In motherhood, the likelihood of finding ourselves in a trench is not just high, it’s inevitable.
Certain phases of parenting present us with piles of stuff that stack themselves on top and around us, burying us deeper and deeper in its cargo.
At times it can be… overwhelming.
To be sure, the exhaustion, the frustration, the stress, the meltdowns, the sleep-deprivation, the moments of losing yourself add up. And when you’re in there deep, it’s hard to find perspective; it can be hard to stay positive. You’re dripping in sweat from trying to do “all the things” with muscles that ache from the constant attempt to claw out and a heart that’s weary from the sheer emotional weight of it all.
And as you look down trying to catch your breath, all you can hear above you are the perceived sounds of happiness of other moms who have it way more together than you do or, at least, seem to have bigger shovels that allow them to get through the struggles with more grace.
I’ve been there.
I DROWNED in every parenting struggle that came my way. I was staring straight forward into it – not able to focus on anything, but its massive negative presence in my life, wondering why it seemed like I was the only one who didn’t get it.
Until one day I decided to push myself to stop focusing on the size of the hole I felt trapped in and start looking around at what (and who) was in there with me.
Like the tribe of friends and family who loved me and were standing there with their shovels ready to help me dig out when I was ready to ask for help.
Or the preschooler who told me she loved me every day and blew a kiss into my coffee so I could feel her love at the beginning of the day.
Or the son who brought laughter into our house every night with his comedic antics and hilarious toddler one-liners.
Or the new baby who would immediately become calm when she was laid against my chest in the middle of the night because she felt the safest in my arms.
Or the husband who adored me and supported me with everything he had, despite watching motherhood transform me into someone he didn’t recognize.
And most importantly?
I discovered myself in there after feeling lost for so long. And once I found “me” again, I felt stronger.
I stood taller for having been through the hardship. I felt more prepared for any challenges to come because I had been there before. I knew I was a better mom because I was more centered than I used to be and could give a better, healthier, more complete version of myself to my family. And, most importantly, I had become a person who felt gratitude that I had, somehow, dug myself out of the trench into the open air.
I have lived through enough to know that this journey through motherhood is not a newly-paved highway on which I can just hit the pedal, free of roadblocks, and bask in the sun with the wind on my face. Instead, it’s like a hike in a deeply-wooded path where I have to figure out how to get around the rocks, the holes, and the fallen trees to get to the carved-out paths that lead me to the beautiful view in the open air.
I choose to no longer fear the trenches and instead do whatever I can to view them as something to embrace and APPRECIATE.
Because when I take a pause and look back on where I’ve been, it’s the time I spent in the trenches that I grew stronger, wiser, and more flexible. That time showed me the people in my life who are not just dancing with me in the sun when I’m shining, but who will also be shovel-bearers ready to go to work when I’m trapped.
And so on that inevitable day when the ground falls out from underneath me again instead of marinating in the pain, I will appreciate the chance to climb out again, knowing that strength will grow within me and in the relationships around me.
And you better bet that I’ll keep my pay-it-forward shovel close by, ready to help someone else who finds themself in the trenches.
Just like so many have done for me.
Brea Schmidt is a writer, photographer and advocate for authentic momming. Her blog, The Thinking Branch, is a community that aims to find authenticity and perspective in discussions about motherhood and daily life. She also owns the Ohio-based family photography business Photography by Brea. When she isn’t writing, photographing or navigating life raising her three young kids, you can usually find her listening to country music or aggressively cheering for her favorite sports teams. Follow her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.