Embracing Your Motherhood

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To say that I am excited about this next step in my motherhood journey would be a severe understatement.

This announcement is beautifully timed after my post yesterday about friendship.  It has been in the circle of other women, other mothers, who share similar experiences to mine that I have healed, grown, and embraced my role as a mother.  Without that space and those women I don’t know where I would be.

I’m a pay it forward kind of gal so I completed the Bloom Foundation’s Peer to Peer Support Group Facilitator training back in March.  The leaders asked us to think about what was or is missing from our journey through Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and what came to me was a next step after the program I was in for treatment of PMADs.

Once I had moved out of active PMADs and into recovery, I couldn’t find a group anywhere for moms who had been where I was and I didn’t feel comfortable going into a more mainstream moms group. In an effort to meet the need of other moms like myself, my co-facilitator Elena and I have created Embracing Your Motherhood.

This support group is for women in recovery from PMADs with their youngest child being between the ages of 1 and 5 years old.  We will focus on moms and supporting them in embracing their motherhood through bi-weekly groups, topics that help in the every day life of mothers, speakers once a month, and will also act as a connection to local events for moms and their families.

If you are in the New Jersey area, come hang out with us! We’d love to meet you and watch you bloom into the mother you want to be!

Click on the Embracing Your Motherhood link above for all the details!

#motherhood #pmads #ppd #ppa #embracingyourmotherhood #peersupport

This is everything.

this is everything photo

 

This. This is everything.
Today we got together to celebrate our incredible friend, Shannon. When Debra sent me this picture of her, me, and Jenn, I started to cry. I cried because today filled my heart in a way I realize can happen only being with other women. It inspired me to write this post which I was thinking would be so easy. Turns out it is really hard to find words that do everything I feel justice.
I have so much respect and love for the women who shared my home with me today and those who are in our crew but couldn’t make it. There is never a time where any one of us is in need that the rest don’t step up in whatever way they can to support and help. None of us are ever alone. We share ourselves, our stories, our successes, our struggles, our laughs, and our love so freely.
What women can do when they honor each other and share themselves without reservation is pure fucking magic. For real.
I wish for all women (and men because you guys need this, too!) to have a circle of friends that surrounds you always, moves in to hold you, and steps back to let you soar.
To my ride or die for life bad mamas… I love you and thank you for loving me!
#women #friendships #fuckingmagic#togetherwerise #togetherwearestronger

Dear Loved Ones

dear loved ones

Dear loved ones,

It isn’t anyone’s fault I ended up having Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders after my son’s birth nor have I done anything wrong while suffering from this illness. I know surviving this has affected me in a number of ways and I imagine it has affected you in a variety of ways.

For that, I am sorry.

I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you.

I’m sorry I kept you out.

I’m sorry if I hurt you.

I wasn’t well and wasn’t able to do more than I did at the time. Denial was present before I had any clue what was happening to me followed by intense confusion and all consuming fear. I wanted so badly to believe I was ok, I could do this mom thing, and the hard times would pass. I wanted it so badly I tried to fake it till I made it. I only started to make it when I stopped faking it.

I was lost within myself. My thoughts and feelings terrified me to the point where I couldn’t believe anyone else could handle them. I kept you at a distance because the thought of horrifying you with how I felt or losing your love as a result of my feelings was far too much to bear.

None of what happened is a reflection on you or the love you have shown me. It speaks to what mental illness and trauma can do to a person. My postpartum anxiety,depression, and PTSD altered my perception of everything including what I know to be true about myself and all of you.

You’d give me the world if you could and do anything to make sure I was ok. These facts weren’t in my mind for a while but were always in my heart. When I started to put myself back together again, I began to remember the truth.

The truth is you were with me through the darkest and scariest hours, the smiles I faked, the lies I told, the times of real joy and fun, and the moment I accepted what was happening to me. My being able to come to acceptance of my illness, receive treatment, and share it with you speaks to who you are in my life and the love you’ve shown me.

Please understand that PMADs are a complex beast to war with and it takes a strength, determination, and resilience you don’t know you have until you start digging for it. It wasn’t that I wanted to be how I was or treat you as I did; I was in deep pain and survival mode. What I thought I needed the least I needed the most – a tribe of other mothers who shared my experience. I needed to be in this community to begin my healing then carry it out into my life with you. It couldn’t work the other way around.

Please know my struggle wasn’t your fault. None of us were properly educated in PMADs and, even if we had been, it may have all played out the same way. I was so panicked from the depths of my being that I strapped on a mask and held it in place as tightly as I could. If you saw past my mask and have any regrets about how you handled that moment, please try to let it go.

It is unknown to me whether or not you having said something or done differently if I could’ve received it. I do know now it is worth it to ask questions of a mom and say you’re concerned when you are even if it appears to fall on deaf ears. We can never know what might stick in a person’s mind and how they may use it later on.

Please hold onto the fact that your love and acceptance of me is what helped me climb out of the darkness and re-emerge back into our life.

Thank you for never giving up on me.

I love you.

I am 1 in 5

1 in 5

1 in 5 women will experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, making it the most common complication of childbirth.

TRIGGER WARNING: This is my story of surviving PMADs. Please do not read further if you are feeling sensitive. Take care of you! This story will be here if you need to come back to it. Again, take care of you!

My husband, Michael, and I were aware that I was at risk for postpartum depression before I was even pregnant.  I had been depressed most of my life but managed to live fully so, if I did end up with it, I’d just be depressed with a baby. I would continue to see my therapist, use my other tools, and wait for it to pass.  I talked openly with my doctors, birthing class teacher, and doula about my risks.  I even shared it with family and friends without hesitation so I assumed I was as prepared as I could be and so was everyone around me.

I believe there are many reasons why I didn’t see it in myself and why those around me didn’t either.  After 37 hours of labor, we ended up in the operating room for a c-section.  It was all okay until it wasn’t and I came incredibly close to dying.  We spent five days in the hospital and were sent home as if the trauma never happened.  Within days of being home, we traveled over an hour to have my son’s tongue tie released in hopes of easing the excruciating pain I was having while nursing.  This super stressful endeavor was followed up by Christmas.  We went about the holidays as if everything and everyone were 100% okay.

I don’t remember that Christmas at all.  I was definitely in shock and I am pretty sure Michael was, too.  There is probably a degree of shock that all new parents are in a week after their baby is born but given the trauma we endured, it has to thicker than average.  It is deeply painful but feels important for my healing that I share that I don’t remember the first 4-5 months of my son’s life except for clips here and there.  What I am writing here is what I remember and not much else. I don’t know how much people knew about my real mental state or how I was feeling because I did a lot of lying to those around me during this time.  I couldn’t handle how I was feeling and couldn’t fathom that anyone else could handle the truth.

After his two weeks of being off, Michael was put on night shift for first three months.  We barely saw each other and were both so drained that we couldn’t have a meaningful interaction when we were in the same space.  I had his family and mine around as well as our doula, who asked me on several occasions how I was doing.  I said what I wanted so desperately to feel was the truth – “I’m okay.”  I remember one day she asked about the photos she sent of my son’s delivery and I very quickly thanked her for the beautiful moments she captured for us.  I hadn’t looked at them.  Every time I went to open the file I felt like I was going to throw up.  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t look. Eventually my time with her came to a close and we did a beautiful ceremony to signify the end of it.  Part of me was so terrified she wouldn’t be coming back and I’d be all alone again and the other part of me was relieved to not have to hide what was going on with me.

