Today marks the day that I became a mom. 9 short years ago. It doesn’t feel that long ago. But at this moment, 9 years ago, I was in the hospital awaiting the arrival of my first born. It was nothing like I planned. Nothing went expected. But at the end of the day, at 9:49 p.m., a perfect little baby boy entered this world.
Watching him grow and turn into the young man that he is slowly becoming has been quite the experience. I will say that no matter what you do, nothing prepares for this crazy ride of parenthood. Your children will surprise you on a daily basis – with kindness, with ambitions, with absolute craziness. There are days that being a mom is the last thing you want to do and yet at the end of the same day, you will look at your sleeping child and be so in awe of the fact that you created something so absolutely amazing.
D made me a mama. He challenges me and he pushes back hard. But every day I thank God for him. For his empathy, his intensity, his love of sports. For his humor, his goofiness, his amazing smarts. He might keep me on my toes and make me question every parenting step I take, but man is that kid something special.
So, happy becoming a mama day to me and a big happy 9th birthday to him.
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately. Maybe it’s because an old friend of mine has been haunting my dreams even though we haven’t spoken in almost 7 years. Maybe it’s because I just went on a road trip with two women I met online to see another woman we met online – because we created an amazing friendship through the internet somehow and love hanging out with each other. Maybe it’s because I have friends that are becoming more present again or because my bestie calls me multiple times a week to chat. Whatever the reason might be, it’s been burning my brain.
I truly believe there are three types of friendships that happen in life. Friendships that happen for a reason, friendships that happen for a season and friendships that last a lifetime. Now sometimes these friendships can be an AMAZING mix of these three as well. And sometimes, you won’t realize exactly what type of friendship it was or is until many years down the road. I have had a lot of friendships that were for a reason, lasted for a season and somehow re-sparked and will hopefully last a lifetime.
I’ve noticed that among women, it can be difficult to form and keep friendships. I’ve seen negativity between people that are supposed to be great friends. I’ve also seen women come together as a village to help someone in their darkest times – after a miscarriage, while leaving an abusive relationship, after losing a child, when things were so bad financially they didn’t know where there next meal was coming from. People are fickle creatures… and with the way we are continuously evolving it’s hard to maintain friendships in the same way forever. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could be like children again? “Do you want to be my friend?” “Sure!” And off they go into the sunset.
I had a childhood best friend. We spent 12 years together, inseparable for most of it, with inside jokes that I still replay to this day. There was even a short point where we weren’t in each other’s lives and then we were brought back together and were amazing again. At the time, I truly, with every ounce of my being, believed that friendship was going to last a lifetime. It turns out that it was a friendship that was for a reason. She was there for me through a lot of dark times. A lot of things that other people in my life will never know affected me or how it did. I know I caused a lot of drama with some of the issues I went through and she stuck by me through it for a long time. I will eternally be grateful that for 12 years, we were best friends and she and her family made my life a little more tolerable. I’m not sure why she’s been playing a leading role in my dreams lately, but maybe my subconscious knows I’m struggling a bit and remembers how she was always there before.
I have friends that I met online that were there for a season. They helped me through a stage of motherhood that I couldn’t have survived without them. How blessed am I that they were there through all of that? I count myself very lucky. And even if we don’t talk anymore, they are there still, as friends on Facebook, and I would do anything in my power to help them if they ever needed it.
I also will openly admit that I am TERRIBLE at the friendship thing. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that I am a genuinely good person with a big heart. I would give you the shirt off of my back if it meant that you wouldn’t suffer. But when it comes to the maintaining friendships thing – I SUCK. I am super self involved in my every day life. I have my kids and other people’s kids and I am constantly on the go. That doesn’t mean that I won’t take the time to talk to you. Or make sure to call back and see if everything is OK. I just am not good at initiating.
Now, there have been plenty of people that have fallen into the two categories of reason and season obviously. My life is still thriving so how am I to truly know who my lifetime friends will be? I’ve had stages in my life where some of my best friends weren’t there – my bestie now, who I truly believe will be a lifetime friend, and I had a falling out for a few months when I was having a hard time being good to myself, let alone anyone else. We all go through seasons in life where things aren’t the same. Where we change, the people around us change, something happens to drive us apart, but if we’re lucky something in life drives us back together. I’ve definitely had that happen with multiple people in my life.
I have my first friends – siblings and cousins.
I have my acquired friends – my MIL (I know you’re jealous) and others that are somehow related.
I have my friends that have fallen into the reason and season categories – the women I have known the longest and that have been there for me the most.
I have my internet friends who have become my real life friends – these women have also been there for me through a TON. There are MANY that are missing from my photos here but they are loved no less.
Now some of these people are just stuck with me for life because of family ties. Others I want to be stuck with and they want to be stuck with me. Even though I struggle with being a good friend all of the time, I love those that consider me their friend and being the person I am, they will always be a friend of mine. I don’t know how any of my friendships will work out – besides those that are with family members – but I’m hoping that the older I get, the more lifetime friendships I develop. Less of the season friendships.
Here I am. I’m going to bare it all for you. Please, be gentle in your judgement. Seeing as it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week this week and for the month of May, I figured, why not open up to an entire planet of strangers.
