My first Mother’s Day was a really low day for me. I smiled through breakfast in bed, put on a new shirt I’d bought for the occasion, and smiled big for photos so I could post on Instagram later. But truthfully I felt empty and sad and as the day ended, I felt like a failure.
Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate moms. But I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being celebrated. I was regularly having attacks of anxiety and intrusive thoughts and rage. I felt emptiness when I looked at my nearly 3-month-old son, knowing that the mother-child bond I’d heard so much about was painfully missing. On top of everything else, my brain was constantly telling me my son and partner would be better off without me. The words “Happy Mother’s Day!” from my family and friends cut through me like knives as I thought, “if they only knew I’m not a real mother at all.”
I wish I had known that I wasn’t failing. By then, I knew I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety (with an OCD diagnosis to come later), but I wish I had known it was beyond time to get help. I wish I had known that those perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) don’t take a break for holidays. Maybe most of all, I wish I had truly known and believed it would get better.
It’s been only one year since I cried to myself wishing the day had been different and that I was different. I can look back now and recognize the imposter syndrome that was at play, convincing me that while I may have met the criteria of a mother, I wasn’t worth being celebrated that day. Some days are still harder than others, but I know I’m enough now and perhaps most importantly, I know deep in my heart that I was enough then, too.
Mother’s Day is not just a day for the moms who can smile ear-to-ear for the photos and really mean it. It’s also a day for moms who are struggling with sadness and anger and grief and loss and anxiety and guilt and shame and resentment and everything in between. Having those feelings doesn’t make you unworthy of being celebrated. Motherhood in all its forms (pregnancy, birth, adoption, caregiving, etc.) is where strength and love meet and that deserves to be celebrated, YOU deserve to be celebrated, no matter where you are in your journey.