Breaking the cycle of shame as a first time mom

This morning was rough. The apple of my eye, my sweet honey-bee, my precious darling fell off the bed. I had assumed he was falling back asleep in my arms and that assumption was awakened by a thud. My good friend over at milkandhoney describes the scene so perfectly well, there’s no need to detail out my immediate thought process, you can read it over here.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably figured out by now that I deeply love my son and I’m fighting anxiety everyday in trying to protect him. The “should have” plagued and raced through my mind all morning. I felt defeated. I felt I had failed. I felt shame.

On my drive into work I kept replaying the sound that crashed through my sleep over and over and over. I allowed this one sound and image to torment me, ridicule, and mock me. Replay over and over and over. Why? Why couldn’t I stop thinking about it? Why was I dwelling?

My husband asked me once what’s the fantasy behind my anxieties; why the pull and why so drawn to think these thoughts. I didn’t know the answer but I continued to ponder this over and over. What was it? Why do I do this to myself?

And then suddenly the words came to my mind… “because you deserve it”.

Ahh, there it is. Yup. My entire world is driven by the need to earn and deserve. If I haven’t deserved something good, I will go out of my way to try to make it up. Or I’ll bow my head and not allow myself to fully enjoy it, either or. I feel the need to earn, do, perform, deserve. But the really really really dark side to that is when things go wrong, when I go wrong, my deserving mentality goes into punishment. I deserve to be punished.

As a first time mom, I make mistakes. I’m still trying to figure this all out and I’m stumbling messily forward along the way. I have wrestled with shame whenever I made mistakes in the past, but the shame is heightened these days because my mistakes not only affect me, they affect my hongsong – my beautiful, innocent, “undeserving” of mistakes son. And so when I make a mistake, I don’t just let guilt creep in. I embrace shame when it knocks on the door to my heart and mind. I invite shame in because I feel I deserve it. I feel we belong together.

My goal and desire is for my son to feel secure, safe, and accepted. I’m realizing though that when I make mistakes and allow – force – myself to dwell on it, I’m really allowing my guilt, shame, and anxiety to feel secure, safe, and accepted. I give those things reign over my heart.  I give those things reign over him.

As I pondered, processed, and prayed through these things this morning on my drive in, I felt a mother bear frustration come in. No, I refuse to allow those things to take priority over my son. He will not be a casualty in my character struggles. Whatever world I live in, I will overflow that onto him and I refuse for him to be raised in a world of shame and fear. But how do I break free from this cycle?

And as I asked myself and God this question, I replayed that sound and that image that woke me up this morning five more times.

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post-tumble and doing perfectly fine, just impatient for some more puffs

I asked God, where is the grace for me? The grace and blanket of love I preach about and describe… where is my portion? Why can’t I receive that? Why is my portion punishment? Why must I be tormented? Why can’t I be free? And I’m realizing that God didn’t set that portion aside for me, I set it aside for myself. It wasn’t He or anyone else that was telling me I needed to punish myself, it was me. I was punishing myself. I was telling myself I deserved this. I was telling myself this is my portion. No one else was going to take my self-imposed punishment away because I was the one feeding this to myself.

I pulled up to a red light and sat in my car and thought about this.  I then had a silly thought I was about to push away but thought, “oh why not, anything for my dear boy”. So I sat in my car and very quietly, but very deliberately out loud, whispered out “I forgive you” to myself.

You know that feeling when your face starts to contort and the hot lava begins to bubble up in your eye ducts and you know that it’s coming? You know you’re suddenly having a strong reaction that you weren’t prepared for but there’s no way to stop it now? Yes, that.

There at the red light I began crying not realizing how desperately my soul needed to hear those words. How desperately I needed to know that it’s okay and that though I made a mistake, I didn’t fail. How desperately I needed to give grace and love to myself. How desperately I needed to forgive myself.So desperately.  And not just forgive myself, but receive the forgiveness from myself. That grace and blanket of love? It’s there, it’s always been there, but I was my biggest barrier in receiving it. I repeated those words to myself two more times before it began to feel a little lighter.

The sound and the image that haunted me this morning tried to come back but this time instead of embracing it, instead of receiving it, instead of fully inviting it into my heart mind and soul, I fought it. If I’m going to be whole hearted, then Christ takes that seat, love takes that seat, not shame. A piece of me wanted to replay that image because honestly that’s what I know, but I fought it back and I chose to break the cycle of shame instead.

The light turned green and I put my car in gear and moved forward. It was time to move forward. It’s time to move forward.


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