Today’s post comes from 2016 Warrior Mom® Conference speaker and attendee Kelly Bauer, with the help of some of the incredible women who will come together on October 14th and 15th in Atlanta at the conference. Kelly is a mother, wife, writer, and storyteller. On her blog, MotherhoodMisfit.com, she discusses motherhood, her journey through postpartum anxiety and OCD, and her experience with grief after losing her unborn daughter, Clara, to Spina Bifida, 22 weeks into pregnancy. She will be presenting a session entitled “Momposters: Why Real Moms Feel Like Frauds” at this year’s conference.
In the next few days, nearly 200 women, the majority of them survivors of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, will descend upon Atlanta for the 2nd annual Warrior Mom® Conference. It is an event which many of us have been looking upon with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Personally, these days leading up to the conference have been a poignant reminder of just how badly I need the break.
Yesterday, my son came home with some bug bites which he had gotten while at daycare. These things happen of course, and so I put some ointment on them and put him to bed, not really giving it a second thought. Later, I awoke in the middle of the night in a panic, overwhelmed, with an intense drive to check on his bites. I wasn’t checking for anything in particular … I was just … checking. It’s sort of what I do. You see, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Oh, and also PTSD. I know … I’m a blast at parties. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night gripped with fear I wish that I could be anywhere else, just temporarily. It is in those moments that I wish, most desperately, for a vacation from my mind and it’s fearful whims, even briefly.
The guilt follows soon thereafter. A little voice inside my head tells me that to want to be temporarily elsewhere must mean that I am a terrible mother. Surely good mothers don’t want to be away from their families, right?
Those of us who are gathering for the Warrior Mom® Conference will be doing just that – spending time with each other, away from our families. Well, we’ll be doing that and learning, laughing and loving of course. Some of us do so reservedly, and understandably so. For even though most of us know that to desire time away, in the company of women who understand and support you, is a completely healthy thing to want, we still sometimes cling to the mom guilt which tells us that we must always be sacrificing ourselves. Some of us still battle mental health issues which sit perched on our shoulders, whispering doubt into our ears about the idea of being far from the safety of our homes. These malicious little shoulder whisperers tell us that even the exhaustion, depression, and fear are safer, because with them we are familiar. With them, at least, we know where we stand.
Does that sound like you, mama? It’s okay if it does. Sometimes that sounds like me, too.
As an antidote to that doubt, I’d like to share with you some reasons to spend time away for you. Specifically, I’d like to share reasons to attend the Warrior Mom® Conference, from the mothers who are attending themselves. Below are some quotes from mothers who are going to this year’s conference, explaining exactly why they decided to go. You’ll see that their reasons are as varied as the walks of life from which they come. I hope that among them, you find a reason which silences your own doubts.
“I am coming so I can have ‘me’ time, free of the responsibility of being Mommy/Wife/Chef/Maid, etc. So I can socialize with other women, surrounding myself with people who understand all the feelings surrounding motherhood. For support, hugs, learning and laughter.” -Mariah W.
“I’m going because I honestly want to embrace and hug every single woman there. I need that energy and I need that sense of community.” – Jennifer S.
“I periodically consider backing out. I’m so overwhelmed by life. I am still going because I need the time to focus on me and to learn. Time to be with other adults who get it. I’m so anxious about traveling and that’s where I’m getting stuck. But everything is paid for and I feel I need to go. I know once I’m there it will be fabulous and awesome.” – Julie V.
“I’m going (again) because it was a great learning experience. It is also a time for me to unwind (and hubby to take over child responsibility). It’s an amazing feeling to be in a room with people who get it, who have similar stories. There is this incredible bond we have. I am going for hugs. I am going to share my story to help others. I am going to learn from others. I am also going because everything is paid for and I’ve never been to Atlanta.” – Stephanie B.
“Because being with Warrior Moms is one of the only times I find I don’t feel like I have to take care of anyone else. That other people rush to help fill me up.” -Susan P.
“I’m going to take care of me. I need a break. I need time to myself to learn and spend time with strong women.” – Bridget D.
“I’m going because I want to be surrounded with amazing women that just get it. I can be me and not feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. To learn as much as I can so I can bring it back home and help other mamas. To be able to just relax and let go and not have to worry about the everyday things that have me stressed and overwhelmed.” – Brittany G.
“I’m going because I have to. Can’t articulate fancy reasons. My soul demands it.” – Courtney H.
“You don’t need to do or be anything at the conference, just show up. That’s it. And feel yourself being held up by all the other mamas. Hearing other women’s stories, in person, is something so profound. I’m going because I have to. Because I went last year and I still don’t have all the right words to describe how profound it was and maybe I never will. It’s such a powerful feeling.” – Danielle N.
“I’m going because I feel like this is the final step in my healing. Because when I wake up I don’t feel scared or anxious or alone anymore. Because going means I have acknowledged how far I’ve come and where I’m going. Because I want to celebrate all the successes we’ve achieved and be inspired to help mamas achieve that same success.” – Carolyn S.
“Because last year I walked in empty and left full. Of energy, of inspiration, of purpose, of ideas.
Because this year has been so hard and I need a refill.
Because I won’t have to change a diaper or remind anyone to pee.
Because I’ll get to sleep in a dry bed with no one on top of me.
Because I’ll get hugs and drinks and crying and laughter and learning and knitting and geeking out with the only women who really understand.
Because if I don’t get away I might just crumble into a billion pieces.
And you. I’m coming to see you.”
As for me? I’m going in order to learn from women who are further in their recovery from me. I’m also going so that I can inspire women who may not be as far in recovery as me. Hell, I’m going so I can remind myself that there ARE other women who have walked and are walking the same path as me. I am going because those women understand me. They hold space for me. I am going so that I can participate in that glorious exchange of energy that happens when you bring women together who have survived and are thriving.
Whatever the reason, if you’re coming to the Warrior Mom® Conference this year, know that we are so glad to have you. And if you couldn’t make it this year, that’s fine too. We are still holding space and love for you. Also know that we can’t wait until the day you are able to join, and can share with us the unique reason that brings you.
Until then, here’s to being a great mom who occasionally wants to spend time away.
Thank you so much to our Warrior Mom® Conference 2016 title sponsors Cotton Babies and Sage Therapeutics, as well as conference sponsors Northside Hospital, Write Notepads, Bloom Beautifully, the National Council for Behavioral Health and See Baby Midwifery.