The Pain Of Parenthood

And How To Keep Going In-Spite Of It!

It’s one of the hardest journeys that human beings embark on: parenting. With all of the ups and downs, trials and defeats, challenges and often uphill climbs, how do you find hope? Where does the strength come from to face one more day? One word…confession!

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Our son has a mental illness. His brain was damaged by alcohol before he was born. After his birth he suffered trauma. That exposure to trauma changed the way his brain functions. My son currently is unable to live at home. Not every parent’s experience will be the same as mine. It is my hope that through sharing my story, other parents who are feeling this pain will feel less alone.

The ache begins in my stomach. At first it’s a slight twinge, an anxiety, an uncertainty. The pressure spreads to my chest, pressing down on my shoulders. It’s difficult to move or lift my eyes. Like a tunnel of darkness, my world narrows. The pain is constant. It’s been like this for years. Ever present. Sometimes overwhelming, mostly numb. Unlike the agony of labor that brought this child into the world, this pain is without the hope of joy. It hits in waves but the relief never comes.

Can others see the pain in my happy face. Do they see the joy that’s lacking from this moment? I wear my disguise everywhere I go. Happy mom, good neighbor, helpful friend.

I wake up each morning, hopeful that the day will bring good news. I’m fully aware that it may not. The phone rings and my heart skips a beat. The call is from my son’s boarding school. This is the first time I’ve felt anything today, and the feeling is fear. My husband answers the phone and I listen to his end of the conversation. It’s not good. My son has made another bad choice, lost his pass to visit us, got in a fight. The other boy is hurt. That twinge in my heart has gone silent again, numbness. I long to feel something again, but I’m afraid.

My other kids are playing outside and they are so happy. I’m doing something right with them, but how? How did I fail one child so deeply? I can’t answer the question and so I don’t. I fight to be present with my other children today. Close off the nagging burdensome questions and feel the joy and peace of my other children. Sometimes I succeed. I really do. I read a book to my littlest one. I braid my daughter’s hair. I walk hand-in-hand with my husband and smile at my niece. But the burden is always there. I carry it with me to work. I’m sure the man at the coffee shop sees the pain resting on my shoulders. He gives me a large coffee instead of the medium I ordered, at no extra charge. I smile and thank him but does the smile reach my eyes? I’m not sure.

I curl up next to my husband on the couch. We watch a funny movie, and for the most part, I laugh at all the right places. The window is open a crack and I hear the peaceful chirp of the crickets. The house is calm. Each child is tucked safely into bed. I’ve prayed with all of them. I’ve kissed all of them. All except the one. All except my son. The movie ends and I climb the stairs to my bed, with each step the burden grows heavier. I’m passing my son’s old room when the waves of pain hurl through my body again. My heart feels as if it is being pressed beyond measure.

I can’t say a word. My husband wraps his arms around me and my pillow brings me no comfort. The stillness of this night is the constant reminder that my son is not with me. I resist the urge to cry and then I can resist no longer. I allow myself to remember holding him as a baby. I allow myself to remember his sweet smile. I will my arms to remember our last hug, my fingers to remember the softness of his hair, my ears to remember his voice. It hurts so much I wish I hadn’t allowed the memories to start, but they are here. All these memories, swirling around in my mind and my heart. All the sadness I’ve stuffed down inside of me releases, no longer a brewing storm but a tsunami of emotions. In the midst of my sobbing, my husband prays, for peace, for change, for our family, for our son. Eventually I can cry no more and my sleep is peaceful. Not plagued with thoughts of my own failure, for the first time in a long time, I just sleep.

This pain of parenthood, it is guaranteed. It will come. You will worry. You will fear. You will experience loss and disappointment that you cannot even imagine. Despite your circumstances, you will feel like a failure. It’s ok to feel those feelings and it’s ok to cry. Most of all, it’s ok to hand it to the Lord. The pain of parenthood is a burden you were not meant to carry alone.

Truth is, you’re not alone. There is hope. And there is power in confession. That’s a life-changing truth we’ve discovered in our own journey. When we’re honest and open about our pain and our struggles we find peace because we’re no longer using all of our strength to hold things back and keep up a front. If that’s you, it’s time to stop. It’s time to let it go and find freedom in camaraderie. Are you ready?

Question: Tell us about your pain, your struggle, your hurts on the journey of parenthood. That’s what this blog exists for. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

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  • Hillary Alexander

    I can relate to this. I have spent this summer with tears silently rolling down my cheeks. I realized they are years of trying too hard to be strong for too long.
    The bad choices have been escalating for my son. I have prayed he finds a way to turn it around, with help. The burden that comes when you have one child lost in the dark is hard.

    • Kristin Berry

      Hillary, I can really understand were you are coming from. “lost in the dark” that is exactly the way to describe my son. I’m hopeful for you and your son, and for mine too!

      • Hillary Alexander

        Kristin, when I look at my son, I see the person my son could be. I am sure you see that with your son as well. I want to help him to find this person, and come out of the dark.
        I hope we can help our son’s find their way out of the dark. They have so much to show the world.

    • Hang in there Hillary. We know how that is and have prayed the same prayers! You are not alone.

