Mixed Feelings: The Joy and Grief of Motherhood

I really love being a mom, I do. I love it more than I had ever anticipated I could. I take and post about a million pictures of my smiley, handsome, bright, mind-blowingly awesome little boy. Unapologetically so. I’m sure I’m guilty of portraying motherhood as all smiles and delight. Romantic images of snuggles and giggles, of first steps and perfect outfits; adventures that make younger couples day dream about their chance to have a little one in the years to come. It’s all true, ya know? Sure he cries, and there are challenging days where every little thing is a battle. The joy and delight captured in those photos are real though, almost tangible in our home.

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But the really hard stuff, the part that has made the last 2 years of my life a mixture of incredible joy and painful grief, can’t be photographed.

I can’t take a picture of the nights I’ve been sick and desperately wanted my husband to be able to take care of me rather than having to care for our toddler.

I can’t take a picture of a date night spent talking only of our child or to-do lists and never of the deepest parts of ourselves that we once had and made time for.

I can’t take a picture of the grief I feel when I think of the life my husband and I used to live and how deeply I miss it.

My heart aches some nights for a time when we could come and go as we pleased. Sleep or not sleep. Eat french bread and wine for dinner. Spur of the moment drives to the mountains. Snow day movie marathons. Laying in bed until 10am. But, don’t mistake my longing for these things to be of the tangible sort; I think what I really miss is my own needs, wants, and desires being much higher on our list of priorities.

I feel like I talk to moms all the time who have no idea what I’m talking about. “Life with baby is a million times better than life before!” But I don’t resonate with that. Life with my son and husband is amazing and it was amazing before my son, too. Maybe it just can’t be compared. Maybe I’m bogged down by grief that will dissipate overtime as I emerge from the “new mom” stage and morph into “seasoned” or better yet “veteran mom” stage. Maybe I’ll have a different story to tell in a few years as I journey at my own pace through this disorienting new chapter. I’m open to that.

But it seems that if my joy and my heart have grown exponentially (as I feel they have) why couldn’t grief be proportionate to that?

Joy for the new life I celebrate with my two favorite guys. Grief for the life we used to live before our son.

Joy for a season I get to focus on nurturing my family full time as a SAHM. Grief for endless amounts of space to focus on me and my needs.

Joy for learning every day about the tiny person I’ve been entrusted to raise. Grief for the realization that I haven’t “arrived” in a place where I am impervious to being triggered by my own child.

Joy for the chance to partner with my best friend on a new adventure. Grief for the challenges parenting has introduced to our marriage.

Joy in every giggle, smile, snuggle, hug, and kiss. Grief for the realization that my baby is growing quicker than I keep up with.

There are so many new things I’m being given the opportunity to say YES to, but I’m also keenly aware of the things I’m also choosing to say No to. Maybe it’s a “glass half empty” kind of world to me, I don’t know. But I know parenthood, for me, has brought great joy and great heartache and I anticipate wrestling with that for years to come.

What has your experience been as a new mom or seasoned veteran? Do you find there are parts to grieve along the way?

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18 Responses to Mixed Feelings: The Joy and Grief of Motherhood

  1. Denise March 31, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    This totally resonates with me. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love being a mom and that my children mean the absolute world to me… But I would be lying if I said that I miss some of the things from life before children. I have friends who sincerely don’t want to have kids and I’ve told them, “I can totally understand why you wouldn’t,” and in the same breath they tell me “I can totally understand why you would.” Many people say that someone’s life won’t be fulfilled if they don’t have kids but as a mom now, and having friends who don’t, I have come to realize that whichever path you choose, you will miss out on something… And you will forgo something. My friends will never know the joy of having a tiny human love you so unconditionally but I’ll never again know the simplicity of having to worry only about myself. But I’m happy. My friends are happy. I miss parts of my childless life and they long for aspects that comes with having children.