About a month postpartum, my birthing class teacher read a post of mine on Facebook and contacted me. She said felt I was suffering from postpartum depression and was going to have a woman call me to talk about getting help.  I said I was okay and she was reading too much into it but agreed I’d speak to this woman, Lisa.  Lisa called and I talked to her about what I was feeling and she told me it was postpartum depression on top of the trauma of his birth and suggested I come to group.  She said what I was going through was treatable and temporary.  I agreed to go but had no clue how I was going to get there.

The terror I felt at the thought of going out alone with the baby was all consuming.  I was so afraid of telling anyone what was happening and asking them to watch my son while I went to the center so I had to take him with me.  Even though we were no longer working together, I confided in my doula that I was going to go to this support group.  She helped me make a list of what to pack, map out the route I would take, and plan the timing.  She checked in on me the day of the group; I didn’t tell her that I had spent all morning pushing myself through the paralyzing fear.  I packed the car at 7am and rechecked everything probably 20 times after that.  I started bundling him up hours before I had to leave.  Group started at 1pm and it was about a 30 minute drive from my house; I was in the car at 11am with white knuckles on the wheel crying my eyes out.  My son cried, too, but for very different reasons.

We got there and all I could think was “I don’t belong here”.  Although this was my thought about group, I set up an appointment with a therapist at the program and saw her a few times before deciding I didn’t need the therapist there either.  For months I stayed cocooned in my house. I was too terrified to leave and too ashamed to tell anyone. I felt so confused by what was happening because this did not feel at all like the depression I had my whole life.  It didn’t feel like the anxiety I had been wrangling for years.

The days and nights blended together, especially with Michael being at work all night and asleep most of the day.  I just kept thinking was “what the fuck did we do?” In the little time we had together, I would tell him this was the biggest mistake we ever made.  I screamed at him that I hated this baby and this life.  He was doing his absolute best in every way.  He was in his own state of shock after my son’s birth, working nightshift, and trying to manage other aspects of his life.  He said and did everything he had available to him but it wasn’t his fault nor could he fix it.  He didn’t know any more than I did about what was happening for me.

I started having really scary thoughts about hurting my son and myself.  I felt rage like I never had before.  It would wash over me and who I had known myself to be was lost in a sea of red.  It felt uncontrollable and I came to fear my own mind.  I worried incessantly about someone finding out what I was thinking and how I was behaving.  I was petrified they would think I was not only an absolute failure as a mother but a danger to my son and husband.  I would smile as I lied saying I felt bonded with my son when all I felt was resentment and hatred.  I acted the part but didn’t feel it at all. I couldn’t see how things could ever get better, how I could ever feel genuine love for my child, or feel like this wasn’t ruining me.

As the time went by, I found myself washing my nipple shields till there were no water marks on them. Everything had to be put away in a certain order and in a specific configuration.  I ate my breakfast in the same order every morning.  My son’s diaper couldn’t be wet for more than one or two pees. I changed his clothes the second he got a little spit up on them.  I held him the second he cried in hopes of making the crying stop. If I thought he was going to cry, I’d rush to him in hopes of preventing it.  I kept stuffing it all down and hiding it all away.  I worried incessantly about the tiny scratches he had given himself on his face because I thought they were an obvious sign of how I was failing to care for him.  I feared someone would take him away because I was unfit yet I didn’t want to be with him at all.

At some point, not one I can pinpoint, it felt like I had been sleeping and someone pulled back the curtains.  You know, when you’re blinded awake by the sun coming in and you think what the fuck is happening as you try to roll over and cover your eyes.  In this case, I was blinded by how not okay I really was and I couldn’t ignore the pain I was in.  I realized I was drowning and needed a life raft fast.  Although I had continued to see the therapist I had before having my son, I hadn’t told her what was going on with me entirely.  I didn’t feel like I could which I could acknowledge in that moment as a huge red flag.  I still didn’t feel like I could tell friends or family because of the shame I felt.  The only life raft I could see was the center.  I didn’t want to go back to the group because I was embarrassed I went once, thought I was fine but obviously wasn’t, and didn’t go back. I realize now how unnecessary those thoughts and feelings were but back then I opted to try art therapy instead.  I pulled myself together, called the center, and asked when the next art therapy session would be.  The receptionist told me it was the next day.  I started preparing for it right after I got off the phone and did my whole terrified packing up of the baby thing the next morning and cried my whole way there.  I cried out of fear but also out of desperation.  I needed help so badly.  I had tried so hard for this baby and now I hated him and myself.

I remember walking in the room not knowing what to expect at all.  I sat next to a mom whose words made it feel so safe and okay for me to share exactly what I was feeling.  I cried the second I started sharing, through the making of my art, and all the way home.  I cried harder than I had allowed myself to in a really long time because it was in that room with that art therapist and those moms that I felt safe. I felt supported in the ways I really needed for the first time since my son was born.  I could say how I felt without fear of judgment because others were saying so many things I had thought and felt.  No one was telling me all that mattered was a healthy mama and a healthy baby.  I had permission to be devastated by what had happened, to not be happy about how life with a baby was going, and I wasn’t alone in any of it.

I dedicated myself to going to art therapy every week.  I went twice a week and attended other groups and events at the center.  I started hanging out with moms after group, making play dates, and chatting via text.  I felt myself coming out of the darkness slowly and felt my biggest shift around month 8 or 9.  I saw myself surrounded by friends who had seen me at my worst and only wanted to help me feel my best.  I could look at my son in a new way and understand how I was feeling toward him before and in the present.  I will never forget when my husband said, “I feel like you are coming back to me”.  Going to the center saved my life, my marriage, and my relationship with my son.

The end of March/beginning of April marked one year of my going to the center.  I have just about phased out of the program and am moving into doing advocacy work for maternal mental health and will be a facilitator for peer support groups.  If you told me last March when I sat in the waiting area of the center with my son’s puke in my bra, tears streaming down my face, and my body trembling that I would be here typing this story to help others understand Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, I would’ve smiled in your face but said “Fuck off” in my head.  I never would have believed then that I could get better lead alone be doing everything I am right now.

I used to see my son’s birth and his existence as the event and choice that decimated me from the inside out.  Now I look at the tribe of mothers I am blessed to call friends and how my relationship with myself, my husband, and my son has changed and it really was a blessing in disguise.  It was by far the hardest, most painful year of my life but I am so, so lucky to be here in recovery with this life I have.

To every mom who is in deep pain, struggling, wondering if this is normal – say something to someone.  It is okay to not be okay.  It is okay to need help.  Help is available to you and you deserve it.  You are not a failure.  You’re a warrior mom and you are not alone.

#realmotherhood #noshame #endthestigma #storytellingsaveslives #maternalmentalhealthmatters #thebloomfoundation #thebluedotproject

 

Maternal Mental Health Matters

 

blue dot project.

