Motherhood Doesn’t Look as Glamorous as I’d Hoped. But I'm in a Battle for My Children’s Lives

The author and her kids. (Photo: Courtesy of Eden Strong)

In honor of Mother’s Day 2017, Yahoo Beauty is running #MyMomStyle essays on how notions of beauty, style, and motherhood mix.  

I’m tired.

No, actually, I’m exhausted. I was tired months ago, but today I barely recognize myself. Standing under the fluorescent lights of a tiny hospital bathroom, I’m a little bit shocked by the appearance of the person staring back at me. My disheveled hair and two-day-old clothes are a far cry from the girl who used to straighten her hair and put on makeup just to run to the gas station. My gaze is drawn to an unflattering zit on my chin — one that appeared after one too many meals were eaten out of a vending machine. The dark circles under my eyes glare back at me so intensely that for a minute I forget who I am and stare at a woman who appears to be some type of wounded fighter.

I am a fighter, in a battle that isn’t mine to win.

Eight years ago, when my daughter was born, I had all the hopes and dreams that most parents have when their children come into this world. Lying in a hospital bed, holding her in my arms, I knew that my life would never be the same. But, being just a month past my 25th birthday, I also began to plan how I’d get quickly back into shape while juggling the demands of a newborn.

As soon as I get out of this hospital, I’m going to make motherhood look good, I thought proudly to myself, willing to give my daughter everything that she needed yet not wanting to lose myself in the process. If only I had known.

As life often surprises us, the days ahead didn’t go according to plan. It was soon revealed that my amazing little girl — who in my eyes is perfect in every way — harbored a severe genetic imperfection. And not long after we were released from the hospital, I had to take her back for treatment.

Then, several years later — just a few months ago — I was again blindsided by the diagnosis of severe epilepsy in my 5-year-old son.

This was not how I was expecting motherhood to look.

Yet I hung on, not only to my plans but also to myself, for as long as I could. Among the hundreds of doctor appointments, and extended hospital stays, you’d find me there, holding the hand of a small, terrified child — all while feeling a little more tired than necessary because I’d gotten up an hour before I needed to, just to make myself look presentable for the day.

It felt like my world was falling apart, but I didn’t want to look like I was too. Still, having a sick child sucks the life right out of you. But it doesn’t immediately steal the identity from your soul, and the perceived beauty from your face. That takes time.

At first, you grasp tightly to the way you thought things would go, to who you thought you were supposed to be. But motherhood isn’t only about changing your body and your face; it’s also about changing your perspective.

Your preconceived ideas get set aside when everything in you is fighting to keep your children alive. You are a soldier in a battle that is not yours to fight, but you are still giving it everything you have, because you are a mother, and these children are your world.

I’m exhausted, and I feel wounded. I’m not as fit or as well put together as I had planned to be. My hair isn’t always done, and last week I accidentally put makeup on only one eye. I often spend my nights holding a seizing child, my days in a hospital room with my daughter.

Motherhood doesn’t look as glamorous on me as I’d hoped. I’ve completely lost the person that I thought I wanted to be to the lives of my children, and some days, I’m not sure that I will ever find my way back. I no longer have the confident, well-put-together face of motherhood that I had planned to wear so proudly.

Instead, I wear the face of a soldier. A weary, stress-wrinkled, desperate-for-a-wash, worry-filled face with hollow eyes that are fixated on the battle ahead. This is the face of motherhood for me, in a battle for my children’s lives.

This isn’t what I expected motherhood to be like, and this isn’t the way I had intended to portray it. My face tells no lies, but I’m realizing, that for once, I no longer care.

I have a different perspective on motherhood now and what it looks like for me. I am here, every day and every night. I am doing everything and anything I can to give my children what they need, because that is what a mother does.

I’m not giving up, because I’m too busy making motherhood look good — and that job goes well beyond what the world sees on my face.

You can follow Eden’s journey on her blog, Not My Shame to Bear.

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