In 2011, living in Montana, my husband and I learned I was pregnant for the first time. We knew we wanted kids, but were still surprised to learn it happened so fast, and suddenly we didn’t feel ready to start a family. I was working three part time jobs while my husband was going to graduate school and working as an assistant coach at the University. We didn’t have great health insurance, adequate income, or family in town. My husband hugged me when I told him the news. “We’re going to be okay” he said.
During that pregnancy, I read every book, blog, and article recommended for the best baby preparing advice. Looking back, a few sources were focused on the mother in terms of what I should eat, supplements I should take, and recommendations for amounts and types of exercise, but I found scant help for the emotional and mental changes I may experience once my baby was born.
When I was 7 months pregnant, my husband received a job opportunity in Alaska. Health insurance and reliable income was in hand, we just had to make it to the last frontier. The news meant I had to scramble into a new kind of preparation mode, find a house and a midwife from thousands of miles away. Looking back, I was not prepared at all for how lonely life would be with a newborn, no family in town or having any friends with kids. We had a wonderful midwife and I was extremely sad when my daughter turned 6 weeks old and I was now “on my own.” Having that immediate and strong connection was very important to me during that time and looking back I realize how valuable that feeling of security, connection and support is in a mother’s journey while pregnant and postpartum.
I’ve found, and heard from others that, because you want something so bad, in this case a baby, you feel compelled to keep secrets or not complain when things get hard postpartum. “This baby is something I have wanted and received so I must be outwardly happy to all around me”. I was in a new community where relationships were still taking root, I couldn’t burden others with my problems and anxieties.
After the birth of my 2nd daughter, I experienced severe intrusive thoughts that resulted in extreme shame. I could not bear sharing such negative thoughts with my midwife or friends, even my husband. I eventually found support in a counselor to help me through this shame and guilt and was shocked to learn how normal these thoughts are for mothers. Educating women that these thoughts are normal can help drop the stigma and provide a healthier environment for women to feel comfortable sharing their own experiences with others.
Now the mother of 3 daughters, bitter feelings, what could have been thoughts, have prevailed from my postpartum experiences, ones that are common in motherhood. I look back wistful for what I didn’t have- maternity leave, family in town, time for self-care, the ability to advocate for myself at work in addition to the tools to divide the duties at home. I feel so fortunate that I’ve connected with other new moms and have found a supportive local community. I’ve learned that no matter your circumstance, surrounding yourself with those who are supportive and non-judgmental is so important in your journey as a person and a mother.
While I have come to terms with my experience, it doesn’t have to be the same for others. My passion through Moms Matter Now is to create new conversations and new social norms for mothers and for my own daughters if they choose to become mothers. I want to shed light on how our society has treated mothers and look for creative ways to bring positive change. I want our course participants to be able to focus on the beautiful moments in this new phase of life by providing a platform for pregnant and postpartum mothers to safely share their thoughts and feelings. My hope is for mothers to be able to advocate for themselves when they need help at home and in the workplace. I hope that moms can stop being martyrs. Holly and I are here to provide tools to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the flood of motherhood experiences and emotions-both the beautiful and the messy. Moms matter and you matter now.
My own personal mantra that I have to remind myself of often is, “You can do anything, you can’t do everything!”