Don't beat yourself up...

"Don't beat yourself up!"

I've heard the phrase a million times. Don't tear yourself down… give yourself a break. I've SAID it a million times.

It never became real to me until yesterday. I woke up in the morning feeling like I was hit by a truck. Emotionally, physically… the day was not starting off on the right foot. And it was all my fault.

You see, I went to bed late the night before. Later than I have in months. I stayed up late chatting online with some friends. One friend mentioned something about my parenting decisions and set off a downward spiral of emotions, second guessing myself, and eventually tears (the first in months - kind of huge for me).

I tossed and turned all night. I second guessed my decisions. I wondered if I was making life more difficult for Sunday than it needed to be. I wondered if I was being too selfish in my role as a mother. I wondered if even my own mom thought I was not a good mom.

I watched the clock. When will Sunday wake up? I can't wait to hold her, to cuddle her, to put her back to sleep. Because I love her so much and I want her to know it.

I waited for Tommy to wake up. I needed him. I needed his encouragement and reassurance.

I prayed. I prayed for comfort, for encouragement, but most of all for discernment. You see, these recent weeks have been so tough. Sunday is transitioning from sleeping a lot to sleeping a lot less and I am having a hard time deciphering her cries. Is she tired? Hungry? Just learning that she can have opinions and express them? I want to respect her needs and guide her wants. Is she too young for this?

I prayed. I waited. I watched the clock.

When Tommy woke at 4:30am I rolled over and immediately bombarded him with my emotions and concerns. Poor guy. He is such a great father and husband, and he takes my emotions so seriously. He respects them and I am so grateful for it. After talking to him for a bit I picked up a book to read about healthy sleeping habits (for babies, of course). Of course, if I can read and learn more about what is going on in this chapter of her life, I can be better prepared. And that makes me a good mom, right? I read a little bit and waited for Sunday to wake up again. You know, so I could hold her, cuddle her, and soothe her back to sleep.

All of this, so I could reassure myself that I was a good mom.

In the meantime, I was placing all of these doubts on myself. Literally beating myself up emotionally. I have never, in all my life, second guessed myself so much. I spent the rest of the morning in this darkness of questioning my decisions, seeking comfort and encouragement from my mom and husband, and quite frankly, really angry at my friend.

Motherhood can be a lonely, lonely road sometimes. In life, my healing process has always been to talk about issues… talk it through with understanding friends. Whatever the problem, discussing it has always helped me process it. But this time? This time I was so scared. Parenting is such a personal thing. I don't know a single person who would say they agree with 100% of our parenting decisions thus far, but that's mostly because I am afraid to ask. What if they find out some of our decisions and they disagree? It can cause such tension, defensiveness, and insecurity between moms who were once great friends. I've discovered that parenting opinions run deep and are so extremely personal.

Finally, come Sunday's mid-day nap time I decided to take a nap myself. Naturally, a bit of sleep does a body (and mind) good. I woke refreshed, feeling sooo much better. I had clarity, finally. I am a good mom and I know it. I am just a different mom than this friend.

And now… now I know what "beating yourself up" really means. I know how hard it is to stop. I know how lonely motherhood can be. I know how personal parenting decisions are. I know a little bit more about healthy baby sleeping habits. I know how supportive my mom and husband can be.

Just another adventure in life… fine tuning me… teaching me. I am grateful for the lessons learned in the last 36 hours. And now I really know what I am saying when I encourage a friend to not "beat yourself up."

Liz Cook

Liz Cook is a wedding, birth, and motherhood photographer based in Central Virginia. Her intuition and creative perspective allow her to connect both professionally and personally with her subjects, and thus, her portfolio is saturated with authentic emotion. Whether she's sharing her story with fellow entrepreneurs or enjoying quality time with her husband and two daughters, Liz is both present and passionate about capturing and celebrating life. Her work has been featured by O "Oprah" Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Glitter Guide, Essence Magazine, domino, Rue Magazine, among others.