Casie Smiley: Every Dog Has Her Day

Casie Smiley: Every Dog Has Her Day | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear New Mama,

I had a plan and remarkably, it worked. I wanted to have two children and around two years apart. In the grand scheme of things, it seemed like a good idea. I would be back to work in less time, they would have each other as companions. Vacations, school, everything would be relatively synced.

What I didn’t envision was the four year endurance test that ensued. I didn’t realize that my newfound identity as a mother would be undermined by my complete lack of freedom. I didn’t have a doting mother waiting in the wings; my husband worked constantly at the office or at the house. It was me, me and the babies—all of the time. And frankly, I thought I’d be better at it. I wasn’t the worst, I was present. I was loving. I was relatively organized.

But I was lonely. I was still young, and I wanted all of those things that young women especially want. I wanted to be acknowledged more than anything. That was not going to happen. I went from teaching in a Middle School with a team of teachers—a demanding, but rewarding and engaging job—to being alone with a toddler and a baby every day.

We moved into the suburbs, and bought a house at the end of a dirt road. We had an acre, and behind us were sixty undeveloped acres. It was peaceful; it was beautiful; it was, in a way, a safe little prison. And I knew that I was “lucky.” I was able to be with my kids. I had a husband. I had a home. Why wasn’t it enough?

I remember the day that my husband got “fixed.” I danced as well as I could as I drove down the road. I sang out loud. I was ecstatic. I loved my kids; I love them now as teenagers even more. But I love my independence. I love sleep. I love interaction. I love owning my body and taking it out. I used to say to my husband, when he flaunted his freedoms, “Every dog has her day.”

Ladies, I’m here to tell you: My day has come. And I am flanked by two children who respect and adore me. I love them; I love my freedom; I love my two jobs; and I love my life. It gets so much better. It is harder to raise young children than any marathon or endurance run I have ever done since. I don’t know why we don’t talk about it more, and let you compare yourselves to the illusion of television, etc. That is why I am compelled to write now.

I wish I could hand out medals to you when I see you shopping with a baby at the grocery store. I remember how hard it was, and I respect every woman who endures the trials of early motherhood. It is a universal truth that a woman who has raised children must be in need of some acknowledgement. You are in the most challenging part of your life. In comparison, teens are a breeze. You will have your day, and it will be fabulous!

Hello from the Other Side,
Casie

 

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Susan Petcher: You Are Enough

Susan Petcher: You Are Enough | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear New Mom,

From the moment I became pregnant, it felt like the world was whispering messages of “not enough.” I didn’t drink enough water, get enough sleep, consume enough leafy greens. The stack of pregnancy and parenting books on my nightstand was a testament to how much I had left to learn, and the baby supply catalogs and formula samples that magically found their way into my mailbox proved that I didn’t yet have enough sheets, blankets, diapers, swaddlers, wipe warmers, or pacifiers, and that I had yet to find the perfect crib for the perfect nursery.

I think many pregnant and new moms experience this feeling of “not enough,” because the truth is that when we bring a baby into our lives, we embark on an experience and life career that none of us were trained for. All new parents muddle through to some degree, but for some of us, the Warrior Moms? That feeling becomes crippling.

What began as worry during my pregnancy quickly spiraled into obsessive anxiety. Suddenly, the burp rags weren’t straight enough and needed to be refolded, again. The counter at a local deli wasn’t clean enough, and so I could not eat there, lest I put my unborn baby in danger. I believed I wasn’t a “good enough” wife or mother­-to-­be, and that my husband would be happier with someone else. These thoughts consumed my days and nights, and I had no idea they weren’t normal.

What I want you to know, you amazing New Mom, is that you are enough. You are so very much “enough,” that I can’t even begin to put it into words. If you are finding yourself struggling to navigate this new role as a mom, you are not alone. Being a new mom is hard. There is no magic answer, no instructor’s manual for your baby, and no right way to prepare or care for your child. When we pile on the pictures of perfect motherhood that are plastered all over our social media streams and pop culture outlets, it’s easy to see why we feel so inadequate.

Over the last 7 years with Postpartum Progress, I’ve met a lot of moms, and so believe me when I say, you are just the right mom for your child and you are already everything that she needs.

