When you’re pregnant, people give you a lot of advice. They tell you what stroller to buy, which diapers are the best, tips and tricks for teething, and so on. But the one thing no one tells you is how much motherhood hurts.
While we’ve gone through hard times with both of our children, our oldest son has had the hardest time of all. When he was just two years old we discovered that he had food allergies; life threatening food allergies. While we knew he was allergic to some foods, we didn’t know how serious his allergies were. We had planned to take him to an allergist, but before we could, something I never expected happened; he unexpectedly went into anaphylaxis.
He broke out in hives all over his body, started throwing up, and his entire body started to swell. There was nothing we could do but hope the Benadryl we gave him helped. (In hindsight we should have called 9-1-1, but we didn’t.)
Watching my son suffer through anaphylaxis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I felt so helpless. All I could do was sit and watch him like a hawk to see if the Benadryl was helping. And I prayed. I prayed a LOT. I honestly thought I’d lose him that day. By the grace of God, however, we did not lose him. The Benadryl worked, relieving my son of his symptoms within an hour. But it was the longest hour of my life.
When he was eight years old, our son began showing signs of having anxiety. I knew the signs immediately because I have generalized anxiety disorder, and it’s something I deal with every day. We took him to see a counselor, and that helped. He actually only needed counseling for about four months and was doing much better after that.
Two and a half years later, the anxiety has returned. I am not quite sure what triggered it; perhaps the stress of a new school year, or maybe his pre-teen hormones. But whatever the trigger was, it set him off in a big way. His anxiety this time around has been much worse than when he was eight.
In addition to all the uncontrollable “what if” thoughts he gets, my son’s anxiety also has manifested itself in physical symptoms. He wakes up in the morning with a nervous stomach, gets diarrhea, feels tired, and sometimes even has dry heaves in the morning. He has panic attacks, doesn’t want to leave the house, refuses to play with his friends, and begs to stay home from school. It’s been awful.
I know the misery he is going through because that’s what I experienced when my anxiety began in 2014. Seeing him experience it triggered my anxiety to worsen, and I began having those same physical issues. But, as much as I disliked having physical symptoms myself, it hurt me more to see my son suffer.
My son has been crying, saying that God doesn’t love him anymore and won’t answer his prayers. He constantly says that his life is horrible and has no meaning. He doesn’t understand why he has to feel this way every day, and why he has to go through this. He doesn’t understand why God won’t answer his prayers and take the anxiety away. And, you know what? Neither do I.
This whole experience has been a nightmare. I’ve cried nightly, prayed constantly over my son, begged and pleaded with God to take his anxiety away, and have felt absolutely hopeless and helpless. It’s been more pain and hurt than I’ve experienced before.
I wish someone had told me that being a mom meant I’d experience hurt like this.
That I would spend countless nights crying for my children. That I would spend countless hours on my knees praying and crying out to God for help; feeling helpless, hopeless, and abandoned. I wish someone had told me I’d be wishing I could take on my children’s pain and sorrow so that they could be free of it.
But no one tells you that. No one tells you how much it hurts. Maybe if they did we’d never want to be parents. I’m not sure. All I know is that motherhood does hurt, and I was not prepared for how much.
But the thing is, despite all of the hurt, despite the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, my sweet, precious boys make all the pain worth it. I look into their eyes, see their smiles, hear their laughter, and the pain melts away. I feel their love in the hugs and kisses they give me, the notes they leave me in my lunch bag, the nightly snuggles, and the hurt gets pushed to the back burner.
And when those moments of incredible hurt rise up again, I just remember that no matter how much it hurts, that the love I feel for them and that they feel for me, will carry us through.