In my world, the whole month of May will now be for mothers.  This year I am kicking off my May is for Mothers with Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

In honor of this week, I am participating in the #realmotherhood 5 day challenge with The Blue Dot Project.  This organization is raising awareness of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders to remove the stigma and shame that leaves so many mothers suffering in silence.

Every mom deserves to be seen, heard, and supported.  The way we get to the point of no mom left behind is by understanding the complex experience of motherhood including the mental health disorders that can come with it and giving women all of the treatment they need and deserve.

To learn more about this amazing organization, participate in the challenge, or get your dot in support of this incredibly important cause, head on over to their website…

https://www.thebluedotproject.org/mmh-week-partners-2018

#maternalmentalhealthmatters #endthestigma #storytellingsaveslives #realmotherhood #noshame

In loving memory

dad 4-18-18

 

There are very few pictures of my dad without a beard. It always took us hours to realize he had shaved it because he did so rarely. This is one of two pictures of him beardless I have in the scrapbook I made after he died 13 years ago.
I realized this morning that I had been thinking it was 12 years and that felt wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on why. It felt wrong because it was wrong and although being off by a year may not seem like a big deal, it feels huge to me. I lost a year of honoring my dad to postpartum depression. I cried so hard when I realized this and became so angry PPD took yet another thing from me. I don’t get my dad here with me in physical form so I do whatever I can to connect with him especially on the day he passed. To so clearly have missed that last year just broke me open. I realized how sick I was then and how desperately I needed my dad to hold me through those dark times. No matter how old we are, no matter what responsibilities we have including our own children, we are always our parents’ child. And sometimes all we need is to be able to step into that role of child and be parented. To cared for and nurtured. He never did this for me and @lisabk13 in any traditional ways but he did it in his own and that matters so much more.
As I watched my son play this morning, all I could think about was how he won’t get to know his grandfather. My son’s middle name is Richard after my dad. Not that he ever went by that name; he was Butch to everyone. I saw this as a way to connect little dude to his grandfather since he will only know my dad through the stories we tell him.
Little dude is super blessed to have his 3 other grandparents to grow up with, learn from, and be loved by. This matters so much to me but I am still sad for the loss of what my son won’t get to experience. Although PPD took last year, this year I am better and stronger for it and some of that strength is acknowledging how painful it is to not have my dad for me but also to not be able to share my dad with my son in the same way he will with his other grandparents.
#loss #remembering #missingyou #dads

New ways

selfie for post

 

Since I started working at 16, I’ve never had just one job. Ok, maybe I did for like a year, but usually it’s been 2-4 jobs at one time. Part of it was for money and part of it was to avoid my feelings. Being busy was my escape and in some ways still is. But busy with a 15 month old feels dramatically different from busy without a child. It’s much more exhausting in ways I never could have never expected. There feels like no down time is available unless you work really hard to make it. And even then it doesn’t always feel like down time.
Something I’m working on that having a child, especially a toddler, doesn’t foster.at.all is doing one thing at a time. I’ve been a multi-tasking maven and perfectionist with OCD probably my whole life. I used to see these qualities as things that made me someone who got the job done and done really well. I was praised for all I did and how fast I did it. Now I find that this way of doing things feeds anxiety and is wearing me down to my bones. I’ve known for a long time that these approaches aren’t healthy but knowing it and feeling it are two very different things. Now I feel it. I feel the need to be mindful of how I spend my time and who I give my energy to. This shift is asking me to listen to myself and not do things that I don’t want to do or to choose wisely when and how I do them.
Hello, self awareness. This is a new level of our relationship. You’re doing a great job of pushing me along this path. Note: I said pushing because I’ve been resisting this for a long time.
Having this level of self awareness and acting on it means I’m drawing new boundaries, sometimes disappointing people, and things not getting done at all or in the time frame I want. I am super uncomfortable with this but my options are run myself into the ground or be uncomfortable while I learn something new.
My soul may be unlimited but this body and mind have limits and the limits have been made known. I am not an unlimited resource and my goal right now is to get ok with that fact and live it because limits aren’t always bad. Sometimes they are for our greatest good.
#motherhood #workingmom#newwaysofthinking #newwaysofworking

#30daysofselfportraits

In January, a friend of mine decided to do 30 days of self portraits on Instagram. I thought it was a great idea for her but wasn’t so sure for myself.  After seeing her first picture and reading her first very honest post that came with it, I felt so inspired and realized this was the perfect opportunity to show up and be seen a bit more in ways I never have before. It was a chance to shake off the energy of 2017 and come into 2018 anew on many levels.

For those of you who do not follow me on instagram, who stumbled upon my blog, or have been following me for a bit, here are my 30 days in the words and some of the photos of this project.

Day 1

day 1

2017 was a very dark and painful year for me. It was one I spent a lot of in hiding and licking my wounds. I’ve finally started writing about the reasons why I’ve been hiding, the pain, the discoveries, and the healing. Those posts are to come.
Andrea of @mitchellmethodpilates has been full of love but willing to kick your ass source of support for me through my entire process. I saw her selfie today as part of #30daysofselfportraits and was really inspired by her vulnerability, honesty, and willingness to step outside her comfort zone. I paused for a moment when I thought “maybe this is the way I come out of hiding.” I’ve never been one for selfies and rarely enjoy my picture being taken lead alone post pictures of myself so this was kind of a strange thought to experience in my mind. I decided to snap a picture right where I was before I could let anything get in the way of my feeling inspired and my soul’s whisper that this is a way out of where I’ve been. Today starts a daily practice of sharing myself as I am… dark, light, and everything in-between.
#mitchellmethodpilates #inspiration #outofhiding#timetoleap #timetoshare #endthestigma#postpartumbody #postpartumdepression #warrior#warriormom

 

Day 2

 

Day 2 of #30daysofselfportraits
Me after a very long night. See that little hand on my face? That’s the hand of my one year old son who hasn’t figured out that sleep is cool yet. I’m trying to snuggle him into every just a few more minutes of laying together.
We’ve been at it a long time trying everything (please no need to make suggestions) to figure out what he needs to sleep so we can all sleep. It’s beyond exhausting and it’s a huge trigger for my anxiety. The interrupted sleep overstimulates my system and leaves me feeling like a raw nerve. Agitated and angry, it takes a lot of mindfulness, self awareness, breathing, and reaching out to my amazing partner and friends and family for support and help.
This part of parenting has pushed me super hard and made me realize my not asking for help isn’t healthy for anyone involved. It’s also brought out issues from my childhood I didn’t expect to find but am not working on. It’s made me look at what I prioritize, like getting a load of laundry done or sleeping with him while he naps. I no longer underestimate the power of rest and sleep. I no longer pretend like I am not tired as fuck just to look like I have it all together in life.
I don’t always choose to rest when I can because sometimes I need to pretend our sleep situation isn’t a total shit show and do something I’d do ordinarily if I had gotten more then 3-4 hours of sleep. More often then not though, I nap when he naps if we are home for it. And I am proud of myself for that. It is a huge shift out of my need to for busyness and into honoring my body and it’s output.
#nosleep #lifewithatoddler #postpartumanxiety#endthestigma #shareyourstory #warrior#warriormom #stopthebusyness #honoryourbody#honoryouroutput #givebacktoyourself#givebacktoyourbody

