to “do”. Now, I look at the other seemingly perfectly together moms, and I wonder — what is her story? What was the thing that completely knocked her out, even if it was only briefly? I believe none of us escape from motherhood unscathed. We each have, at least, one deep scar or battle wound. Some of us just hide it better.
I do wonder about that one person who answered “no” to my Instagram Stories question, “Have you felt unraveled by motherhood in some way, or at some point.” Who is this mom? And what is her secret strength that fortifies her against the stuff that bruises the rest of us?
I’m so looking forward to diving into these discussions in a real way (there is only so much you can do via Instagram) during our December 11th event with Pom Pom Social: Get Together Come Undone. We will be talking about experiences like the ones above, and giving them the space and time they deserve. I strongly believe in the power of story sharing, as a way of working through the emotional burdens those experiences may have placed on us, and as a way to connect with other women. I hope you will join me — even if it is just to sit quietly and listen. We were never meant to be mothering alone.
Image by By Dalibor Davidovic, “A Quiet Darkness (shadows)”, via art.com.