Ending my challenging motherhood silence

January 14, 2016
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It’s time for me to break the silence. Silence you might not have even noticed, but silence that has been tough for me. I process through writing and sharing my experiences, but early into our sons life I purposely stopped talking about my journey as I struggled in my new role as a mom. I couldn’t make it tidy, I couldn’t put a bow on why we were going through what we were going through. Only just now, having a little bit of relief and perspective, from the hardest 14 months of my life. My silence ends today.

Because I want to make sure there isn’t a new momma sitting at home feeling more alone, more beat down or not enough… See I was that first time mom that thought she was prepared, good with kids and as ready as she could be. I did all the right things to prepare. I was set for that first year of motherhood. Knowing it would be a challenging roller coaster, a learning curve if you will. Yet, I had no idea how much it would require, how our experience differed from many of my friends, and how much my darn heart got wrapped up in my performance as a mother.


Most of the days were hard, yet also peppered with beautiful-smiley-cooing-baby moments. Truly they were crazy challenging and almost impossible. I’d like to share snippets of them with you. Why?  I don’t EVER want another mom to feel alone like I have, to feel like it’s all her fault, or to continue to carry the burden that “you are doing it all wrong”. Sometimes babies are just harder than others and it’s ok to feel the feels, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. My guess is you love your baby so much you are doing all or most of these things, despite it making your days tougher.

Also, it’s my hope that you don’t judge these words and think I am ungrateful for this sweet blessing that we prayed for for a long time. He is the JOY of our days, even when I couldn’t see that so clearly.

I think the biggest lesson the Lord taught me through this dry season IS THAT EXTREME JOY AND HARDSHIP CAN EXIST IN THE MIDDLE OF OF ANY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCE.

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So momma I don’t write these notes to scare you or for pity. I just wanted to give you a real and raw account of the challenges we faced, so you don’t feel alone if you are smack dab in the middle of similar one.

That being said you could have that ideal natural birth you planned for. The baby that sleeps 6 hours at a stretch the day you bring them home from the hospital, who loves car rides, babywearing, walks, and eats like a champ. (insert all the praise hands here)

Or ….

  • You could have a 50+ hour labor after you prepared, read and all the natural and normal preparation, tried all the positions with your doula yet your birth was exhausting and not enjoyable to say the least

  • You could have momma guilt that you didn’t really remember that baby coming out, or locking eyes. You were just so relived it was over, like finishing a marathon over.

  • You could do “all the right things” the first month like LC house calls, acupuncture, accepting family help and meals. Yet, you were no where in the slightest ready for the mental and physical roughness of recovering, despite “being prepared”.

  • You could get up often the first two/three weeks at 1, 3am, 4am and 5am in the morning in pure panic. You could sob through wailing breaths to your husband, “how-does-anyone-sleep-ever-with-a-baby.”

  • You could have a ridiculous chest, 34 MM. You could have a photo of your baby sleeping on your boob, that LITERALLY looks like a pregnant belly. (Cal, I can’t wait to show this to your wife someday)

  • You could feel like there must be something I am doing wrong. While staring at your cute little baby, you just wanted to feel like you had this. That you got the hang of it, but the relief seems never to come.

  • You could have the hardest time breastfeeding because your boobs are TOO big and you have to have two if not three hands and a towel to handle these milk jugs from not suffocating your baby.

  • You could feel like an alien, a fat alien that they don’t make bras for.After being fitted at over 4 stores and ordering over $2500 worth in bras nothing worked. PS. If so, then girl, you call Nordstroms get fitted by a mom that works there and get completely custom nursing bra, they will alter, make one for you. (at least at the MOA store here they do).Who knew is was going to be so hard and discouraging just to find ONE BRA!

  • You could wear adult diapers and love them. The relief from not digging into your healing was magical. You could sit out in the sun in your robe and diaper one July morning and all was right in the world for those 5 minutes.

  • You could dress your baby in the cutest chambray outfit for your first new momma class, only to have to CUT IT OFF with a scissors as you are practically topless, in the middle of class, because your baby wouldn’t stop crying no matter what you did. 

  • You could be learning that none of the normal baby things would be normal for you.  You can’t understand why your child screams in the car till he was blue, hates walks or their carseat and didn’t like baby wearing either.

  • You could feel like all things that you were so excited to share with your new baby couldn’t happen. You assume it must be your fault.

  • You could make out with your my breast friend pillow  cause you appreciate it so much. Hello sweet pillow that snaps around me and makes going to the bathroom while nursing possible.

  • You could be jealous of all your other new momma friends who seem to be rocking motherhood so much better than you.

  • You could try really hard to get pumping going but your first attempts at that resulted in you crying in the bathtub, because nothing came out and you felt like it was just another place you couldn’t get it right. PS: A Hospital grade pump was the biggest blessing!