 

Day 3

day 3

Day 3 of #30daysofselfportraits and this one includes my #bird friends who come to breakfast every morning.
My maternal grandparents lived in the woods and communed with nature on a very regular basis. When we visited them, we would learn all about#frogs#owls, and whatever else we came across on our #hikes through #thewoods. Both of my grandparents were very fond of #birdwatching and this became something I loved as a child that I brought into my adult life.
In the darkest days of my #postpartumdepressionlast year, I could sit in our kitchen and watch the#chickadees#titmice#woodpeckers, and many other birds chow down at our feeders. We fed them but they also fed me. They fed me happy memories of my childhood and reconnected me to my grandparents and time spent with them. It warmed my heart in ways little else could.
Now my son and I spend every morning talking about which birds are at the feeder and we play their calls on an app my sister found for us.
I have tears in my eyes writing this because of how much it means to me to be able to share this with my son. The tears are flowing because I’m in a place a year later to not only care about that but want it. That’s a huge shift from the place of wondering how I ever thought I could handle having a child and wondering how I was going to make it through the next moment.
Thank you to #mamanature. Thank you to my#grandparents. Thank you for helping me see some light and keep going.
#shareyourstory #shareyourjourney#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma #warrior #warriormom
Day 4
Day 4 of #30daysofselfportraits is one I was really hesitant to post because, sadly, #breastfeeding can be a polarizing topic with loads of judgements and opinions. I decided to post it because my experIence could help someone else and that is important to me.
This picture is of me #breathing through nursing my son. Despite correcting his latch and tongue tie, working extensively with an amazing Lactation Consultant, and all the tools to ease the effects of the Raynaud’s Phenomenon in my nipples, I still have pain when I nurse him a year later. I still feel run down and depleted even with all I’m doing to take care of myself. The reality is I came into#motherhood and nursing after almost dying in childbirth and needing 3 transfusions. It was a miracle my body produced milk.
I hadn’t considered how far gone my body would be and the demand nursing would put on it.
Even with all of this, I’ve continued to nurse him. The reasons for my continued nursing are varied, complex, and warrant more space then what’s provided here so I’ll post a link to the blog post when I have it up.
I believe moms must put themselves first because a healthy mom is the best mom for a baby. Nursing him hasn’t been what is best for me and I regret not having put myself first with this part of my experience. I can see now all the ways I could’ve made it work better for me and by association for my son. Yes, he’s gotten a lot of benefit from breastfeeding but he hasn’t gotten the best mom from it because I’ve been in pain and drained by it. As a result, I’ve been irritable and short. I’ve cursed his wanting to nurse. I haven’t been the mom I’ve wanted to be as a result and am working to heal those pieces in myself and in my dynamic with him. The best mom is the one who honors herself and, by honoring herself, teaches her children, even from infancy, to honor themselves through her actions.
To all the moms and moms to be: get real with yourself. What do you need? What is best for you? What do you want motherhood to look like? You get to decide to what kind of mom you want to be and get to be.
#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#warriormom #whatsbestformomisbestforbaby
Day 5
day 5
Day 5 of #30daysofselfportraits and I am sitting in our office about to write a #blogpost. Child free! What?!!! I know. It’s bananas!
I used to #write all the time but I’ve let life get in the way a bit and there are times when it just wouldn’t have served myself or others to share.
I am loving all the conversations I’m having in response to these posts. It’s been so cool, heartwarming, and empowering, and real (that’s the part I love the most. The realness, the “this has been my journey and all its parts”) to hear other women’s stories of motherhood and life.
Life wasn’t always this isolating for women and mothers. There was a time when women sat around and talked to each other. Shared their struggles and successes. Literally shared their responsibilities. I know this still happens in other cultures and it feels like time we take it back for those of us living in cultures where that community isn’t a given.
Let’s keep sharing ourselves and our stories. Let’s keep witnessing each other’s experience. Let’s honor each other’s experience by making safe space for the light and the dark to be brought out. It’s all human. It’s all real. Let’s create the communities we need. Together.
#storytellingsaveslives #stepintothelight#shareyourself #breakthesilence #expressyourself#community #women #makeyourown

 

Day 6

 

Day 6 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’m thinking about #selfcare. Prior to having a baby, #showering,#eating#brushingmyteeth#sleeping, and#gettingdressed were just things I did every day. Yes, I did them to take care of myself but I didn’t define them as self care. All of a sudden a baby is in the mix and now these things shifted to the list of self care items.
Self care often times gets seen as a negotiable list of things we should do to make ourselves feel good but if they weren’t to happen we’d still be ok. Various definitions of self care abound and you can subscribe to whichever works for you. I’m redefining self care for myself and making a HUGE distinction that is critical for mamas – what you need to be a healthy and functional (at least somewhat) adult/caretaker for your child isn’t self care. It’s basic human needs that must get met. You must eat, shower, and put on clean clothes. Every day. You’re putting out so much. Caring for another human being is exhausting and draining. Care enough about yourself to be clear on what isn’t negotiable. Your well being isn’t negotiable. What do you need to be well? What do you need to refill your cup?
I’m figuring out my non negotiables, my don’t have to be every days but yes some days, and the things that just don’t work for me now as a mama. I’m more open now then ever to these things changing as the demands of my life change. It isn’t easy but it’s necessary.
Are there days when even the most basic of our needs won’t get met? Yup. On those days, take every little bit you can and strive to let the next day include more of what you need. Don’t let the days go by with you going without.
To those of you who love and support a mama, make sure she gets what she needs. And leave her alone no matter how long she is in the shower. Let her marinate in the cleansing peace of alone time in the water. The more she gets back, the more whole she is for herself, the more herself she will be, and the more she will be the person you know and love and then some.
#revolutionizemotherhood #storytellingsaveslives#breakthesilence #endthestigma#postpartumjourney #postpartumdepression#postpartumanxiety

Day 7

day 7

Day 7 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’m enjoying laying on the floor by the light of my #saltlampsurrounded by #crystals. Laying on the floor helps me feel my #body and come back into it. Many of us check out of our bodies more often then we are in them. Depending on our experiences, it may not feel safe or comfortable to be fully present in our body. We may have had to check out to handle what was happening. That defense is there for a reason but there comes a time when it doesn’t serve us to continue to leave. To stay and be present is to discover what we need to heal. There is wisdom held in our tissues and we can access it when we are ready to and, if needed, with support.
Everything gets a bit jumbled as we share our physical being in seriously intimate ways through pregnancy/mothering. There comes a point where “my body isn’t my own” feels like an understatement.
I’ve been thinking about that phrase, how I’m feeling when I say it, and how it relates to our power. It isn’t an empowering statement. It doesn’t account for the power women have to choose (assuming their pregnancy and/or subsequent birth is of their choosing) to share their bodies during pregnancy/mothering. It doesn’t give the option to pick how you go about sharing your body. It just turns it all over to someone else.
This phrase, and the countless times I thought it, didn’t help my #postpartumdepression lighten one bit but I didn’t see that until recently. Every time I thought it or said it, I gave away more of my power. I gave away so much of my power, especially around boundaries and my body, in this life and I’m tired of doing that. It doesn’t heal me to give it away. It heals me to step into my power and own it. Of course there is more to this process then this post but I’m starting here. I’m starting with stating “I’m choosing to share my body in the following ways” and making an actual list of those ways. And in choosing the ways I share, I also choose the ways I don’t share it. We get to choose.
#revolutionizemotherhood #storytellingsaveslives#endthestigma #breakthesilence#postpartumdepression #postpartumbody#postpartumjourney #takeyourpowerback#yougettochoose