    • Seanna April 2, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

      Thank you for this!!! Hallelujah !!my husband and I (also east coasters) moved from Denver to Minneapolis 3 years ago to be near my family when our daughter was born now we have a 2 yr old and a month old ! I will say it’s the most joyful yet challenging thing we have ever experienced parenthood it truly changes your entire life atkeast so far it has. Yes we yearn for those days going up to mountains and hiking skiing going to Sunday brunch at noon ! Man we miss those believe me but we like to think its all worth it now and in the long run 🙂 hang in there I totally agree with you and we lose ourselves but these little humans are so amazing and will take care of us when we’re old right haha;) btw I’m Italian and Irish from buffalo ny! Keep doing what your doing we will come out of the fog I know we will !

      • Dani
        Dani April 3, 2016 at 8:57 am #

        Seanna! Thank you for the encouragement– this motherhood gig is a trip right?! So glad to hear you’re embracing the many facets of life with littles. And I might add-being near supportive family feels like a game changer! Gosh I wish we had that! Love hearing from a fellow east coaster– I’m from Schenectady 🙂
        Best,
        Dani

    • Dani
      Dani April 3, 2016 at 9:06 am #

      Denise- I can so relate. When I chat with couples in other stages I try so hard to say if this is what you want then great! But also that there’s no rush and that there’s something so sacred about married life before children. Don’t rush it! It will never be the same! But I also recognize that’s my own stuff talking 🙂
      You’re right, there are sacrifices with any life decision. Things you joyfully receive others you knowingly and unknowingly sacrifice to have them.
      Best,
      Dani

  2. Katie March 30, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    Hi there, as a I would say “seasoned mom” of 4 girls ages 7, 5, 3, and 4 week old I could so relate to your post. While I didn’t struggle with post partum depression I definitely had thoughts of missing my old life when I became a new mom (I would say first few years). In fact it started with pregnancy and struggling to accept my new body! I am here to say though 7 years later I do in fact NOT miss my old life any more. So there is hope 🙂 I don’t know exactly when the switch happened but I would say seeing my little people turn from babies to toddlers to little ladies and each of their unique personalities and also me maturing and growing in confidence as a mom has all contributed!!

    • Dani
      Dani April 3, 2016 at 9:00 am #

      Thanks for sharing Katie! I actually feel like I can see the transition you’re talking about, suddenly our little guy is changing in ways that makes glimmers of life before seem not so far away as well as the big plans I had made for parenthood seem that much more possible! This adventure is constantly changing– and is it turns out, so are we!
      Thanks again!

      Dani

  3. Sara B
    Sara B March 28, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    4 years of struggle here – of failed IUIs and IVFs. Now, with 2 and half year old miracle babies of my own, I get what Dani is saying. I don’t know that I would have been able to grasp the concept of “grief” as it relates to children vs life before children when they were first born and I was a new mom. Now… Now there are moments when I do grieve for a simpler time, but similarly to Dani’s point, I wouldn’t trade it. I think it just comes with the territory, regardless of how much you wanted them.

    • Dani
      Dani March 30, 2016 at 7:28 am #

      Thanks for sharing Sara. I can’t imagine what a struggle like that would feel like, and I think it’s amazing you’ve been able to sit in this particular tension of motherhood. Thanks for you honestly and support!

  4. Veronica March 27, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

    I’ve never experienced infertility or miscarriage. I can’t even imagine how incredibly painful these experiences are and we should certainly respect that.

    I have, however, felt the grief that the author references. I have experienced it strongly enough that it threw me into a downward spiral of postpartum depression and anxiety for months. You know what’s not ok to say after you’ve just given birth to an amazing, healthy baby? “I’m not happy” or “I miss my old life.” People do not understand those feelings. As a mother, you feel incredible guilt for even having those feelings. You’ve just had a baby that you should be head over heels in love with and everything should be puppies and rainbows, right? As recently as this afternoon, 13 months later, I’ve had feelings of wanting to run away, though I know I wouldn’t do it. It’s hard to be a mom who doesn’t find joy in every minute of motherhood. For someone to write about it publicly? We should stand up and applaud. Thank you for this.

