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Inadequacies and Motherhood

Updated: Apr 9

I often feel inadequate.

Inadequacy is a part of me. It’s a feeling that I learned – accepted, embraced and have never been willing to let go. It’s an ever-present awareness of darkness looming over my shoulder. At the worst of times, feelings of inadequacy spiralled into anxiety, depression, self-deprecation – self-harm. It materialized into a thousand different thoughts – some that left me sitting somewhere lost in time, awake at night, and immersed in grief.

I have sometimes imagined what it would be like to accept myself – to embrace forgiveness for my mistakes, the decisions I couldn’t reverse, the dreams I haven’t reached, and the things I could never control. But the idea that I am not enough, maybe even worthless, was always easier to identify with. Perhaps it was a coping method – but thinking that I was not enough always pushed me at least to question whether I could be better. It wasn’t always a bad thing.

Seven months ago, I had a child. For the longest time, I didn’t believe that she was possible. I had suicidal ideations for years. I was on endless combinations of medications with frustrating side effects. I gave up on myself twice. The idea of motherhood seemed out of reach. I would never be good enough for anyone, and I couldn’t bring someone into this world under the guise that I was stable. But she fought me. She came to be – and I accepted her into my life.

But as much as I love this child, my feelings of inadequacy are heightened with her. I have never felt more inadequate than as a mother – even more so than a partner, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, or a human being. Maybe I feel more inadequate because I care too much. I could give up on mostly everyone else, including myself, but not her.

I know every woman has their own twisted journey, moments of self-doubt, and frustration. But this is mine. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t be something for her, to give her everything she needs.

It started over a period – where she cried unimaginably – from hunger and was underweight. I could re-hash the what ifs, the discussions, the research, the assumptions, everything else my partner and I tried, and all the people we involved. But the truth was that my body could not produce what she needed – breastmilk. I was part of a 15 percent statistic that couldn’t do something other mothers could – at least at a volume she needed. I failed her.

Nobody knew. I certainly didn’t share with friends or family because of how I am – fear of self-judgment, ignorance (or outright silence) from those who I thought would care, and hating myself more than I already do. I just recoiled into my dark place. There was an alternative for her. There would always be an alternative for her, but still I believed I let her down. For some reason, I kept on trying old and exploring new things. I continued believing that the harder I tried, it would improve. But it only got worse. The day I gave up, I remember looking at the bottle that was supposed to feed her, and there were only a few drops at the bottom. I cried the final time for that reason, my partner hugged me, and I let go. For months and nights, I cried silently every time I pumped, especially since she started to refuse nursing quite early.

The story didn’t end there.

Five months earlier, I switched my contraceptive pill to a progestogen-only mini pill – Cerazette - because my doctor advised that my regular birth control pill could affect breastfeeding. For the first time in a few years, I was experiencing constant suicidal ideations almost every hour. I felt like I could not wake up in the morning, even when she was crying and screaming but I forced myself to.

I didn’t think it was post-partum because I had felt elated when she arrived in my world. Even though I suffered depression on and off, I could discern between experiencing love for my child and feeling withdrawn and detached. But a few months in, I felt like I was vaulted back to the worst of times – times when I just didn’t want to live, where I could easily contend with being wiped off the face of this earth. The ideations were horrifying and at my grasp. Her face, my partner’s face, just floated away into darkness. I saw it all happening like a repetitive loop in my head for days. I could disappear, and it would be okay.

My partner convinced me to go off the medicine immediately. I didn’t think to look at the pill instructions since birth control had never been an issue for me, but Cerazette prompts suicidal episodes. One day, I fell over crying, screaming hysterically on the couch. The repetitive loop played over and over in my head. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I cried until I blacked out. I remember my partner vaguely running around in panic with the baby trying to call for help, When I woke up, I felt numb. I couldn't bring myself to look at either of them - I felt so worthless.

Eventually, in the following days, the suicidal ideations went away after I went off the medicine. The depression stayed, but I learned to cope. I remembered what it was like to bring myself up from the worst. I had to – for her.

Saying out loud that I have accepted feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness reminds me that I need help. As much as I sometimes wish they would go away, the feelings of inadequacy will stay. I need to work on myself for them to go away. I had been seeing psychiatrists and taking medicines for years, and then the day I left one life for the other, I stopped. I know this is part of the problem. But it is easier said than done – it has always been easier said than done.

I feel unstable --- like I cannot be anything for her. Before she came, I was fumbling, grappling with my identity, and navigating a pivot in a life full of peaks and valleys. I was trying to publish as many pieces as possible days before she arrived. I had a networking meeting the morning I went into labour.

Days after she was born, I interviewed for a job I didn’t want. The sole purpose in my mind was to create stability, to show my child that I could be something for her instead of a wanderer – to be what I used to be – ambitious, motivated in a different sense. Between getting up multiple times a night to nurse and figuring her out, I worked on case studies and preparation for the fourth and fifth interviews. Every time I disappeared to talk to someone, I thought of her in the next room - my heart wasn't in it. I didn’t get the job, and I am glad because I would have hated it. But I was so scared of being unstable for her, and those feelings continued. Once again, I must figure myself out. But, easier said than done.

I am not sure why I chose to put this all on paper today, to vomit everything I have been thinking and feeling. But, for months, I have kept this all in. I have let go of some of these feelings through depression, through intense periods of sadness. In other ways, I have let go of feelings through just living – by watching my child, experiencing her growth, and forgetting all the worries in my head. Today maybe I needed this – to just write.

But beyond today, perhaps acknowledging all this will help me take little steps to improve -- for her.

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