  • Wow this sure hit home today, I by no means understand this pain your going through but I do know this……the pain is REAL. Ours might come from a different place but it feels the same, the sadness, the failure and the struggles. I have 2 adopted boys and 1 almost adopted girl, all from the foster system and when I say they have issues that is an understatement. But I have one son that I fear for his future for sure. He is 9 and has ADHD, born to a drug and alcohol addicted Mother. I experience bouts of crying and depression, and I hate to admit there are times when I feel that adoption was a mistake though I would not change it! He is constantly having to be corrected with his nasty behavior and ways, me can be mean and bullying others. I HATE that in him and it is a tiring job to ALWAYS be on top of it. Most of the days I cry though I do have a growing faith in the Lord, knowing He would not leave me alone in this. Though some days it feels like I can NOT do it another day. Wow sorry for rambling on but it seems this is an issue that has been in my heart, knowing this will have to be a confession blog post for my own blog.

    Thanks for sharing and opening your heart! ~hugs~

    • Kristin Berry

      Oh, I understand where you are coming from! Even though we know that these things were not caused in our children by us, they still seem to be a reflection of us. Hang in there. I believe God has a plan for each of our children and is going to tell an amazing story through them and through us!

    • Debra, such moving words. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing openly here. We have a lot of parents who find hope from the comment section of our posts alone! We are grateful.

  • Nikki

    Thank you Kristen for being so honest and putting my feelings into words. We just sent our almost 12 yr old son to a year long residential program for help. He has mental health issues as well as ADHD and ODD. It just hurts so bad. It’s been a little over 2 weeks now and the way you described things is almost exactly how I feel. I keep trying to tell myself that I’m doing this for him as well as my older daughter and my marriage but it still feels like I’ve failed my son. My husband and I prayed over our decision and I had a clear sense from God through prayer that I was to trust Him….which I do but it doesn’t make it any easier now.

    • Kristin Berry

      Nikki, I understand that completely. Of course you are doing this for your son. This will benefit your marriage and your daughter too. It’s ok to have peace and to spend time building up the rest of your family. I struggle with feeling like I’m failing miserably because my son can’t be home but then I look around and see the healing that is happening with my other children and I’m so thankful for it. Hang in there!

  • beccaed

    Thank you for sharing! I think people are afraid of sharing their burdens, as everyone wants to look like a perfect parent. And, none of us want to be judged. The last year and a half have been so difficult…finding out I would be the mom of a special needs child, finding out he would need open heart surgery and lots of therapies….and then problems with 2 other kids, and changing day cares for the 3rd time in 2 years! Then there was doubt that overcame me…and horrible anxiety. I will never forget my dad yelling at me and saying I needed to be there for my kids and hug them and I broke down and told him I was a kid too…and desperately needed a hug. I spent the next 15 minutes snuggled up in my dad’s lap being held and hugged as I cried….A big ugly hysterical cry. I still feel like I’m failing a child or 2…and scared. But, I’ve turned it over to God and asked him to put the right people on my life for me to lean on…and no for them to lean on me.

    • We’ve been there! Raising children with special needs is such an uphill climb at times. We know the struggle. We also know how difficult it is to learn that news. Hang in there. We are in your corner and we hurt with you!

    • Kristin Berry

      Wow, you really are juggling so much. It’s so hard some days to face all the challenges. What a good dad you have to let you have a good cry and a good hug too 😉 That’s the kind of father we have in God. He wants the best for us even in the midst of all these struggles! You’re doing a great job with all your babies. Hang in there!

  • Erin Long

    Thank you for sharing so honestly! I worry about my two girls whom we have been fostering for two years. Right now, I’m much more worried about whether or not we’ll be able to adopt them (or if they will live with their abusive father) than I am about future mental health problems. It’s all wrapped up in an overall fear for them. I’m trying so hard to not let it influence how I parent, but it’s nearly impossible. They are exhausting already. The lack of permanency adds to their feelings of confusion and chaos. My 7 year old has been diagnosed with PTSD and has symptoms of disassociation. My 5 year old has RAD symptoms. She is very clingy and prone to tantrums. I feel like I only have enough emotional energy to be a good mom for them a few minutes a day. I’m constantly faced with the contradiction of loving them so much, yet wanting to get away from them. Knowing I would do anything for them, then feeling like I would do anything for a moment of peace! On bad days, or when bad days turn into bad weeks, I wonder if I’m the right person for the job. I pray for them continuously. We’ll find out any day now if their father passes his home study. Either way, I’ve resolved to be the best parent I can be, trusting that God will work out their futures for good. When I feel like I’m failing miserably, it really helps to see that I’m not the only one. Thank you!

    • Kristin Berry

      You are so welcome. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • Laurie McNall Hinman

    Thank you. Thank you for being honest and sharing your pain. I am at a point where I am numb a lot of the time — the behavior, the distruction, the lying… it’s a lot to deal with. But the hardest part is the brokenness I feel for my children. To love them deeply, to be the object of their abuse in order to save them out of theirs, to feel so hopeless for their life here on earth…. it’s overwhelming, and not just “at times” but all the time. It’s ever present in your thoughts. No matter where you are. And I hate it when people ask “How are you?” because my mind is screaming “I’m stressed! I’m overwhelmed! I’m broken!! I’m hurting!!!” but my mouth says “I’m fine.”

    • Kristin Berry

      I completely understand that! Hang in there!