The Joy and Pain of Motherhood


Yes, motherhood is an experience of indescribable joy, but it also can be one of deep sadness and alienation. How can you maintain open communication with God and others to survive the pain?

When I first married my husband, I remember thinking that our wedding day was the best day of my life. This feeling lasted until I gave birth to our first daughter and physically held the fruit of our covenant in my arms for the first time. The intensity of joy that is experienced when a woman first becomes a mom, no matter the form, is indescribable.

Nothing is like motherhood. From the pregnancy announcement all the way to the birth of a grandchild, there is great joy during each stage of motherhood. And that joy is often on public display in photo albums, birth announcements, and social media.  We see pictures of the new mom smiling with fresh make-up on while holding a just bathed newborn. We see pictures of a couple joyfully receiving a child in adoption. But what we do not see is the great pain of the labor prior to that joy. Pain precedes the joy, because the joy is the celebration and the fruit of enduring the pain. 

Just as the joy of motherhood is part of each phase, so is pain. Sleepless newborn nights, a potty training toddler, struggles in school, and easing a child’s broken heart are just a few of the ways we experience this pain. But in our attempt to uphold our “supermom” status, we do not openly share our challenges with others and pretend that the hurt and pain is not there. Because we fear judgement and criticism from others and want other moms to think that we have it all together, we put on a mask.  The lack of acknowledgement of the pain only alienates us from others and others from us.  And falsely, this alienation may cause us to believe we are the only one feeling this way. We may even begin to feel guilty about feeling the pain if our belief is that good mothers embrace joy at all times.

This alienation and guilt can be felt even more intensely in loss that comes from a death of a child, a miscarriage, an adoption relinquishment, or other life circumstances which separate us from a child. And it seems that the greater the pain in motherhood the greater the likelihood of alienation and guilt. Sometimes, mothers even turn away from God when motherhood is not what they expected.

It is necessary to remain connected and have open communication with others and God in order to endure and survive the pain. Loneliness only makes the pain more intense. Finding support from other moms is freeing. Whether the pain in motherhood is common or more tragic, it is possible, over time, to experience God’s peace and rest in God’s grace. Just as we support each other in the joy, we need to support each other in the pain. Just as we lean on Him in the joy, we can lean on Him in the pain. Moms, we must stay encouraged and remember that “weeping lasts through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). 

By Aneece Alicea, MA, LMHC

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