Day 8

 

Day 8 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’m thinking about the complexities of #motherhood. The challenges we face aren’t always about motherhood itself nor are they new to us. So many of my challenges are old stories that, have been changed by lots of healing work, but now exist on another level. When I watched my son try to crawl back in-between our pillows this morning because he wasn’t ready for the day but I had to get us moving so I could drop him off and get to the dentist, I saw it all. I saw my need for the day to start smoothly in an effort to not feed my dentist anxiety. I saw his need for more sleep. I saw how I didn’t want to be late. I saw how he wanted to go slow. I saw both of us fully and I had to make a choice about how our morning proceeded. I hated it. I didn’t want to have to choose between his needs and mine. I hated that I couldn’t put myself first without a second thought. I hated that I couldn’t put him first without a second thought.
My #innerchild was up in arms about the situation. This isn’t the first time she’s made herself known; Little Viki has wanted to have her needs met without having to consider anyone else for a very long time.
I acknowledged her as her but also as my adult self. We all want to be taken care. We want to be held, nurtured, and told it’s all going to be ok because someone else has it… it isn’t all on us. But there are times when it is on us and not everyone in situation can get their needs met completely or even partially. My son nor I got our needs totally met this morning and part of me felt like a failure for it. The rest of me felt a shift happen; I could acknowledge us and our needs, I did what I could to meet the needs in a way that made sense at the time, and we were ok. Even if he had cried or I had cried all the way to my in-laws or if I was late to my appointment or he’d have had a terrible day, we’d all still be ok.
#revolutionizemotherhood #breakthesilence#endthestigma #storytellingsaveslives #seeyourself#seeyourinnerchild #seeyourchild #youcantdoitall#andthatismorethanok
Day 9
day 9
Day 9 of #30daysofselfportraits and I took #pilates. Given I’ve been #teaching it for the last 9 years, I thought this would be my easiest post. It is proving to be my hardest because I’ve realized how far I’ve strayed from my body. About half way through my pregnancy, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking “Wow! It’s crazy my body can do this and, huh, I actually kinda love the way I look right now.” This thought didn’t and hasn’t existed #postpartum. There has been no love for my #postpartumbody. There has been disappointment, disgust, and fear.
I’m crying because it was only today, while looking at myself in the mirror at the Pilates studio, did I see my body. I saw how battered she’s been by a lifetime of almost but not quite loving her, being available to others when she needed to be left alone, the physical demands of pregnancy, the trauma of birth, the effort to come back from near death, the drain of#motherhood, the disconnect#postpartumdepression creates, and the pressure I’ve put on her to be different.
I’m crying because this body is a fucking #warrioressand I haven’t shown her the respect or gratitude she deserves. If it wasn’t for her #badassery, I wouldn’t be here. If that isn’t enough to change how I approach my body I don’t know what is. It is time for a heart centered not society centered change in how we relate to our bodies. It is time to take back our bodies. My body is me and I am my body. What I think about my body I am thinking about myself. You are your body and your body is you. Let today be the first of many where we pause and acknowledge what our bodies have done and do instead of all they haven’t or aren’t.
#revolutionizemotherhood #storytellingsaveslives#breakthesilence #endthestigma #movementheals#movewithcuriosity #moveforlove
Day 10
Day 10 of #30daysofselfportraits and I am#tiredasamother#motherhood is teaching me a new definition of tired and asking me to meet this state with a new level of caring for myself. Tonight’s caring for myself includes acknowledging I’m worn out and not doing anything else besides having some#darkchocolate, putting on some #fuzzysocks, and crawling into bed to #read before I pass out for however many hours little man decides to sleep for.
After I took this picture, I saw that in the corner is a picture of me with my dad when I was an infant sleeping in his chest. It was a sweet reminder that comforting my tired self tonight isn’t all that different from my dad comforting my tired self all those years ago.
#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma #parentyourself #comfort#comfortyourself #honoryourtiredness #rest
Day 11
day 11
Day 11 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’ve got another serious face on. I swear I am not this serious in person. I seem to get straight faced when I pull my phone out to do this.
My #arttherapist gave me #homework to make #artaround my current #identity. Not who I saw myself as before or see myself as being in the future… me in #thenow. I usually love therapy homework because it helps me stay present in my process but this one has me really #sittingintheuncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because I’m still not so sure about#beingamom. I definitely feel better about it since my#postpartumdepression has shifted but there is still so much to this gig to see, work through, etc. It is fucking overwhelming to say the least. I’m rethinking my #business and how I approach it. Friendships have changed; some have ended breaking my#heart and some are deepening which helps the broken pieces open more instead of shut down. I feel like a completely different #wife#daughter,#sister, etc. etc. and I’m not sure how all those changes are playing out.
I don’t feel like me as I’ve known myself. Part of me is cool with it because some of it is stuff I’ve been trying to #unearth for a long time and now it’s here. But another part of me is afraid to #shedthatskin. To shed the identities I’ve held for a lifetime. To step into an identity of my choosing, of my making, is an unknown and unknowns can be scary even when they are just ourselves starting anew.#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma
Day 12
Day 12 of #30daysofselfportraits and I decided I’m not saying #imsorry anymore.
There were two things going on today that I could’ve went to but other stuff came up that I decided to prioritize. Neither thing was dependent upon me so it wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t go. Even though it didn’t matter if I was there or not, I almost texted the people running the events to say “I’m sorry I didn’t come.”
The phrase “I’m sorry” leaves the mouths of so many#women for everything and anything. We apologize for being upset, not agreeing with someone else, needing a #break#wantingmore, having our#period, being sick… We are basically apologizing for our #existence and I’m done with that.
I will mostly certainly apologize if I’ve done something wrong or have hurt someone. I will apologize for someone’s loss and any other way that’s appropriate and meaningful.
Let’s take “I’m sorry” back and give it the sentiment it once did. It can be a powerful phrase when we use it as it was intended.
#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma #yourexistencematters #ownit#useitwisely
Day 13
day 13
Day 13 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’m doing my#arttherapy homework. When I first went to the program for my #postpartumdepression, I went to the support group and thought “I don’t need to be here. I’m not going through what these women are.” My #denial and desire to not be going through yet some more shit was super strong and hard to break through. But something inside of me just wouldn’t letme sit home and wither away. I thought about the program almost every day and that made me decide to go back. This time I opted to try art therapy.
I had no clue what was going to happen in art therapy and found all my #defenses were ready to rock when I sat down at the table. I definitely didn’t expect my defenses to be completely circumvented by my #subconsciousmind and the art therapist. I couldn’t #bullshit myself or anyone else. I couldn’t hide. The truth, regardless of how painful and raw, was there on paper for everyone in the room to see.
It took me a long time to get comfortable being in the#group and having everyone see inside my #mindand #heart as it spilled out through gel crayons and markers. I felt very #vulnerable in a way I never had before but also very #safe. I kept going back because every time I left I felt better. I saw#progress. I felt better because I #wasntalone in my darkness and pain anymore. I was, and still am, part of a #community, a #tribe of #warriormoms, who were ok with not being ok together.
Ps After I snapped this picture, I saw that a painting that hung in my grandmother’s house ended up in it. It made me smile big because it was a reminder that even though she isn’t here in the flesh, she is here in spirit with me cheering me on like she always has.
#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma #bloomfoundation #makeart#artheals

