Motherhood is not my identity.
Maternal mental health is not my identity.
Hi, my name is Rebecca, I'm a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with maternal mental illness.
I fight from a place of victory over anxiety and OCD with intrusive thoughts as well as depression. I happen to also be married with 5 living children at home and I co-founded a really cool organization.
I want you to pay close attention to how I have chosen to introduce myself. How I identify myself. Through my own journey through the darkness I have found that we place so much emphasis on our identity, but we often misplace our identity at the same time.
Now some of our readers may not be familiar with Christian scripture so let me give you a quick rundown.
Believers follow the scripture:
Galatians 2:20 English Standard Version (ESV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Now that's not to say that I am not a mother because I most certainly am but it's not my identity and it took a lot of heart ache for me to realize that.
The turmoil happened in a different way with each child, but I'll use the birth of my 4th the one who well got me started on this path.
At the time I was a home schooling, Christian, crunchy mom. A cloth diapering, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, home-birthing mom. This was my identity. I went to church and had a strong relationship with my church family, but I misunderstood where my identity truly was. When my planned home birth didn't go as I expected, I felt a loss of identity. I felt like a failure. I didn't belong in my natural birth community anymore because I didn't have my natural home birth. I had a cesarean under general anesthesia. To add to the loss of self, when I had breast feeding problems, my identity as a breastfeeding mom was taken away. When I needed to place my oldest child in public school, for the sake of my mental health at the time, another identifier was stripped away from me.
All of these events exacerbated the distress. I saw them as an identity crisis.
Have you ever introduced yourself to someone or met someone new and when you asked them the question "what do you do" they answered with a "I am" statement? Perhaps someone has said to you "Hey what do you do for a living" and your reply has been "I am a teacher; I am a stay-at-home mom; I am an account executive". All of these “I am” answers, but the question was what you do, not who you are.
So why do we place our identity in being a mom or in my case a mental mom?
Your identity is who you are and being a mother is such a huge part of who you are, but it doesn't take away who you were before, or you will become.
Maybe it's time we stopped building women up throughout pregnancy to replace herself with this new identity. It seems once the full transition has occurred, and new moms feel lost, we fail to offer quality support. We need to quit trying to change their identity, and simply support people where they are and as who they are from the get go.
You see when you place your identity in what you do and what you do doesn't go the way you expected, or it's taken away from you, whether by choice or by tragedy, you’re set up for an identity crisis.
Of course, let's face it, becoming a new mom can be an identity crisis in its own. Whether one is a new mom for the first time or the sixth time, there must be support for this transition.
I have found that if my identity isn't solid in my beliefs and in line with Jesus Christ as my higher power, I am going to have an identity crisis. Thus, it is important for motherhood and faith to be able to be entwined with the person so as not to lose portions of self. Pastors, women's ministry leaders, and moms group directors, I'm calling you out specifically right now: take the time to remind the moms you are working with that their identity is so much more than just “mother”. Remind them of their true identity and encourage them through motherhood to embrace the main parts of their identity.
If you are not a Christian, take note of your use of “I am”.
Is it really who you are or is there so much more to you?
I bet there is a lot more.
You are beautiful. You matter. You are not alone in this identity crisis.
The Seventh Mom Project, Inc. is excited to support moms where they are at. We are currently running a SISTER Mom training to help other women discover how they can provide mentorship to our fellow moms. Following the Pilot, one of our SISTER Mom graduates, Sarah, has decided to start leading a Faith Based Mom Support group!
For moms that feel this would meet their needs:
Tuesday, February 5th @ 10:30 AM @ Relevant Church Tampa, 1705 N 16th St Tampa, FL 33605
The Seventh Mom does not discriminate, and we hope to spread maternal mental health support groups to every corner of Tampa Bay. We would love to see a group for every mom. Groups that can meet the needs for the wonderful diversity of mothers in our community. If you are interested in completing the SISTER Mom Training and running your own support group, please contact Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the