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To the mom who feels all her efforts are in vain
Motherhood is everything, writes Carmen Rasmusen Herbert. - photo by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
I have written this column with a very specific woman in mind. She is the woman who feels that even her best efforts havent been enough lately. She is tired. She is worn out. She is constantly giving, giving, giving, yet she feels all her efforts are in vain or perhaps go unnoticed. She feels that she just ... cant.

I know how much it means just to hear someone say, I understand. Ive been through that, too. So this is me reaching out, hoping someone will read this and know there is someone who has been though is going through the same thing you are.

A few months ago, I had my fourth son. The first few weeks were bliss. I was actually surprised at how well I was handling everything. Besides a horrible bout of mastitis and the endless laundry piles that never seemed to get smaller (or cleaner), I felt having four kids was busy, but not as stressful or tiring as I thought it would be. No big deal.


One night shortly after my husband went back to work, I had sort of a panic attack. I had never had one before, so I didnt know what was happening.

I called my dad, who is a physician, because I thought I might be having a stroke. Tearfully, I tried to describe my symptoms: crossed eyes, numb face, tingly arms and shortness of breath, but I couldnt even complete a sentence. I kept repeating myself. It was the scariest thing thats ever happened to me. After a long night in the ER, filled with CT scans, ultrasounds and EKGs, I went home with a sheet that read neurological migraine caused by stress and exhaustion, with instructions to take it easy and relax.

It was a huge wake-up call. And for the life of me, I did not know how on earth a mother of four children under the age of 6 was supposed to take it easy. I could let the housework slide. I could also get by with waffles or pasta for dinner, at least until I could figure out how to put my baby down without him screaming for more than 10 minutes at a time.

But what about simply relaxing? Was it possible? Did I deserve to?

I have never dealt with postpartum depression, but I felt I could be experiencing it for the first time. I felt overwhelmed, scared and so, so emotional. Most of all, I felt guilty. I felt guilty I was letting down my kids. I felt guilty that the most menial of tasks seemed monumental. And whenever Id muster up the energy to get something done, I was constantly interrupted by little emergencies. A bruised knee. A lost toy. A stinky diaper. A hungry belly. Normal things that happen every day, in every household with littles, in every country around the world.

But I couldnt handle them.

Having a father who's a psychiatrist is a huge blessing. I finally called him and said three words that still get stuck in my throat: I need help.

My sweet, loving father was exactly the person I needed to talk to. He was able to see, from an outsiders and professional perspective, how I was or wasnt handling things. He was able to give me suggestions and recommendations that changed my days from I cant to I can and I will.

Ladies, from one mother to another, let me say this: YOU ARE AMAZING. No one else can do what you do. No one. You have the innate ability to nurture, love and give selflessly for days, weeks, months and years at a time, constantly and on demand. Your shift never ends. You wear yourself out, sometimes to the breaking point, to care for your children.

And. Its. Hard.

Its also worth it. The flabby, doughy skin around my middle? Worth it. The bald spots on either side of my head from my hair falling out postpartum? Worth it. The long days, the long nights, the giving, the stretching, the refining all worth it. Because no one needs you like they need you. No one loves you like they love you. Even at our worst, they love us. And need us. And so we keep calm and carry on.

Let me share some things with you that have helped me get through the darkest of days:

1. Read something uplifting. For me, its always scripture, but it can be anything positive and inspiring that will help set the right mood for my day.

2. Listen to the wisdom of other mothers. I love calling my mom, grandma, sisters, friends and in-laws for parenting advice. I have received life-changing suggestions and tips during these conversations. Talk to other women. Open up. Shove the I dont want them to think differently of me fear behind you. No one has done it perfectly. Were all in this together.

3. Get help. Whether from a physician, counselor, therapist, friend, good book, nature walk or chocolate, I have learned that getting help is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, its necessary to be the kind of healthy, present, functioning and loving mother your children need.

One wonderful resource Ive discovered is the Power of Moms ( podcasts. These 20- to 30-minute podcasts give great advice about everything from making over your mornings and surviving life with littles to mommys quiet time and what to do when things feel out of control. I have a little nightly routine (great advice from the book Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman) during which I plug in my headphones, turn on my diffuser with some yummy-smelling oil inside, and sit in my giant recliner and nurse my baby while I listen to other mothers talk about what works for them. Its been such a healing and inspiring thing for me.

Motherhood is everything. Its the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Its the most heartbreaking, uplifting, trying and joyous thing. Whoever said you cant have it all wasnt a mother.

My friend and former bass player, Rachel Keane, wrote the most touching song about motherhood. Word for word, it describes how I have felt:

Newborn baby youve

Gone and changed me youve

Done it permanently

Some days violently

Newborn baby Im

At your mercy I

Wasnt ready for

All youre asking for

Love so deep

It buries me

Motherhood is everything.