On our way down, at the Climb Out of the Darkness, a miracle happened: I forgave myself for my prenatal anxiety. The power of the Warrior Mom community, right there in person, surprised me; I’m used to participating in our online community. As we walked, the other moms compared experiences, and each noted that she could mark the darkest time as the weeks she could hardly remember. For one Warrior Mom, pregnancy was a blur of anxiety, and she felt better “the minute she gave birth.” For another, pregnancy was a dream, but anxiety and depression had obliterated her memory of her baby’s first months. Then, a thoughtful pause allowed me to realize that there was a shadow over my memory, too. Next came a wave of understanding, as I forgave myself for taking so few pictures of my giant belly, never finishing that expensive and involved knitting project, and everything I can’t recall.
I remember few moments from my third trimester of pregnancy, and I need help from my husband to put those moments in any sort of chronological narrative. I have struggled with anxiety all my life, and it has always been at its worst during times of anticipation. In other words, I hate waiting. Waiting for my grades in junior and senior high, as well as college, gave me panic, anxiety, stomach aches, even bouts of depression. I had a fantastic pregnancy, right up until the HypnoBirthing course ended, the major baby growth milestones slowed, and the real waiting began. I needed to remain on my anxiety and depression meds while I was pregnant, so I wasn’t just waiting to meet my baby. I was waiting for his birth to reveal whether or not he had experienced “defects” that wouldn’t show up on any prenatal testing. I was waiting to find out whether I would experience the worst-case postpartum mental health crises that I could not stop imagining. I knew that I had may risk factors, but I had finished the work of educating myself and my loved ones. I had to “wait and see,” a phrase I loathe. Did I mention that I hate waiting?
As we completed our small but mighty Climb Out of the Darkness, swapping stories with ease and without judgment, moments of silent understanding reached the deep reservoir of guilt I had held onto for almost three years. These amazing, strong Warriors inspired me, of course, but they also allowed me to see myself from an outside perspective. Did I not deserve the kindness, empathy, and understanding that I felt for them? Of course I did! I deserved their empathy, too. I soaked it in. It may have rained that day, but I let some warmth and light into a cold, dark place inside that I had hidden away.
I am writing to you from the train, on my wait to Boston for the Warrior Mom Conference, and it just so happens that I have this chance, at this time, to reflect on the power of being together as survivors. Leaving my house, choosing what I will wear, anticipating having to talk to people in person at a hotel or a conference–these things trigger huge anxiety for me. But I know that I will find so much healing in this community. This time, excitement outweighs anxiety as I anticipate soaking up the power of all these Warrior Moms, together, in one place.
Note: if you are not coming to Boston, check our the Warrior Mom Conference Facebook page for updates on how you can still participate, follow our live tweets at #WarriorMomCon, look out for a giveaway post, and get together with a friend! Coincidentally, I lucked out and booked myself on the same train that Lauren Hale is riding–community can even find you, sometimes!