 

Day 14

Day 14 of #30daysofselfportraits and #mailchimp is high fiving me for sending out my campaign to a few#moms who are testing out a program I am creating.
I have jumped #outofmycomfortzone with this in so many ways. First program I’ve ever created. First time I’ve ever taken videos of myself. First time I’m putting everything I do in one place. I kind of want to#jumpupanddown with excitement and I also kind of want to throw up. The videos are really pushing me, to get #real with myself. The second I sat down to record I immediately thought “why the fuck hasn’t anyone told me My boobs are trying run away?! Does my stomach STILL stick out that much?! At least my hair looks good but is it too done for these videos?” And the #innercritic and #innerramblingswent on and on. After I changed my shirt for the 3rd time with no change in the location of my boobs, I realized that the work we to #heal#change, and#grow matters the most in these moments. I put into practice everything I talk about – I stopped changing my clothes, told myself “this #body is a one of a kind and if I’m going to stand in my truth then this is the time. Share about the #experience so others know they aren’t alone but for now record!”
The videos are #farfromperfect but so am I and I am working on being ok with that on a new level. This program is for real moms to make real moments for themselves that fill their own cup. To make myself up and try to shove body parts into positions they don’t go in isn’t being real. It isn’t #honoring my body or myself. It isn’t honoring all bodies and all beings.
#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma #getrealwithyourself #oneofakind#oneofakindbody
Day 15
Day 15 of #30daysofselfportraits and today is #mlkjrday and #bluemonday. For those who don’t know, blue Monday is celebrated to #raiseawareness of #mentalhealthissues. I have mixed feelings about blue Monday only for being on the day it is. I believe MLK Day should stand alone in honor of the man, his wife, the movement, and every person of color.
I’ve had #depression and #anxiety for as long as I can remember so acknowledging blue Monday and supporting that cause is also important to me. I wanted to find a way to acknowledge both. #breakingthesilence and #endingthestigmais critical for everyone with mental health challenges, but particularly for women of color who are disproportionately underserved. No one should go without #help and #support. It’s way past time we made sure everyone is #cared for. My self portrait today includes my blue hair in support of blue Monday and information from @americanprogress. I am doing my best to make sure my family is a part of the solution and part of that is to continue to educate myself on how I can help women of all races get their mental health needs met.
#takeaction

 

Day 16

day 15

Day 16 of #30daysofselfportraits and this is me post 7 minutes of #breathwork. I am laid out with an easy mind, relaxed body, and a higher vibe. I found breathwork a few years ago while living in Brooklyn and it has become one of the most powerful #toolsfor #transformation I’ve ever used.
It has been key in my #healing of the past and management of my #depression and #anxiety. Even in my darkest days of my #postpartumdepression, if I laid down to breathe even for just the 7 minutes, I could see #thelight at the end of the dark tunnel.
I often wonder if my son is as happy as he is in part because I did breathwork through my #pregnancy. I kept my #energy clear and mellow as well as cleared out #blocks and #fears using the technique I now teach. It has been really fascinating to see the change in how the breathwork feels in my body pre-pregnancy to during pregnancy and now#postpartum. All the #sensations were different while I was pregnant and it’s cool to think his energy was a part of that. It also makes me happy to know I’ve given him the gift of this tool from very early on.
I am super excited to share that I am bringing more breathwork #circles to NJ! My next one is Sunday, February 18 @sunshinekates! For details and to register, check out the link in my bio.
There are a few other circles coming up and I’ll post those as I have the information.
#breathworkforhealing #newmoon #breathinginnj#comebreathewithme

Day 17

Day 17 of #30daysofselfportraits and I am reflecting on a conversation I had with a very dear friend about titles. This is a subject I dove deeper into while I was#pregnant. How was I going to be #wife#sister,#daughter#friend#healer, etc. once I became#mother? I wanted to believe it could all remain the same but knew better. It isn’t possible to have a#baby and your life remain the same. It hasn’t been possible me for me to remain the same. For better or worse, I am different.
My #identity has been wrapped tightly in my titles for a very long time without much else mixed in. This new title asks much of me, even more than I had expected, and that has forced me to look at how things were playing out with my other titles.
The topic shifted to more of a question: What if we took away a title or changed our relationship to it? Who would we be without it?
I just said to my husband, “I’m having an identity crisis on several levels” and maybe that is why this question feels so juicy to me. I’m trying to redefine myself with this new title, and all it brings, but what if I dropped it and all the other titles I hold? What would remain? Who would I be?
I believe we aren’t our titles but I wonder how our titles influence us? I also wonder how our authentic self, the essence of who we are, influences our expression of any given title? #foodforthought

Day 18

day 18

Day 18 of #30daysofselfportraits and this is the first snot free shirt I’ve worn in over 24hrs. I doubt it will remain that way for much longer but one can #hope.
#parenting #sleepdeprived #coldssuck #poorbaby#poormama #poordada

Day 19

Day 19 of #30daysofselfportraits and today was a long day. And a day where I was far from the#parent I want to be. Little dude is still sick and was in need of being #held pretty much from the second his eyes opened. He’s a #toddler and sick so his needs are totally appropriate and should be met as fully as is possible. That’s what my rational mind was and has continued to say all day. Sadly, themessage didn’t make it to the rest of me so I could go to him from a better place within myself.
For whatever reason(s), I just couldn’t find the#compassion and #patience he needed. The more I yelled at myself for not having it, the less and less I had for him. The less I had for him the more he needed. The more he needed… you get the picture.
I came into 2018 with the #mantra “There is room for both” and it has been hugely helpful to me in a myriad of ways. I chose it because I’ve spent a lot of time in life feeling like there wasn’t room for me/my experiences/feelings/etc. or, if there was room for me, there isn’t room for the other person/their experiences/feelings/etc.
I realized today, even if I had used my mantra, I don’t have an infinite supply of compassion and patience. My mantra helps me stay #grounded,#present#calm, and looking at the situation more clearly, but the reality is I am human. I can’t give what I don’t have. If I don’t give myself the gentle, loving care I need in a moment, even if that means acknowledging how fucking hard it is to have a 1yr old crying all day in your arms, I don’t have it to give anyone else. There will also be times I won’t have it to give myself in order to give it to someone else and that is something I’m working on getting ok with. It’s how I handle that during and after that matters.
As I showered, I imagined the #energy of the day, mine and his, wash down the drain. Here’s to tomorrow being a little easier and a littler gentler on us both.
#storytellingsaveslives #breakthesilence#endthestigma #mamadoesnthaveit #andthatsok

