My journey into motherhood.

I don’t know how much I’ve shared in this space about my own journey into motherhood but I think it’s time to share all the bits and pieces. I’ve found comfort in the sharing of stories throughout my life. The darkest of thoughts have seen light because someone’s vulnerable story let me know that I was not alone. I believe in the power of testimony.

Years ago… when I was praying for a family to grow, love, and nurture.  I would dream about the type of mother I would be one day. The longer I waited (7 years to become a mother through adoption and 10 years with infertility before surprise twins) the more I learned about motherhood from those around me. The more I learned about patience and the more I learned exactly what type of mother I wanted to be.

When motherhood finally found me it was everything I prayed for and much MUCH more. With as much as I adored and loved my family and friend’s babies I truly could have never imagined the amount of love that would consume me the instant they placed my baby girl in my arms. Everything about that first year was a fairytale. It wasn’t easy.. we had all the struggles you would expect with a newborn. But if i’m honest… the years I waited to have her in my arms prepared me for this season. I truly felt in my element… that this is what I was made for. Over that first year of her life I came to be thankful for even the most painful of years that I waited. I realized it was one of the biggest blessings in my life next to finally getting to love her earth side.

When she was 18 months old we made the hard decision to leave our amazing community and friends in TN and move back to MI to be with family. This opportunity to move back happened abruptly and we had only 3 weeks to find a place to live, make moving arrangements, pack, sell our house, and say goodbye to our first home, the most amazing friends, church, and community that anyone could ever hope for. It happened so fast that I wasn’t able to truly process or recognize that this experience was traumatic for our little family. My marriage became significantly strained immediately.

A few months after moving we found ourselves with an opportunity to grow our family once again but this time felt different. Our sweet second baby girl was born just a few months after moving… the most beautiful baby humanly possible. She ate and slept like a champ… truly a dream newborn stage. 

But this season was awful. I felt empty…. sad… lonely…. and ashamed of my feelings. I was depressed and unhappy and my husband was dealing with similar feelings.  How could we possibly feel this way when we just welcomed this precious baby into our family?

I found a support group for families that dealt with depression after adoption. Apparently it’s a thing… but a thing that was too shameful to talk about so I was blindsided when it happened. My marriage began to feel irreparable.

When my second daughter was only 4 months old, in what felt like the most difficult and stressful season of my life, with the sadness of leaving my TN life still fresh, the shame of feeling like the worst mother to my newborn baby, and a crumbling marriage…. we found out I was pregnant with twins.

So within 9 months our happy family of 3 moved away from everything we knew as home, welcomed a second baby girl, killed our marriage, and became pregnant with twins (after 10 years of infertility we had no idea this was even possible).

This is where I knew that God was still along for this crazy ride. You know how they say “You can’t have a baby to make your relationship better”? Babies are hard. They put a strain on your relationship. When we found out I was pregnant we were both terrified. We already knew what newborn life was like (now times two!) and that we were currently trying to repair our marriage.  BUT something miraculous happened during my pregnancy. God used it to heal our marriage. It brought us together in a way I didn’t think was possible anymore.

Fast Forward to life with two newborns, a 12 month old, and a 22 month old. We felt like a team but we hadn’t yet dealt with all the various traumas from the previous year and throw a rising pandemic in there just for fun… I had a lot of unaddressed baggage to deal with, but the first year after the boys were born life felt blissful and full (just got an eeeeensy bit harder once they became mobile – whoever said the newborn stage was the hardest did not had 4 babies under 2). My arms and heart were fuller than I ever imagined possible.

Of course not dealing with all of the issues, running my business from home, keeping house, and having all 4 babes home with me as they were getting older and VERY mobile, curious, mischievous, etc… got difficult. I found myself in a state of overwhelm constantly, while trying desperately to be present with the babies that I prayed so fervently for.

Last summer we came home to our house destroyed by a water leak. I’m not going to get into all the details of that adventure because it will take a year just to explain. If you’ve been around my little corner of the internet for a while you probably already know some of the story.

To summarize.. it was bad…insurance is bad… it is just bad bad.

As I am typing this the 6 of us have been out of our house for 7 months and work has not begun on our home yet and we seem to get disappointing news daily that pushes us further and further from returning home anytime soon. This situation was the breaking point for me. This was where all of the events of the last few years… the good and bad, came to a head. I burned out and had a mental break. My health declined quickly to the point that I could barely function daily.

When I think back on all of this… or just try to remember the last 5 years…the most devastating part to me is that I can’t remember life with my babies. My 18 month baby girl that I moved to MI with will be 7 years this week and I missed it.  I tried desperately to be present… to remember bringing my second daughter home and how it felt to fall in love with her or her first smile, my oldest’s last winter with me before she went off to kindergarten, my boys’ first steps and chubby little bodies and the way they could both fit perfectly in my neck. I know it happened. I have a camera roll with 75,900+ images and videos to prove that it did, in fact, happen. But I did not have the capacity to be fully present.

I found myself yelling more and more, patience dwindling, and being more controlling with my children then I ever dreamed I would be. When I look at the mother I’ve been in the last few years it is NOT who I imagined or wanted to be. I do feel robbed of precious time with my babies. The hurt, stress, and pain of the last few years has created someone that I don’t recognize. Someone who has forgotten to be thankful. Someone who has overlooked the many blessings.

In the last few months, since arriving at my breaking point, I have attempted to start selfcare. Realizing that there is no way to be the mom and wife I want to be if I am not healthy. I have a lot to deal with both physically and mentally, but the clouds are parting. The old me is sneaking back in and I feel like I am seeing more clearly.

It’s crazy what an unhealthy version of ourself will believe.

I have learned that I NEED grace and that kids give it freely… I HAVE to give it to myself as well and that the guilt I carry does not define my motherhood.

In fact… it has been holding me back. I have always been a beauty seeker, but when I am overwhelmed with shame or guilt it prohibits me from truly seeing the full scope of just how beautiful this life is.

I have missed things. And I will miss more. That is life. But I will not miss everything and I only get this one chance to be the mother I want to be to my littles. So when you see my unapologetically romanticized visions of motherhood, know that it’s coming from a world of deep acknowledgment for what the word “mother” means in all of it’s raw bits and pieces both good and bad. It’s coming from a place of having to ask my babies for forgiveness more times than I’d like, but also knowing that I deserve to appreciate this journey in the most beautiful way that I can.

If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope and not feeling all butterflies and rainbows in your current motherhood journey or in life…. I promise you are not alone. I also promise beautiful moments are still happening even if you can’t see them or remember them. I cherish the moments that I find in pictures more than anything because it’s proof of my dreams coming true and a reminder to fight for myself, family, and the life I want to be living.

Alissa Saylor is an award winning lifestyle and portrait photographer in west Michigan specializing in intimate motherhood, family, baby, maternity, and newborn photography. 

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