Mental Health has had such a stigma behind it for so many years…. I was diagnosed with depression in college. After D was born, I was diagnosed with anxiety as well. I actually went untreated for Post-Partum Depression after having him because I was so terrified of the repercussions of my not feeling 100% after having a baby. Things certainly have changed since then though. Now people talk about things – partially because of social media in my most unbiased opinion.
When I became pregnant with G, I stopped taking my medicine because I was told it was safer for the baby. Promptly six weeks after having him my baby blues turned back into PPD. Which in turn, turned into depression and anxiety.
I was able to get my meds back into control and I was beginning to lead a mostly normal life. And then I became pregnant with O. I once again thought it would be okay to go off of my medication while pregnant. And while pregnant, it was tolerable. But then PPD hit. And it HIT ME HARD. At one point I wrote the following to my friends and family.
I’d like to be open with my friends and family about something that affects between 11-20% of new mothers each year and I have struggled with each pregnancy. Post-partum depression/anxiety. Luckily, I’ve been able to recognize the signs and get the proper help that I needed but I know so many people struggle, not knowing what it is that they’re dealing with and why they’re feeling the way they are. This is my attempt to educate others and maybe help other moms out there.
My PPD started early this time around. After only two weeks home with my precious little man, I began to become engulfed by my emotions. At first I thought it was just the baby blues – mood swings brought on by your rebalancing hormones. Man, was I wrong. I think part of my anxieties were brought on by breastfeeding difficulties caused by his shallow latch, but things snowballed very quickly. OB likes to be held, he’s a very loving, snuggly and alert baby. All amazingly wonderful things, but not for someone with PPD. I would get instant dread the moment he began to fuss. “Does he want to nurse? That’s going to hurt. Does he want to be held? I have so many things to do.” My anxiety would spike before he latched knowing that the initial pain was going to be horrible. When he wouldn’t let me put him down because he just wanted love, my anxiety would spike again. I would be on the couch, holding this sweet, sweet baby and on the inside I felt like I was being swallowed by a black abyss. Things weren’t getting done around the house – and plenty of people tell you to just let those things go to the wayside and enjoy your new baby. I felt lost. I couldn’t clean, my other children weren’t getting the attention they needed and my feelings of anxiety were making everything so much worse.
Friends that were there for me throughout the pregnancy were now busy with their own lives. The silence was so LOUD. I felt abandoned. All alone in this sea of darkness. When I finally sought medical help, I was given a prescription and the directive to “ask for help.” So, I asked my friends. Many of them didn’t even respond. They didn’t check on me. They were gone. Some of them had never experienced mental illness like I was experiencing. Some of them had. But their silence spoke louder than anything else. So despite the fact that I had begun the medications I so desperately needed, my anxieties and depression were still there. I felt like I must not be a good enough friend, that people I love could just leave me behind so easily. Every day I struggled to feel like I was enough – enough for my husband, enough for my children, enough for my friends but mostly ENOUGH for MYSELF.
There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness in our society. Luckily, it’s getting better and there is more and more research and acceptance surrounding it. I was able to find the perfect balance of medication to get me through the silence of my friends, the confusion of my husband and the needs of my children. After two weeks and a dose adjustment holding my baby didn’t make me feel like I was going to die. I could enjoy the snuggles of my last baby. I could nurse him without feeling completely overwhelmed. There is still some radio silence from people I once thought of as my closest friends, my husband still doesn’t always understand the overwhelming emotions that can still engulf me on a bad day but I am in such a better place knowing I’m able to be present as a mom without feeling like my world is ending.
I hope that telling my story will help someone else. A new mom who is feeling the same way I did, a friend who doesn’t know how to be there for their friend that is struggling as a new mom, a husband who isn’t sure what their wife is going through. Mental illness is so hard in so many ways. Feeling like you are the worst mother in the world after having a new baby is probably the hardest part of it all though. If you’re feeling this way, you aren’t alone and there is help out there.
I will make this public so people can share … end the stigma. Let’s help each other.
It was so difficult to be open and honest with people about not feeling 100% after having a baby. But having a baby isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and unicorn horns. IT’S HARD. And so many new mom’s go into motherhood thinking they have to be perfect. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. You would think that people would be all about giving advice on how to stay sane during the first few hours, days, weeks, months. But instead it feels like a topic that gets swept under the rug. I say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
The Blue Dot project is working incredibly hard to lift the stigma and the shame behind maternal mental health topics. The Blue Dot is a national symbol showing support and solidarity to mothers who are just trying to survive a maternal mental health disorder like postpartum depression.
You can find ways to support them and mother’s trying to work through these issues through the Blue Dot Project’s website.
If you’re a mother – or know a mother – please join us this week. From their website:
For Moms: A #RealMotherhood 5-Day Challenge
We’re asking you to get real about motherhood by sharing photos and posts that show the real face of motherhood. Images can be light-hearted or serious- it’s up to you! They can be of meds you had to get on, dirty dishes overflowing out of your sink, going to work with baby vomit on your shirt, or your beautiful, glowing, stretch mark skin.Use their hashtags as well….. #RealMotherhood #NoShame
Ya’ll. I have to give credit where credit is due. My friend of Blooming Portraits just designed me not one, but TWO absolutely fantastic logo designs!! Consider using her not only for your photography needs but your graphic design needs as well.