Day 20

day 20

Day 20 of #30daysofselfportraits and the #self is so much more than just a #face.
I got this #tattoo a few years ago to remind me of my 18 year old self and the life changing decisions she had to make. The #flower is a #forgetmenot because I didn’t and don’t want to forget that version of myself. I thought about myself and what I needed in a very difficult and painful situation. Although the choice didn’t go without repercussions, it did show me what I was made of. It pushed me in ways nothing else could.
These last few days have been really tough but not the toughest in my life. How I’ve shown up has illuminated where I still have room to #grow,#stepinto myself now, and choose more of how I want to be.
My #wrist was the only spot for this tattoo because I wanted to see it all the time. I wanted to look at it and be reminded that at 18 with way less#lifeexperience, way less #therapy, way less#support, way less of #everything, I made it through. These past few days I’ve noticed this tattoo more than usual and today it was clear that I needed to not forget me during the challenging times.
#putyourselffirst #fillyourowncup#virginiaelwoodtattoo

Day 21

Day 21 of #30daysofselfportraits and apparently I am a pretty cute dog. At least I think it’s a dog.

Day 22

Day 22 of #30daysofselfportraits and I came #outsidewith the little dude for some #playtime in the #freshair. One thing I have always loved is #sunsets and we get some pretty spectacular ones by our house. We are on a hill just enough to see it from start to finish… the #transformation of the #skyfrom #daytime to #nighttime and all the #colors that show up in the process.
#paused for a moment to just appreciate it and the #wonder that is #nature.

Day 23

Day 23 of #30daysofselfportraits and its 54 degrees in #january in #newjersey. It’s fucking weird but I’ll take it.
#windowsopen #freshair #sunglasseson #sunisout#enjoyit #whileitlasts

Day 24

day 24

Day 24 of #30daysofselfportraits and I just finished an #akashicrecordreading for an awesome friend of mine and am now doing the #mundane task of filling out forms for an upcoming appointment.
Although I’ve been doing this #work for a while, it still gives me #pause to be in such a #sacred space with someone. It is always an #honor for me to#holdspace for my clients and to #guide and#support then through #learning about themselves from this #spiritual perspective.
It’s still new for me to talk #openly about my #giftsand the #skills I have in the #psychic arena. The more I #open up about it, the more I #stepinto this#piece of myself and the more I see how it can be of#service to others.

Day 25

day 25

Day 25 of #30daysofselfportraits and I am sitting in the car in the #traderjoes parking lot because little dude is #sleeping and transferring him from the car seat to the stroller is like trying to move a bomb. This#mama doesn’t have the #skills of a smooth transfer.
I’d rather #sit and let him sleep
#letsleepingbabieslie #justsit #enjoythequiet#eventuallyillgetinthestore

 Day 26
Day 26 of #30daysofselfportraits and it has been filled with #emotions. I started #weaning my #sonabout a month and a half ago but got serious about in the last two weeks. I wanted to do it in the gentlest way possible for him but definitely move things along. I #believe children, even as young as him and younger, understand more then we give them credit for. When we are in #alignment through our #words,#actions, and #energy, even if they don’t cognitively understand, they feel our #message. Him and I had a #hearttoheart about stopping #nursing, focusing on#otherways to be #close#hangout#bond, etc. and a week later, here we are with him having nursed Monday morning and not since. I feel like a#differentperson and a #differentmother.
I couldn’t wait for him to #wean so it surprised me that I felt #sad when I packed up my nursing items. I realized I wasn’t sad the nursing has ended but sad for what I had been through in the last 13.5 months. I didn’t expect #breastfeeding to be a #magicalexperience but I had hoped I would get to be the#mom who looked down at her #baby and be filled with #love and #gratitude for he ability to breastfeed. To feel the #deepbond I had heard so many speak of. This wasn’t my #experience of it at all and thinking back on it was a #reminder of all the #ways#motherhood hasn’t been what I had hoped for.
My #postpartumdepression pulled me into the #darkest time of my #life. I’ve been a version of myself I didn’t know existed and not in a good way. I imagined #parenting to be really fucking hard and it’s even harder than I imagined. I’ve #struggled so #hard. I am #mourning the #loss of the #visions, #hopes, and #dreams I had for who I would be and how I would be as a mom and wife. Although I am mourning, I am #hopeful I can #become the mom and wife I desire to be. I can say that and pursue it because of the incredible #support I receive from my amazing 🦄 husband, @mrq20, my sister @lisabk13, the rest of my family and my in laws, @mitchellmethodpilates, @moonanddeva, @a.pyleoflove, and my #warriormoms from the #pmad program at Monmouth Medical Center lead by the amazing @lisatremayne. I’d be lost without all of you ❤️
Day 27
day 27
Day 27 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’m getting in some #snuggles with one of my loves, Nate. Nate has been with me almost 12 years and I couldn’t imagine life without him. I could imagine an easier last year for him though. He has been so much more tolerant of the little dude than we thought he’d be. He’s taken much in stride and done some stuff I expected.
Overall it’s been a growing experience for him and me to see him with a baby and now a toddler but sadly, shit rolls down hill and lands on whoever is at the bottom. Nate ended up way closer to the bottom then I ever intended for him to be.
It feels like there is #neverenoughofme to go around and, the one being who asks so very little of me, has gotten way too little of the good parts of me and way too much of the parts that need work.
I’ve decided that my next #challenge will be to spend the time I used to post my #selfportraits will become Nate time indefinitely.
He deserves all the love and snuggles in the world.
#dogs #dogsofinstagram #dogsarefamily
Day 28
day 28
Day 28 of #30daysofselfportraits and I was bored of taking pictures by myself so I recruited the husband.
#love #takingselfiestogether
Day 29
Day 29 of #30daysofselfportraits and I’m hoping#cooking my breakfast and my kid’s breakfast tonight makes the morning less of a shit show.
#parenting #parentinghacks (maybe?)#parentalpreparedness #hopefor#amorepeacefulmorning #lessshitshow
Day 30
Day 30 of #30daysofselfportraits and my favorite part is all the #conversations I’ve had with other #mamas and #women as a result of my #posts#motherhood can be isolating and it can take a lot of effort to #makeconnections virtually and in #reallife.
I am #honored that so many of you #shared your #stories with me. You are an #inspiration. I am #honored to have been thanked for my #honesty about my own experience and feelings about it all. Your honesty and openness made it easy for me to be here 100%. I am in awe of the #power#willingness#determination, and #dedication of every woman, #mother or not, who is doing her thing her way. Who may be afraid but still reaches out and #shares because #storytellingsaveslives.
Thank you all for being with me these past 30 days! ❤️

We are not what we feel

we are not what we feel post

 

I’m usually the person who is most comfortable bringing up the things no one wants to talk about.  I point out the elephant in the room and give it a name.  I don’t believe in hiding things.