  • You could have a baby that refuses to nurse in public, or in any sort of daylight because they are too distracted past 3 months of age. You could then feel like you were trapped at home being that your baby still needed to eat all the time.

  • You could nurse your baby on all fours with your milk jugs hanging above him to encourage daytime nursing and feel like a monkey but nope. That didn’t work either.

  • You could have a nursing strikes for a full weeks at a time, that just made you feel terrible and unwanted. You could try your best to nurse while bouncing on a stability ball fully swaddled and latching on there to break the strike. Then once latched you could try your dangdest to move to a chair once he was on. You could hit your impossible meter this week.

  • You could try chiropractic, probiotics, a million other purchases off Amazon, to help with your little one being upset and cranky most of the time, but nothing seemed to do the trick.

  • You could be so afraid to drive anywhere as it could be so impossible and nerve wracking to hear your baby scream the entire time.You could just cry when you had to drive anywhere as there is nothing you can do, that you haven’t tried.  You might not even take the baby in the car anywhere alone till baby is about 9 months because of this form of torture.

  • You could get your period back at 4 months after birth while full breastfeeding, no supplementing. Even when you are pumping an additional feeding during the morning nap to build supply.

  • You could have a baby that you had to bounce, nurse, settle on a stability ball till they were about 6 months ever so perfectly to get even them ready for any kind of sleep.

  • You could have a whole year or more of extreme sleep deprivation with a baby that doesn’t nap longer than 27 minutes, which 15 of that you are pumping to build a supply. AKA no mommy down time. Then when you think it couldn’t get worse.

  • You could all of the sudden out of the blue have your baby wake every 1.5 hours after sleeping longer stretches in the earlier months.  Meaning you are only sleeping maybe 40 minutes in between each wake. Doctors and sleep coaches can’t figure out what is happening. You could realize that getting up 8-10 times a night to feed/comfort baby is going to be your new normal for months on months. (Writing this still terrifies me)

  • You could pray and beg night after night of impossible sleep challenges for the Lord to take this away or provide relief and save you but the extreme sleep deprivation continues.

  • You could go through 3 sleep coaches and then be landed with the blessings of the most amazing sleep coach to walk through this crazy scary time with new approaches and plans, supported your tired, discouraged heart even if there wasn’t a clear answer.

  • You could not flush toliets or run the water in your bathrooms for close to a year to not wake up the baby

  • You could spend months sleep training your baby, most of the early months rhything & rocking on the floor, because hearing your baby cry (even if it’s a gentle form of sleep training with check-ins) is worse than nails on a chalkboard times 20.  (And yes months because every month surrounding mothers period the baby would go from waking every 2-3 hours to every hour and this would continue until baby is 13 months old. (Fun right?)

  • You could cut out all dairy, soy, wine, eggs, caffeine or chocolate and had already not had gluten (as I have been gluten free for years) in my diet to encourage better sleep through sleep training. You say you will add them back in when he starts sleeping better, well that doesn’t really happen any time soon.

  • You could decide on this schedule to help with sleep and nursing issues.  Why not pump 5 times a day + nursing right? Wrong it kept you so much farther away from any true rest being attached to that pump at every “momma” break time.

  • You could LOVE your work so much because it was the one place you felt good at anything. And then feel a bit guilty about being away.

  • You could try so hard to be a good mom and feel normal. Read every blog, pin and FB group page about how to make it better. Yet, none of them truly help, the reality is you are just in the middle of it and the only way was through. (PS you could also hate this answer and keep searching anyways)

  • You could look back and still not understand how you survived it. There was a whole lot of grace, support, prayer and Jesus.

If I help even one new mom out there not feel alone, then it was worth writing. Documenting my transition into motherhood is healing. It’s loving. It’s appreciating. It’s validating. It’s remembering. It’s honoring the journey.

Lastly, I put together a simple worksheet for anyone going through a season like I did and named it “Navigating a Challenging Season with Grace” that you can download here. Hopefully it will help you in this tough challenging motherhood season. I’ll be talking about my experience and more details on how to use the worksheet on Periscope in the next couple days, and I’d love if you would join me.


To my sweet Cal Michael, if you ever read this, know that I love you with every part of my being.  I can say from the depths of my soul I gave every ounce that I have for your well being and I did continue to try to do the best I can with what I have. Your momma will never be perfect and I don’t need to be, but know you were NEVER a burden, just a new part of life that mommy had the darndest time navigating that first 14 months. I want to help other mommas not feel alone so they can love their babies well. So that is why I am sharing the early days of being a mother to you.


Also, lastly. Momma’s it does get better. “This too shall pass” was one of the hardest things for me to hear during this time as it felt like I would never pass. So I won’t give you a canned phrase I will just wave hi from the other side and lend you a hand, a hug, a prayer if you are in the middle of hard. Know I see you. Know I am sorry this is so rough. Know I love you and my heart is for you, momma. Reach out, I would love to encourage you.

