Megan Thomas follows up her heart wrenching birth story with what I am calling a love story. The dedication of her husband during her postpartum period is unwavering. She is right though, dads need support. If you know a dad that needs support, encourage him to visit Postpartum International for more resources for dads.
Thank you again for sharing your story Megan.
Holding the umbrella,
My long physical and emotional recovery after Ella’s traumatic birth didn't happen alone. My husband has had a journey all his own! The discussion around the physical and mental health of postpartum moms is a necessary one but it's also important to remember that having a baby is a life changing experience for dads too, especially when that birth doesn't go as planned. Josh knew he'd be my coach during labor but I don't think anything could have prepared him for just how much I'd need from him during my birth experience.
I had several complications with my delivery. My baby was stuck in the birth canal and I had to have a C-section. During the C-section, my uterus ruptured and when they were controlling the bleeding they injured my ureter, something that would cause me to have a total of 6 surgeries in 4 months!
So right away my husband was faced with a scary medical situation that we were not prepared for. During my daughter's birth, he was trying to help me stay calm while at the same time dealing with his own fears that he was loosing me. Because of my complications, I was unable to do kangaroo care with my daughter so my husband had to step up and take over that role! He gave her her first bottle (the first of many) and rocked her when I couldn't.
The day after she was born I had to be life-flighted to a different hospital because of the injury to my ureter. Because my baby had just been born and wasn't discharged yet, my husband had to make a choice...stay with your daughter who was born last night or follow your wife who could die. He chose to drive to meet me at the hospital, but that meant signing away temporary custody of our daughter to his parents. When he left the hospital, he was stopped at a red light by the launch pad where he watched them load me on the helicopter. If you've never left your day old baby to watch your dying wife get loaded into a helicopter...he doesn't recommend it. It was so horrific we don’t talk about it very often. He's never wanted to be in 2 places at once more than that day.
Since my daughter was born, I've had 6 surgeries and during the weeks and months of my recovery, my husband took on a new role...nurse! He had to help me with everything, getting up, lying down, walking, showering, going to the bathroom, emptying drains and catheters, changing my dressings, you name it! I tried to breastfeed and he was trying to help with that too, which he admitted he didn't really know anything about! He would sit there and stroke the baby's hand while she nursed trying to stimulate her sucking reflex. Eventually I had to give up breastfeeding and because I couldn't get up to make bottles, that was all Josh's responsibility at first.
Dealing with all the medical complications was really hard for my husband. Josh is a total businessman. He's a doer, a fixer, and does not like anything medical (or the sight of blood)! The hardest part for him was watching me go through so much physical and emotional pain all while knowing there was nothing he could do to help the pain. He was with me every single day during my 3 hospital stays and was such a help at home. After my bladder surgery, I was at a real low point and felt absolutely horrible! I was in pain, had a drain coming out of my stomach and a catheter. I remember my husband helping me to get dressed and I just started crying because I felt so disgusting and he just looked up and said "it will be ok, we will get through this."
Throughout this whole journey, every day Josh would look at me or see me struggling to complete some simple task and all he'd say was "how can I help?" I leaned on him in more ways than one. He was the one getting up with Ella when she cried, making her bottles, changing her diapers, cooking me food, helping me remember my medications, draining my tubes and drains, checking incisions, taking me to my appointments, taking care of our dog and house. We even joked that he changed my dressings better than the home health nurse! He definitely learned more about my uterus and cervix than he ever expected! All of this while trying to adjust to a new tiny human that was suddenly our responsibility. All those fears of a a new parent were magnified by everything else going on with me.
Thankfully he was able to take a couple weeks off of work but eventually he had to return so that he could go back to another role...breadwinner! It was hard for my husband because for him, he thought the birth would be the hard part and then life would go on! He didn't have the constant physical reminder of her birth but he had his own visual ones. Certain sounds and sights he says he will never forget...as much as he'd like to. Ella's birth was every bit as traumatic for him as it was for me. He didn't know how and couldn't fix this for me.
When I needed to talk through things it was hard for him because it was like ripping the scab off a wound. And that scab was ripped off many times. He was scared too. Scared for me and that I wouldn't be ok. Scared that we didn't know the extent of my injuries and that I'd never be the same. We have been advised to not have any more children and that adds a whole new dynamic...he is still completely terrified that I'll get accidentally pregnant some day. But again, talking has helped. Dads need help too after a baby and we need to make sure they are doing ok, just as much as moms. No one will ever know what I've gone through but at the same time no one will ever know what my husband went through being on the other end of things. We can be sure of one thing though, situations like this either tear you apart or bring you together and thankfully it has brought us closer together. And equally important, it has showed me and my daughter just how much Daddy loves us.
