Everywhere we turn, it seems moms are surrounded by messages to push through and keep going, no matter how close we may be to hitting the proverbial wall. Over and over again, we see and relate to how, even though moms desperately need a break, there’s no way to get some downtime, to rest and recuperate with everything that needs to be done.
This feels accurate to me and may feel that way to you, too – the days fly by in the blink of an eye. By the end, I’m beyond hitting my wall. I am constantly task-focused despite trying to live in the moment. I try to remember that I deserve to enjoy the fruits of this beautiful labor of love called motherhood.
Even with our best intentions, and doing everything to keep going and pushing through, sometimes, a wall slams down in front of us and will not budge.
These walls take a variety of forms. Maybe it’s a physical injury. Maybe it’s crippling anxiety or depression. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one. Whatever that wall may be, the weight and power of it is intense and adds much to an already overflowing plate.
What happens when life decides to throw a wall in your way, even though you in no way want it there? You can’t push through a wall. Sometimes, walls aren’t even climbable, or easily broken down. You’re instead stopped in your tracks, lost at how and what to do. To be forcefully stopped when all you know is “go” is uncomfortable. Scary. Extremely frustrating.
My current “wall situation” started about 7 months ago, while packing up our previous home and moving into our new one. I admittedly lifted too much and with the worst form ever. In the moment, I was rushing and was powered by adrenaline and coffee, with a short window of time to get things done while simultaneously caring for a 19-month-old and a 3-month-old.
A week after we moved into our new house in June 2020, my foot went numb and my vision went blurry. With a family history of MS, I nervously left my family and went to the ER. An overnight stay and a bunch of tests later, I learned that all looked great in my brain and upper spine. A huge weight was lifted.
However, symptoms persisted. I kept pushing through my wall, and kept working around it. My feet felt like a ton of tingling bricks whenever I stood up. It would take me a couple of minutes to get the feeling to go away so I could walk. When my daughter moved to her big girl bed and I would lie next to her as she fell asleep, pain that I can best describe as an electric shock shot down my legs and into my toes, causing my entire body to jolt.
Two months after the initial onset of symptoms, a lumbar spine MRI provided insight to my wall. I had a herniated disk and spinal stenosis in my lower lumbar spine. Ironically, my husband had back surgery two weeks after we were married to correct a similar issue. The answer to my symptoms was comforting, and I continued full speed ahead. My herniation wasn’t nearly as bad as his had been.
I could wait for this thing out and push through my wall, right?
I had a goal of breastfeeding my younger daughter until she was a year old. Surgery before then would certainly make things more difficult. Although I knew that she would be cared for, fed, warm, and loved no matter what, I was still extremely determined. I set a surgery date for three days after her first birthday and kept going.
I sought out alternative treatments, some which temporarily worked, some which left me balled up and crying in pain in bed for two days. A week before Christmas, the pain was at its worst:
- I could not pick up either of my kids safely
- I wanted to lie in bed all day
- I could not correctly lift my feet while walking and instead shuffled around the house
Through all of this, my husband was my rock and advocate. He picked up additional responsibilities around the house, even though he had already shared many of them with me. I stopped lifting our older daughter, who was in the magical world of potty training at the moment. Activities that required bending were limited.
I felt lost, useless, and sad – a mom on the constant go at a standstill, a wall in her way that could not be moved.
My husband had tried to gently have conversations about the possibility of moving the surgery up. I quickly turned him down each time with a million excuses. I finally broke down and scheduled it as soon as possible after an honest heart to heart with both sets of our parents about the support we would need for our kids, which they happily and eagerly agreed to provide.
I am writing this 12 days out from surgery. I am terrified of so many things. A healthy and proper recovery. Not being able to be the same Mom to my kids temporarily. The “what ifs” and “what next” should the outcome not be optimal.
However, I also look at the current state, which is not ideal. I am not the mom or wife I want to be. Walks around the block are a distant memory. Longer car rides are impossible. I am scared of what my “normal” will look like should I keep trying to push through.
So, mama, you may be in a similar boat. Of pushing, keeping on, never stopping. You may worry that if you stop or even take pause, pieces will fall and not get picked up.
After recently letting go of a lot out of necessity, I will share a few things that I’ve learned:
- Some things may be done differently. Some things may not get done at all. Some things you may be truly passionate about in the way they are completed. Some things you may realize that as long as they get done. The how truly doesn’t matter.
- In this, you will realize what is really important. Healthy, cozy kids. Full bellies. Laughter.
- You’ll realize that all the “doing” doesn’t make your family love you any extra.
- It’s the slow moments. The authentic “you” moments. The moments where you are focused on your family. A cuddle on the couch. A favorite book read together. A tickle session. A shared cookie.
- It is not sustainable for my husband to keep doing all of the pushing and tasks that keep our family ticking along – and to be honest, I miss being there alongside him as I normally would be. However, I have accepted that this is a short season where it is required that I slow down, address the issue, and heal correctly so I can continue forward in the best way possible.
In all of this, my biggest realization has been that even when you feel like you’ve hit the wall, and even when you feel like you’re not helping your family or others around you, you are loving them. With all of your heart and soul. You are thinking about them, and are caring about them with your entire being.
Sometimes, care looks like rushing, pushing, and keeping on. But sometimes, care also means standing back, taking a look from the outside in, and truly addressing that wall that lies in front of us so that we can come back stronger and happier than ever.