It’s that time of the year again, Maternal Mental Health awareness month. I am reminded of my passion in life. One of the life ‘why’s’. Why I am encouraged to get into shape, why I strive to be the best mother I can be. Why I try to make changes to my parenting when things are not working. Why I stay up late at night and up early before anyone rises to soak up any information about how I can help with spreading hope and mending hearts and restoring families. It has been my life calling to counseling and finding how we function as humans since I was 17 years old. Psychology just made sense for how to do that. I completed my education and around the time I was entering the workforce full time, I became pregnant for the first time. It was not easy, and as a result I was able to hone into a more specific life mission: maternal mental health. That was close to ten years ago. Since then I have passionately pursued this mission. Lately my vision has narrowed to strengthening the pain, suffering, and sacrifice that comes with being a mother to currently five amazing children. For many years I fell victim to the thoughts around what society shaped my motherhood to be. I have overcome physical, mental, social, spiritual difficulties beyond what I ever imagined in motherhood. I was not prepared and had a victim mentality around being a mother, wife, and just plain old human being. Within this past year I have been working on seeing the obstacles I overcome as fuel to prepare me for whatever may come. Seeking to do the hard things for sake of becoming stronger. I have to. The alternative to this leads to death. I have to be the best mother, wife, therapist, friend, daughter, sister- because all of this is what gives testimony of the name I represent: God. God is the one constant, unwavering thing in my life of which I cannot and will not give up or let down. And I am not talking about being perfect. Just being my best, every day.
I recently visited a friend and her six day old baby. I was reminded of when I was in her shoes (er, mesh postpartum underwear). And I thought to myself what I would say to my younger self if I could go back. Would I tell her that she would overcome the pregnancy depression and birth trauma from her first child and go on to do the thing that scared her the most four more times and can now face childbirth fiercely? Or would I tell her that the deepest darkest times after her second child was born would push her to start a business of her own that would touch millions of lives? I might tell her that the intense debilitating frustration with her high needs and clingy third baby would show her grace towards parents she used to judge for not being good enough or ‘not doing it the right way’. Perhaps I would tell her that when she was pregnant with her fourth child, it would build in her a compassion for those with desperate thoughts of abortion seeing no other way out. And maybe I would share the strength and mental capacity it took for her to get through a high risk pregnancy, being diagnosed with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy with her fifth pregnancy. If I would have told 25 year old me of all the things I would have to go through to be where I am today- I would have freaked out. No way, Jose! But 35 year old me sees this and with tears in my eyes, I say, “bring it on”. The fact is that my strength, my wisdom, compassion, patience, and self is better for all suffering and pain. When I finally pressed into these hard things, I was able to see the strength I have gained as a reward. So if you have wondered if I will want more kids, the answer is like you might get with asking anyone training for a triathlon: yes. Even though I know there is pain and suffering, the end reward is worth it. The woman I have grown to become, because of saying yes to each one of my children, is a woman I am so proud of. And I look forward to seeing how much more I would grow and stretch as a woman if the Lord blesses us with more children.
These are uncertain times. The outcome of having a child is uncertain. But so can other hard things that are worth it- like joining the military, going for that degree, starting that book, applying for that job…. doing a triathlon. Just because it is hard or you feel like you could “never be a stay at home mom” (direct quote of mine in 2013), does not mean you can’t or never will do it. Do the hard things, you won’t want to look back and think, what if.
PSI has launched a month long campaign called #LetsTalkAboutIT to celebrate Maternal Mental Health Month!
This is my real, honest story of mood and anxiety disorders in motherhood. If you want resources, I recommend www.postpartum.net
Motherhood is hard but you are not alone.
#letstalkaboutIT #maternalMHmatters #postpartumsupportinternational #noparentalone
Thanks to https://www.lorengailphotography.com/ for the amazing photography!