When My PTSD Makes Me Feel Like a ‘Bad Mom’
Three months ago, my life changed in the most life-altering, beautiful way.
I never imagined I would get to this point in my life; after all the trials and tribulations I faced over the years because of my illness, and then nine months of complications and more trials and tribulations, I was able to welcome a beautiful, handsome, healthy little boy into the world. Despite years and years of doubt of being able to have kids, and the (still) constant fear of passing on my illness to any kids, I am so blessed to have my beautiful little boy in my life. Even 12 weeks later, I still wake up baffled, looking at his cute face, thinking, “How did I get to this point in my life?”
Well, I know how I got here — I just can’t believe I was able to accomplish this dream of mine. Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has that effect on the brain; living with constant doubt sometimes holds me back from living to my truest potential, to be afraid of the “big” dreams I wish for myself and the people I love. But as I sit here and type this, watching my son play on his playmate, the same old jungle lullaby music that I’ve been listening to for weeks on end ringing in my ears, I can’t help but wonder two things: Was that a fart or a poop? Am I a bad mom?
Am I a “bad” mom?
That is the road my PTSD (and my recently diagnosed postpartum depression (PPD)) has been taking me down lately. For the last eight years, I had to worry about whether I was a bad friend, a bad wife, a bad daughter, but now I worry the scariest thought of them all: Am I a bad mom?
Does my PTSD (and PPD) make me a bad mother? I know it affects my life greatly, but will it make me become a bad mom? And why do I worry about this so much?
Because despite still having good treatment and trying to maintain all my old and new symptoms, I still have bad days. I still have night terrors and triggers, and days where it takes everything in me to get out of bed. This isn’t something new for me. I’ve lived with these symptoms for nearly a decade. I’ve had lots of bad days (and months!) before. Except there is one “big” difference with my bad days now. And it’s not just the new PPD symptoms.
I have a newborn son to take care of on these bad days. My depression and anxiety doesn’t stop my son from having his daily needs. Bottles still need to be heated, feedings need to happen, tummy time and playtime are a must and every other day a fresh bath is required when he starts to smell a little too much like sour milk. However, when I have a really bad day, and it takes everything in me just to open my eyes and meet a new (bad) day, it’s almost nearly impossible to keep up with the new demands of motherhood. He needs me, and sometimes I feel like I’m not living up to the title of “Mom” nor am I winning brownie points for the Mother-of-the-Year award.
The new pressures and challenges of motherhood are now twice as hard as I weave my way through managing through the expectations of being a mom while also living with several mental health issues at the same time. If I thought I had challenges before, I really was not prepared in the slightest for how great my life would shift after my son arrived in the world (despite reading every baby book and mom blog out there). And no matter how on top of everything I stay, there are days where I still feel like I’m failing. And not just that new mom “What the hell am I doing?” failing. I’m talking about being an ultimate failure — one that I fear my son will grow up and resent me for.
Am I a bad mom?
Deep down, I know I’m not a bad mom or a mean mommy (yet!), but there are days my mental illness is still going to win despite the expectations of being a mother. I’m still going to have days where I have panic attacks. There will be times that I will be trapped in a depressive episode and not be 100 percent in the moment. I will have episodes where my head is riddled with such terrible thoughts that I won’t be able to see all the good I have in front of me. My illness affects me on a daily basis, so how can it not affect my son as well?
So maybe there will be days where we will spend all day in our jammies and sleepers (and probably just cuddle). There might be times playtime and tummy time are cut short (or vetoed all together) in favor of watching a movie or just chilling on the couch. Sometimes I’m sure a bath or two will be skipped because I just won’t have the energy, and I know there will be nights that I roll over to my husband and whisper, “I need you to do the feedings tonight” because I will just be too mentally and physically exhausted to keep up with the demands of breastfeeding. I know these days and nights are bound to happen — it’s inevitable.
So, will these days make me a bad mom?
I’m sure when I’m stuck in that black cloud my mind will be screaming, “Yes!”, but hopefully deep down, my heart will call BS! Despite my illness, I would give everything I have to my son if it meant I do without. I would go to the ends of the world to protect him, because despite my illness, I am a mother now. It is my job and duty to protect my child. While there will be days that maybe I won’t be able to give 100 percent, I know that I will always love my son unconditionally, even in the darkest moments when I hate myself and the spiral my illness puts me through. Every day won’t be great, nor will every day be bad. While I wish I could hide my demons from my baby for the rest of my life, I know one day he will have to learn and understand the truth of why Mommy has these bad days.
Even though my illness makes me feel like a bad mom sometimes, I sure hope I can prove to him that I am anything but. Because I love him with every ounce of my being, and I’m so grateful for his little life. Even on the days I can’t say it, or necessarily feel it.
Even on the days I’m being a “bad mom.”
Follow this journey on Fighting the Good Fight.