I’ve got this.
That was the attitude I hoped to portray taking the long walk across our church’s campus. Only a few months postpartum, I was determined to take my daughter to the bathroom, change her diaper as she stared into my confident and capable eyes, and walk back into the sanctuary like a boss—who just so happened to be a mom.
Most Sundays when Isabella needed a diaper change, my husband volunteered. I was more than grateful for how we split parenting responsibilities early on, but I had wanted to be a mom since I was a little girl, and at times I felt like I should be doing more. I can get in my own head that way.
Strengthening my mental health has been part of my story since I was 11 years old and diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Since then, there have been plenty of times when I wanted to be like everyone else and not have an every-day battle with my mind. I would try to push an external narrative of being okay even when I wasn’t, like today. I was not. At all. Okay.
Most days I was terrified of being a mom. During pregnancy and the first few months after giving birth, I overanalyzed my choices and thoughts. I was afraid I was going to do something wrong or overdo what I thought was right. When I began to feel confident, I’d second guessed that, too. I was scared of what people were thinking, what the baby was thinking, and if my husband thought I was a good enough mom. (Spoiler alert: he was regularly in awe of my strength and resilience, but the combination of GAD and my newfound fears would obsessively speak lies.)
Every day was emotionally inconsistent and filled with uncertainty. I would find myself over-the-moon in love with being a mom in the morning, and by the afternoon I was sobbing uncontrollably with painfully intrusive thoughts. All I wanted was to be okay.
Besides the mental adjustments of having a little one, I was amazed at the physical changes to my body, especially the swiftness with which my new postpartum body collected heat and recycled it as sweat. Any breezy, artificial confidence I conjured did not stand a chance against our partially outdoor church campus on a Southern California summer afternoon.
I did eventually make it to the changing table, but by that point I was sweaty, overheated, and nauseous with a baby who was crying at the top of her lungs. My hands were full, my emotions were high, and I was increasingly frustrated with the diaper bag’s straps that were tangled in my clothes and the changing table I couldn’t seem to unfold. I could hear the service playing over the speakers. I tried to hold onto the words of encouragement and hope, but all I felt was desperation, fear, humiliation —
Suddenly, the diaper bag was lifted off me by a woman in the bathroom as another woman removed wipes and a clean diaper. Then, a third woman came over and started rubbing my back as a fourth woman opened the changing table and laid down a liner. Isabella, the loveliest baby I’ve ever known, was still crying. I started crying, too, as women who were all old enough to be my mom surrounded me and carried the weight—both physically and emotionally—that I so desperately wanted to prove I could lift alone.
There were few words spoken. There were no questions asked. Each woman respected that I may not need help with the baby and never once overstepped or attempted to hold her. They wiped my tears as I changed my daughter’s diaper. They helped me put everything away and stayed with me until I was calm.
I would not have made it through that moment alone. And because of the feeling of sisterhood, community, and relief—because of those women who I never saw or spoke to again—I had the strength to reach out to my family and friends over the next few weeks. I began to be more open about how challenging “simple” tasks of motherhood were.
Shortly after, I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression. I started talk therapy and a medicinal regimen prescribed by my doctor. It took a few months, but with my prescription, weekly therapy, a new workout routine, transparency with my family, our church’s small group, and many daily adjustments, I was on my way to being the confident mom that I am today.
I wish I could see those women again. I’d hug them and thank them for teaching me what it means to accept help. The grace they extended taught me to extend grace to myself and to joyfully welcome more support from my village. My only hope is that through my words and my life, I can be that support for someone else.
It’s hard to ask for help at times. While it takes vulnerability and transparency that many of us wouldn’t consider to be natural traits, we have to trust that regardless of any fears or doubts we may have God can still place people in our paths who can be there for us. It’s okay to ask them for help—it could be the first step to being okay.
Have you learned to ask for help? If not, what’s holding you back?
You are not alone. If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).Leave a Comment