Much Love, Gina Z

PS: In case you missed it above here is another link to download my worksheet, “Navigating a Challenging Season with Grace”


15 thoughts on “Ending my challenging motherhood silence

  1. Where do I begin? There a million things running through my head and goosebumps creeping up my arms. Let me start out by saying that I am not a mom. I felt I could relate adulthood to your story. Transitioning to adulthood and becoming a mom are two VERY different experiences so I don’t want that misconstrued. But I do feel like all women (and men) – young, old, a mom, not a mom, aunt, cousin, sister, friend, EVERYBODY can take away something from your story….which is honesty + truth. Our society has become somewhat obsessed with chasing perfection. It is confusing as to why we strive for this type of life because when I sit around at home crying in my chair wishing that I could find someone to relate to about the stress of adulthood and wondering what in the world I am going to do with my life – I pray for someone to take the leap and be real. Share how hard it is so that we can all come together and comfort each other, instead of dancing around what we feel like we should be doing.

    YOU’VE done that! You’ve taken that leap and you are helping us all take a small step in the right direction to embrace each other and share the hard and rewarding stuff. You are showing us the benefits of embracing each other rather than isolating each other. We are all different but yet we share similar milestones and we don’t have to do that alone. Nobody has to be alone.

    Thank you – a hundred times over for being so brave to take this leap and share about your experience as a mother. Hopefully it will become less daunting for others as we give ourselves permission to do the same.

    Sending lots of gratitude your way and thinking of you as you continue on this journey with your son.

    xoxo Jordan

  2. Hi Gina,
    Honestly, thank you for writing this! I had a really rough first few months with our first (a boy also)….and if I could’ve read this when I was going through that dark season…I KNOW it would have encouraged my spirit and helped me feel not alone. We’re expecting our second in March and although I do feel nervous and you never know what your baby will be like…I feel more confident in who I am as a mom, and I hope and pray I can give myself so so so much more grace than I did. It’s so easy to be SO hard on ourselves as first time moms. I’m sure this was hard and vulnerable to write but know that you are most definitely encouraging mamas hearts who NEED to hear this. Thank you!

  3. man i feel you on so much of this. so much. those nails on a chalkboard times 20. being a slave to the pump. a challenging sleeper. you had it worse than i did BUT my heart was in the same place as yours for so long. sending hugs. i’m with you.

  4. My 1st through me for a loop with Autism. Did you know Autistic kids don’t sleep? And then my second previous most wonderful girl will be two in March and has yet to sleep through the night. Sleep deprivation doesn’t begin to cover it. There are days I just drive for hours to get them a nap and myself caffeinated enough to finish the day. No end in sight and no amount of prayer seems to help. It can certainly be discouraging. So yes, none of us are alone. Beautifully said friend.

  5. Loved reading this and could relate on many levels. This was my year of motherhood, too and it was beyond rough. My son was born extremely premature which shattered my birth plans (all plans), and even upon his arrival home, I struggled to find normalcy – we’re still working on it! However I whole heartedly agree: EXTREME JOY AND HARDSHIP CAN EXIST IN THE MIDDLE OF OF ANY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCE. Yes times a millon. I think THAT place – that smashup of heartache and heart explosions is where we see and experience God, sometimes in utter surrender. LOVE when you blog, Gina, please keep it coming! THANK YOU FOR THIS!

  6. This is beautifully writeen Gina and so relatable (even if it isn’t every single point). I’m not even a year in yet and feel that I’ve only just begun to even figure any of this out. And yes, the comparison stuff is THE worst, but hard to get away from. Could I add some more to this?

    * You could have a baby who ranks in the .4th percentile in weight, had to have multiple weigh ins the first six months, needed breast and bottle feeds, and was almost referred to the ‘failure to thrive’ clinic (thankful for our awesome pedi who saw past the stats and knew our little girl was doing OK).

    * You could have a baby who also didn’t like the carseat for the first four months, including a trip in Canada where her Nana had to remove her from the carseat and hold her in her lap because mummy couldn’t take anymore screaming while she was driving.

    * You could yell at your baby to shut up at 2am when you’re exhausted and they just won’t stop crying after being fed and changed.. And then feel horrible and ungrateful for weeks afterwards. I did. I still do.

    * You could be sitting on the toilet at 2am, sobbing because you’re exhausted, you didn’t get to the bathroom in time and wet your pants, and your husband is standing next to you stroking your head while your baby wails inconsolably in his arms.