    • Dani
      Dani March 30, 2016 at 7:33 am #

      Veronica- thank you for sharing such a vulnerable piece of your own story. This motherhood gig is incredible and so challenging. We have enough that we allow ourselves to feel guilty for I’m working on allowing myself to feel each of these feelings in turn and let them keep moving on too. I hope together we can do the same! Hang in there mama, I’m just a smidge ahead of you with my toddler and I’m seeing glimmers of space for pieces of the life we used to live.

  5. Gina March 24, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Dan,
    Thanks for always being so honest! You are an incredible mom to your little guy and I absolutely love that our kids are friends and that we get to be on this journey together.

    • Dani
      Dani March 30, 2016 at 7:33 am #

      Thanks Gina!

  6. Jackie Mack
    Jackie Mack March 24, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    Great post Dani! Every mother is entitled to their own feelings. Of course all mothers are not going to agree with this. I look at moms that literally say to me that everyday is an amazing day with their little. And I don’t get it. But they don’t get me either, and that’s ok. Thank you for sharing your story and being honest about it. That’s what blogs are supposed to be about. Honestly and experiences.

    • Dani
      Dani March 30, 2016 at 7:34 am #

      Thanks Jackie! We all do have our individual journeys don’t we?!

  7. Sara.F March 24, 2016 at 8:10 am #

    I’m a new mom to a miracle baby after trying to conceive for nearly 5 years and multiple failed attempts at IUI, IVF, etc. My joy and appreciation for this little boy is unspeakable. There are certainly challenges, and sometimes I cry out of frustration. But grief? Absolutely not. I never grieve for the days of just two of us, when I became so depressed that there weren’t three of us. Those were days of grief. I grieve for the mothers out there who have lost their babies, who experience grief everyday in a way no mother should have to.

    I’ve never left comments before on any blog or article, but felt compelled to today. It’s painful to see this tagged as “grief, grieving, motherhood”. There are so many mothers out there who know real, true grief.

    • Denver Metro Moms Blog
      Denver Metro Moms Blog March 24, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      Sara,
      What a wonderful thing to welcome your miracle baby!
      Here at DMMB, we have a team of mothers with so many experiences. We have mothers who have struggled with fertility, late term miscarriage, loss of parents, loss of siblings, and a variety of other things for which we each may grieve.
      This post isn’t meant to minimize any grief felt by other mothers — neither the author nor anyone else on our team would ever seek to slight another mom’s feelings and experiences. However, the missing of and longing for the way things used to be while caught up in the wonderful parts of motherhood is a strange juxtaposition of grief and joy.
      The post was certainly not meant to offend or slight other grief, just present a perspective.
      All the best,
      The team at DMMB

    • Gina March 24, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

      Sara, I am thrilled that you have your sweet miracle baby! I can’t imagine the pain of spending 5 years longing for a sweet baby, I am so sorry you had to endure that. My story is not like yours but I can see how strongly you would feel about this even though I have never been in your shoes. I would never dismiss your feelings around motherhood, they are yours, they are valid. Therefore, I have to say that its not cool to dismiss Dani’s feelings either.

      Your stories seem incredibly different, therefore bring different emotions and perspectives. I have learned that you can feel two very different things at once, grief and joy. There is beauty in giving them both the space they deserve in our lives. That’s what I see Dani doing here.

      I guess I would just encourage and ask you to find a kinder way to express your experience with out having to dismiss others experiences. This motherhood thing is amazing but can be so hard and us moms need to stick together with grace and kindness!

    • Dani
      Dani March 30, 2016 at 7:38 am #

      Sara, I’m grieving with and for those mamas too. I truly can’t comprehend that loss, they are my dear friends and family among them…
      I’m also celebrating that miracle baby with you today and many others.
      Thanks for sharing a piece of your story with us here. And best wishes to you and your precious babe in this new season.

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