The day I gave birth to my second son, I found a part of myself I hadn’t even realized was missing— my worth. My entire life, it had been right there in front of me. In my mother’s loving and encouraging words, dripping with desperation for me to just see it. In my now husband’s eyes the first time he shyly asked me on a date. In my first-born son’s needs that only I could meet. My worth was screaming at me to remove my blinders of self-doubt and silence my negative, internal monologue.
But it wasn’t until that day, the day I witnessed the phenomenal strength of my body, the raw determination of my mind, and the invincible power of my heart that I was finally able to see the infinite abundance of my worth.
Stuck in a Pit of Imaginary Inadequacy
Strong. Phenomenal. Independent. These are words I would never have used to describe myself before having my second child. Despite academic achievement and supportive friends and family, I have always struggled to see myself in a positive light.
My internal dialogue often undermined any confidence I had in my looks and my intelligence. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized that this behavior is called negative self-talk and, like most people who do it, I wasn’t even aware of how damaging it was. While negative self-talk is not a disease or condition, it’s a damn good explanation as to why I’ve always felt deeply challenged by my exterior perception and how I viewed myself.
My feelings of inadequacy increased when I met my husband. Not by his doing, but by my own. Subconsciously, I decided he was far too good for me. He was older than me, had a successful career in the military, and was financially stable. It’s not surprising that low self-esteem is a known proponent of marriage problems. Mine caused so much frustration and damage in our marriage early on—my husband spent years doing everything in his power to make me feel secure in our relationship, yet my feeling of unworthiness remained and became more deeply rooted each day.
No One Can Push for Me
When I married my husband, I heard a lot of stories about military wives giving birth while their husbands were deployed. Considering there are nearly 1.8 million military kids, you can imagine that it happens quite often. Of course, I was sure that it would never happen to us—until it did. When we found out my husband was going to be out to sea on my due date, I put on a brave face to hide my extreme nervousness. He had always been my source of strength, or so I thought, and I was sure there was no way I could give birth without him there.
It was at this point that I realized that no one else could push my baby from my womb but myself—the job was all mine. I breathed through my contractions and thought, “My body is amazing!” Every woman who has given birth knows that when the baby is ready to come out, there is no other option than to muster all of your strength and get the job done. That baby is depending on you and you alone, so you suck it up and you push and then you push again—whether or not you have your husband’s hand to hold.
When the doctor laid my newborn son on my chest, I kissed his slimy little head as I cried tears of relief. I had given birth without my husband, like so many military wives before me. My inner strength, so thirsty for my acknowledgment, came out in full force that day.
Seeing my Worth, Finally
Once I was able to get out of bed, I took a shower and got dressed. As I was running a brush through my hair, I looked into the mirror and saw myself in a way I never had before. I still had the post-pregnancy belly and my eyes looked very tired but I liked what I saw. It wasn’t just the feel-good high that comes with having a new baby, it was something deeper. I finally saw my worth, standing right there in front of me where it had always been—in my stretch marks, my dark circles, and my engorged breasts. Without doubt or fear, I could see that I was worthy of unconditional love, acceptance, and respect. Especially self-respect. Learning to respect myself didn’t happen overnight but eventually, I started to give myself credit for all that I had done and allowed myself to make mistakes without negative self-talk rearing its ugly head.
Eight days later, when my husband walked off his ship and met our son for the first time, I saw him more as my equal partner and, over time, I slowly lowered him from the unrealistically high pedestal I had kept him on for far too long. I still have enormous respect and admiration for him and, now, a growing amount of the same respect and admiration for myself. Every day I grow stronger and gain more respect for myself and from my husband. My confidence in our relationship has grown and our marriage has benefited because of it.
Going to the hospital that night to give birth to my second child, I thought I knew everything that was going to happen. I had done it all before, after all. Little did I know that bringing a new life into the world was going to breathe new life into me. I still fight back those negative thoughts of inadequacy from time to time but now I can fend them off with helpful tools and an arsenal of positivity and self-love. Habits can be hard to break and my bad habit of talking down to myself tends to creep back in at times. However, there is no bad habit that is stronger than my desire to show my two sons how to love and respect themselves. After all, they are the ones who taught me.