    I can’t think of anymore at the moment, but reading your story is so refreshing and much needed as a reminder that we’re all in this together and we all thrive and dive in different areas, but we can all learn and sympathize and encourage. This is pretty much what you’ve done in one blog post 🙂

  7. Yes! I’ve been there on many levels. Thank you for sharing your struggles. With my first child I had so much trouble breastfeeding, I felt so horrible when I couldn’t get her to breastfeed. I pumped day and night every two hours for along time after that… Sleep deprivation major! I struggled with depression, and felt so alone! Healing has only come from sharing my story, being a friend, and making sure no none feels as alone as I did! God gives each of us such a unique parenting experience. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m continuing to grow so much through the process!

  8. My first was a dream (relatively speaking) and then my second came and I was knocked back. I knew what I was doing, I’ve done this before, why is this baby so hard? It was humbling. My saving grace was ear plugs. They don’t make you a bad mom or dad. You can still hear your baby cry very well, but it just takes the edge off, keeps you from loosing your mind when you have to drive somewhere or attempt sleep training.

  9. Laughing and crying as I was reading your post. It was the hardest 18 months of my life after having my son. We were up ever 45min to hour with him. Sometimes he would get up at 2 and not go back to sleep till five and I would have to be at work in a few short hrs. The insomnia still plagues me to this day. At 8 month old he stopped eating, he would vomit or gag at the sight of food. No one could give me answers. He was sick with some kind of upper respiratory issue constantly, RSV and mono in the first year. I have never felt so abandoned by the lord as I did in the first year of his life, looking back I think it was the postpartum and sleep deprivation fueling that lie. I leaned into God hard because I was desperate for rest in any form. At 18 months the heavens opened and help came! Birth to 3 placed us with an OT who worked with O for a year and we over came the eating issues (mommas if you have any kind of eating issues SOS FOOD SCHOOL is amazing!) I stood over my sink in tear praying for this woman for months and when she came it was a blessing! We found an E&T that took the time to evaluate our little guy and found out he needed tubes. All that sickness was from undiagnosed ear infections moving into his chest. The sleep came with time following his eating picking up and his tubes. My father-in-law would always say “this too shall pass” and I would just want to scream “NO it’s not passing, it’s been a year”. So I 100% get your feelings regarding that statement. There is so much more I could say about my experience, but I’ll leave it at I will never be the same and I wish more woman would tell the truth about their experience. I have such a heart for mothers. I needed someone to care for me desperately in that time of my life. I do my best to pay it forward, I will mail out Jess C. Naptime diary Devo to new mommas or moms in hard times. I wish I could do more, like sit with their kids so they could shower and take a nap!

  10. Gina, I wish I could give you the biggest hug in the world right now! Motherhood can be so stinkin’ hard! I’ve babysat and nannied for 20 years and everyone thought I would be and was fine on the motherhood journey because of my experience. I stunk and caring for myself, had so many ups and downs with caring for my daughter, and can so relate to your post. Posts like this, stories from my friends and my own are what made me blog again. I hope all is mamas know we’re not alone, that it gets better, and that motherhood is not all rainbows and sunshine.

  11. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! God just keeps giving me more and more reminders for me to be so very thankful for falling upon you, Emily Ley and Lara Casey. I quietly followed your infertility journeys as we struggled through our journey to baby and I’ve been quietly following your mommy journey. My little guy is ten months old and these have been the hardest ten months of my life. I have never been so exhausted. So unsure. So ALONE. I am so very thankful for your words, for your story, for hope. Thank you Gina! You are such a blessing!

  12. Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing how difficult the first 14 months were, despite preparation. We’re expecting our first this spring and in the back of my mind while reading every book and attending every class is a big question of “What if I’m a terrible mother and none of this works?” I can’t thank you enough for bringing light to the fact that even if nothing works, it has absolutely no reflection of being a bad mother. Sending you a big hug and good vibes for solid sleep!

  13. Oh, sweet girl. I just stumbled upon this and it brought back SO many memories from my first baby. So many that I have honestly forgotten the depth of now, five years later. I just wanted to thank you for writing this post and sharing your heart with other mothers and also to encourage you that it is SO, SO much easier next time (if y’all chose to have more.) Baby #3 was an absolute blast for me because I finally felt like I had the hang of it all – what a sweet spot! – so much so that I had forgotten some of these feelings you wrote about – but I definitely had them! God is so gracious and teaches us so much through these little blessings!

  14. I came across this post by chance the other morning and didn’t comment, but have been thinking of it ever since I read it.
    Thank you for your authenticity and being so honest, it was just what I needed that morning. Which makes me think coming across your post wasn’t by chance at all because it was a morning after another sleepless night with my two month old son who has decided he’s not going to sleep unless he is being held. That morning I was feeling dejected and was wondering how I was going to get through the coming day, but reading about your struggles gave me strength to get through the day and enjoy Micah despite the overwhelming exhaustion I was feeling. And I just wanted to say thank you for being brave enough to share your struggles with the world so others can find strength through unity.

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Gina is a Minneapolis based wedding and lifestyle photographer that loves bringing the LIFE out of people & capturing that energy on camera. Contact Me