And, if like me, you find yourself consumed by worry and fear ­ if it’s causing you to not recognize yourself, please know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You deserve to be well and to experience your pregnancy or adoption and postpartum period with a healthy amount of new mom worry, without dread or fear. There is hope and help. And we will be there beside you, every step of the way.

–Susan

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Samantha Konikoff: You Are a Wonderful Mother

Samantha Konikoff: You Are a Wonderful Mother | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear new mom,

It can be overwhelming to have a day where all the attention is on you. It seems to have been the exact opposite since your little one was born. I always felt like I could have been in a corner and no one would have noticed I was gone.

You may be having trouble seeing why you deserve any good attention. I know that’s how I felt for awhile after my son was born. Why should anyone celebrate me as a failure? I can’t seem to love my child the way I thought came naturally to everyone else.

My brain was playing mean mean tricks on me. Through the support of my family and professionals, I know that while I’m far from perfect, I am a good mom to my kids and getting lots of love from them is a joy which I can truly appreciate.

I have learned to love myself and understand that my son and I have had a different way of getting to know each other. We didn’t bond right away and that’s ok. We had to really listen to each other and I had to get to know him and his personality when he was a baby. Our bond is different than anything I have ever had. It really is true love, but we had to work at it.

You know what else? You will love yourself again too! You will look into your child’s eyes and see love and hope. It may be hard to see through the dark right now, but I promise the sun will shine again and it will get better. You will want to go to your crying baby and tell them you are there. You will want to get on the floor and play and interact with your baby.

You will want to tell your baby you love them and you will mean it!

You will see that you DO deserve a day for you and that you have done a lot for yourself and your baby. You are showing your child strength and that you count too.

So try to take some deep breaths and soak in the love and know you are a wonderful mother!

Love,

Sam

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.

Kelly Andrews: Just Keep Showing Up

Kelly Andrews: Just Keep Showing Up | 8th Annual Mother's Day Rally for Mental Health -postpartumprogress.com

postpartum depression, mother's day rally, maternal mental healthDear Mama,

As if adjusting to life with a new baby and dealing with painful postpartum physical healing wasn’t difficult enough, I’m sorry to hear that you’re also among the many mothers who are battling a peri-/postpartum mood disorder.

I’ve been there, sister, and I know how crippling and debilitating it can be.

I’d like to share with you the four words that kept me going – and quite possibly kept me alive – on my darkest days. But first, let me provide a little background.

Following the births of both of my children (daughter in 2011 and son in 2014), I was immediately hit with severe postpartum depression.

It was like a poison had taken over my brain. I was completely numb. I constantly felt as if I was suffocating under layers and layers of heavy, soaked blankets. Even though my babies were champion sleepers, I’d stay awake for many days in a row without one minute of sleep.

I don’t remember much from their first years, as such a dark fog enveloped me, but I can still hear in my head the four words that kept me going.

“Just keep showing up.”

I’d repeat this phrase numerous times throughout the day. It became my mantra, my life-saving mantra.

When I didn’t have the physical strength to walk down the stairs in the morning, I’d tell myself, “Just keep showing up.”

When I was barely functioning enough to make the kids’ meals, I’d tell myself, “Just keep showing up.”

When I’d go to bed in tears because I didn’t know how I could possibly survive another day, I’d tell myself, “Just keep showing up.”

Following a year of medical help and therapy, I am now in a much, much better place.

Sure, motherhood still has its trying days, as it always will, but I am once again present and part of life. I am so appreciative of every day, belting out songs with the kids in the car, repeatedly laughing at the same clunky knock-knock jokes, cheering on my daughter when she rides her bike, and even while having to pick up the remnants of a full box of cereal that my toddler son once again dumped on the floor.

And then at the end of each crazy day, my husband and I crash onto the couch after the kids go to bed. We hold hands, exhale, and deliriously smile at the chaos that surrounds us but also fills our hearts.

It is a beautiful life.

I’m glad I kept showing up.

Mama, I’m sending you love and light – today and always. Your babies are lucky to have you. The world is a better place because you’re in it. You may not see this now, which I understand, but you will once again. There is help available, and it will get better.

Just keep showing up.

Love,

Kelly

The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.