Lately It’s Been Hard

*Long post ahead*

It was a typical Sunday. My family of now seven was going to church for the first time since our baby was born and she was not happy about it. The poor girl had been up all night crying, upset belly and constipated. To top it off, it was Easter Sunday and my four older children were upset because we wouldn’t allow them to have their Easter baskets until after church. As we rushed into the chapel, I knew it was obvious how big of a wreck we were. My baby cried the entire time, my two year old battled for the attention of being of the youngest that she was so used to, and my three older children fought with each other and my husband and I.

I recognized how out of control my family seemed, and I kept whispering to my husband, “We should probably go” to which he replied, “Everyone that has kids understands” or “They’re not being that bad”. What he didn’t understand was, he wasn’t the one that got the under handed remarks after sacrament meeting.

“Wow, you sure have your hands full.”
“I bet you’re done after this baby.”
“All of those kids, you must be exhausted.”

and my all time favorite,

“I always feel like I’m struggling with my family, but then I watch your’s and I don’t feel so overwhelmed.”

I ended up spending the rest of church in the mother’s room with a screaming baby. I left church that day feeling discouraged, however, lucky that for just one Sunday no one commented on the behavior of my kids, or how tired I must be, or anything that made me feel was a reflection of how our family was viewed….or so I thought.

Three days later my favorite line about my family and children was replaced by a new one. Another mom from my ward was talking to a family member of mine and made mention of my children in church and said she and her husband decided to stop at the number of children they had after watching my family in church. I felt defeated. While I know it was not meant to be critical and was said in good humor, I felt defeated.

The Sunday following this, I spent the meeting holding my sleeping baby struggling to hold back my tears. The next few Sundays I have felt depressed, anxious, and really struggled with even wanting to be at church. Every noise my children make, every time my husband or I have to quiet them, I have to stop myself from looking around the chapel to see who is noticing.

I even debated not having my baby blessed at church but at our home instead. I struggled on the morning of my daughter’s blessing to make it to church. Only to be greeted with, “When we saw you guys were to church on time, we knew it must be a special occasion.” To top it off, the microphone didn’t work so I wasn’t able to hear my daughter’s blessing. I know that is a selfish thing of me, but I really wanted to have that boost to my faith. Needless to say my faith and my self-esteem are really struggling lately.

Granted I’m sure postpartum depression has played a role in this, but I don’t know if anyone sees the other side of my life.

A mother that works full time but to avoid childcare costs balances her schedule with her husband’s and works late many nights so that she can spend time with her kids in the evenings. A mother of five small children that spends her days helping them to grow to be successful, happy individuals. A mother that daily feels like less of a mother because I am not able to be a stay at home mom.

A wife that is still struggling with the feelings of betrayal as she and her spouse do what they can to repair their marriage. Who relies completely on the companionship of her husband, her best friend, but is scared of being hurt again.

A woman that feels out of sync with the other women in her area, not feeling a sense of community but isolated. A woman that feels very much alone.

A sister and daughter that feels disconnected from her family, not knowing how to let them know how broken her heart feels so often. Knowing that they love her, but have lives of their own and aren’t able to do more than offer words of comfort.

A girl still trying to recover from the scars of abuse, bad choices and hard decisions. Not because I don’t trust the atonement or in the power of prayer, but because healing takes time, and it was something that was put off for so long.

Recently I read a post online about the tent of Mormonism and not judging. I was then led to another post about the other side of “choosing to be offended” and I cried reading them. I cried a lot reading them. I do my best to not be judgmental, I do my best to be a good person, but so often I feel that I am required to hide who I am in order to fit the ideal view of a typical LDS woman. I try so hard to not take offense, knowing that people in general do not mean to sound critical, also reprimanding myself about worrying about what others think of me. Shouldn’t my faith be the only thing that keeps me going to church?

It should, but a lot of days, it’s so hard. It’s so hard to walk through doors that I will always be a stranger. Not a neighbor, or a friend, but a stranger. A stranger that was told the last time she talked in church that her talk was inappropriate and encouraged teens to be promiscuous (I talked about my past and how I got pregnant in high school and my adoption story). A stranger that’s been told that I couldn’t have truly repented or else I wouldn’t be so open about my past. A stranger that when an individual in a stake position from the ward I grew up in (yeah, sadly still in the same stake I was in growing up) asked about my divorce when I was largely pregnant, and when I pointed out that I was obviously pregnant and not divorced being told, “Well, we all know that marriage isn’t necessary to get pregnant”. I am trying to not be offended, but it’s been hard. I have found that trying to fit in has been more exhausting than just being open about who I am.

I am a child that lost a parent when I was young. I am a survivor of rape. I am a birth mom. I am a recoverer of drug and alcohol use. I am a working mother. I am someone that struggles with mental illness. I am a victim of infidelity. I am someone that has faith but struggles going to church.

All of these things are not things I use to make people feel bad for me, they aren’t things I am even proud of, but they are things that make me who I am. They are the reasons I am empathetic. They are the reasons I reach out to those around me that I sense are struggling to feel accepted. They are the reason I give second (and more) chances to those around me. They are the reasons I know when days feel like they won’t end, I have done harder things.

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