Although I feel an incredibly strong pull to share what is going on for me, which I’ve always honored in the past, I haven’t done so because I have been afraid. Afraid of being judged and treated differently. Fearful of disappointing friends and family and of making them worry.

Continuing to keep it all inside is only doing myself a huge disservice. This morning I remembered some of my previous pieces and thought “Well, maybe it won’t be such a surprise if I share this.” Then I thought of my post about shining my light and honoring the dark is my work in this lifetime. I wrote that and meant it so the question became will I let my fear keep me from living it? The answer was no I don’t want to let my fear keep me from living it so I started to write this piece.

The first two months postpartum I thought I was doing really well, and in some ways, I was. The reality is I was also in shock. My son’s delivery was incredibly traumatic… I almost died. How could I not be in shock? As I went into the third month I started to feel and feel very intensely. It felt like someone had ripped the shade off the window while I was sleeping and the sun came pouring in blinding me.

I fought the anxiety and low mood. I did my best to smile and be happy. I tried super hard to see the joy in having this time with my son. I took tons of pictures and sent them off to everyone. Externally I was holding it all down like a champ but internally I felt the fabric unraveling.

I was referred to a program for women with postpartum depression and anxiety. I sat there during the support group and thought I could relate somewhat but in the end I let my pride and denial decide I didn’t need to be there and didn’t go back the next week.

It caught me off guard how often I thought about the program even though I had decided not to go back. I thought of it every time he cried and my insides felt like they were vibrating. Whenever someone told me what an amazing job I was doing and all I felt was anger. I thought of it every time I felt like leaving the house by myself and not looking back. Every time he did something that I knew I should feel all sappy about but felt only emptiness. I thought about the group every day for a week before I decided to go back.

I attend group and art therapy just about every week now and at least once a session someone, myself included, will say something like “I know this should be the happiest time of my life but…” or “I know I should be enjoying this time with him/her because it won’t last but…” The amount of pressure put on women, overtly and covertly, to feel all the fairy tale feelings about birth, postpartum, motherhood, and their child/children is insane.

The amount of shame I have been feeling around not seeing my son, myself and this time as they do is also insane. It is a big part of why I haven’t written this sooner. But shame doesn’t go away by pretending we don’t feel it or the things we feel. Shame thrives on our isolating and staying quiet in the dark. It dissolves when we come into community and shine a light on it with the loving support of others. Going to group and art therapy were my first steps to dissolving my shame. Writing this and sharing it with all of you is the next step.

This isn’t at all how I pictured postpartum life being. I knew before he was born that I had every risk factor for postpartum depression but I hoped with all my might that I had done enough work to not end up with it.  Even knowing I was at risk doesn’t ease the blow of this experience. I’ve been depressed in the past, a lot actually, but it never connected so directly to a person as this does. Everyone else sees my son as this light and joy and a symbol of hope. I can see that but there are times when he is just a symbol of what has happened to me, what is happening now, and all I wish hadn’t gone on and wasn’t currently happening. Sometimes it takes everything I have to remember he didn’t cause this and he went through his own trauma during his birth. We are both in need of healing.

Our art therapist asked us to consider our experience with postpartum depression and anxiety as not that but rather an alternate view on postpartum and motherhood.  What if we are experiencing it in a broader emotional spectrum? What if we are seeing the other side of the coin?

When I start to beat myself up for how I am feeling and going through these days of motherhood, I remember her question and ask myself what if this is just my experience? Not good or bad. Just my experience. When I can shift my perspective to this, it is then I am grateful for how things are going. Feeling depressed and/or anxious is just that – it is how I feel. It is information my body and mind is sharing with me that I can use. How I feel isn’t who I am.

If someone you know is going through this, ask them what they need and give it to them exactly as they’ve asked for it to the best of your ability. Their experience and what they say they need is more important than anything you’ll read in a book.

If you are going through this, reach out. Email me or contact this organization: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english

You are not alone.

 

Do, produce, and avoid

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When I was a kid, my equivalent to work was school. As a teenager I usually had two jobs at the same time. I started working full time when I was 18 and went to college part time. At one point I was employed full time, in school full time, and had a part time job. After graduating college, I was employed full time and had three part time jobs.

Obviously work doesn’t scare me. Having down time with me, myself and I did scare me so school and work became part the love of learning, part the need for validation, and part the escape from my life and myself.

Over the last few years, I got down to one job which wasn’t hard to do except for the fact that it opened up the door to truly participating in life and interacting with those in it that weren’t my clients. Early on in my shift to less work, it was a constant battle to not add more hours, more clients, or another job. I felt untethered, unsafe, and questioned my worth.

But I stuck with one job and began to cultivate a more well rounded life. I discovered there were many things I enjoyed doing that didn’t result in a paycheck. I found hanging out with friends and family regularly, not just for events, was fun. I got comfortable with having nothing to do sometimes and having the choice to not do anything or do something spontaneous. It took practice but eventually it all felt good.

When we decided to move and I found out I was pregnant, I made the choice to let my business go temporarily. I was going to focus on our home and have significant time off for the first time ever. I couldn’t go cold turkey on no work and being pregnant limited what I could do around our new home, so I had a few clients here and there but nothing substantial.

When the few clients didn’t feel like enough, I started to work on fine tuning and expanding my business. I would do this until my son’s birth. I saw his birth and the first few months postpartum as merely a pause and I would press play on my business before I knew it.

Looking back, I see how what I was doing did help to get my business ready to roll once I was settled but it was also a way for me to avoid myself and my feelings around our move and pregnancy. I was in touch with the happiness and excitement but there was also loss and worry. My life, my roles, and my identity were already changing and I was doing my best to steer clear of dealing with that by continuing to be busy in any way I could.

To say his birth wasn’t what we hoped for is a severe understatement and my time postpartum has been far from what I thought it would be. The thing is, although none of it is what I wanted, it has proven to be what I need.

Had his birth gone differently or my postpartum time been what I thought it might be, I’d still be trying to work in the same ways I used to. Everything going down the way that it has been a helpful change of course. I needed to be brought to my knees and given no choice but to reach out for help and truly receive it. I’ve been pushed to redefine self care and find new ways to practice it. Everything has encouraged me to find new communities that aren’t work related and put myself out there as me. Not Viki the Pilates instructor or former social worker. Just Viki.

David Elliott says “I am an employee of the Universe” and the first time I heard it, I only kind of sort of understood the concept. I hadn’t given the quote or its meaning much thought until recently when I began to question what I was doing with my life and all the changes ive been experiencing. I felt into it more after an energy healing session where I was asked to rethink “work.”

In my days since that session and remembering David’s words, it became clear to me that I am being asked to examine my definition of work andcquestion my relationship to it. I’m being nudged to also look at my relationships money, dependence/independence, self worth, scarcity, fear of abandonment and so much more.

In doing so I have become clear on what my work is in this lifetime. My work is to be. To be me just as I am. I am an employee of the Universe. I am here to honor the darkness and bring the light. I do this through my own healing and expansion. I do this while supporting clients on their journey and helping friends and family. I do this through raising my son.