The following blog post is the story of a guest blogger. It is a heart-wrenching story of birth trauma and taking it one moment at a time.
Thank you Megan for your strength and willingness to open up about your experiences.
Holding the Umbrella,
Expectations...it's hard to get around expectations. We all have them and boy did I have them about my pregnancy. I was going to eat all the right things, do all the right things, and give birth the way I wanted. I knew I wanted an epidural, wanted to deliver vaginally if possible, wanted to do kangaroo care (skin to skin contact right after birth), and I'd start breastfeeding immediately!
Well...I got the epidural! Other than that, nothing went as I expected. I ended up being induced due to complications during the pregnancy and I tried to deliver vaginally but my daughter got stuck in the birth canal. We tried everything, the vacuum 3 times but nothing helped and she wasn't budging. So we went into a c-section and I thought ok this will be ok and EXPECTED it to go as planned.
I was wrong again! For some reason the medication did not work and I felt the c-section, every bit of it. I was in so much pain that I wasn't fully aware of what was going on but I knew something had happened and the doctors and my husband were nervous. It turns out my uterus had ruptured and they were trying desperately to control the bleeding and save my life. I remember seeing my daughter for a second after they delivered her and thinking ok she's here, she's breathing I can see her, but that's it. Right after they delivered her I started screaming for them to sedate me because I couldn't handle the pain and being conscious any longer.
Nothing about her birth went as planned or as I expected.
That magical moment everyone tells you about when you deliver your baby, hold her on your chest and all the pain of labor magically melts away...it wasn't like that for me. When I think back to Ella's delivery I remember mostly pain, fear, and uncertainty. I didn't get to hold my baby after she was born or do the kangaroo care but I made sure my husband did and my mom was able to capture it on video. It's a video I cherish watching.
My C-section didn't go as planned but I thought I had made it through the worst of it.
Nothing went as expected! I couldn't breastfeed, I couldn't get up and care for my baby; I couldn't even care for myself! I expected to fall instantly in love with this little human I helped create and be in this perfect bubble of joy and bliss and smiles. Well someone burst my bubble! Instead I was filled with pain, sadness, and guilt. I had a friend that delivered about a month after me and when I asked how her delivery went she said it was splendid and she loved it.
What?? What was wrong with me then? I never expected to feel this way but I did. I had to leave the hospital with an external drain coming out of my kidney because they could not operate to repair the ureter until I had healed from the c-section. I had what is called a nephrostomy tube and I had it for 8 long weeks. One of the hardest parts for me was the constant physical reminder of what I was going through. It was bad enough that I was in pain from the C-section and also from trying to delivery vaginally but the tube coming out of my kidney was a whole new pain.
I couldn't get up without help, I could barely walk. When Ella cried, I couldn't get up and take care of her. It was always kind of an unspoken rule between my husband and I that I would be the primary caregiver for the baby.
Well those roles were reversed! Not only was my husband on full time daddy duty, he was also on full time nurse duty for me. I remember one night that at the time was probably one of the worst nights but now I look back on and laugh. It was after my 4th surgery to repair the ureter into my bladder. It was very extensive and I went home from the hospital with a drain coming out of my abdomen, urinary catheter, and a whole new scar intersecting my C-section scar.
I wasn't allowed to lift Ella and again, could not get up without assistance. It was late at night and Ella was having one of those nights where nothing would console her, she was hungry, tired, cranky, bored all at the same time and would not stop crying. My husband was walking with her trying to calm her down and my dog started jumping on him to go outside. At the same time I needed him to come empty my drain and catheter because they were getting too full.
This was a real low point for us at the time but we got through it and can laugh about it now. I was so unbelievably sad. I kept thinking, "This is it? This is what I waited so long for? This is how I'm supposed to feel?" I felt completely helpless and worthless. I felt guilty because I couldn't get up and help Ella when she cried but also felt so horrible that I didn't want to get up.
There were days that I was so sick or in so much pain that getting to the couch to sit was all I could manage and couldn't do anything for Ella.I was afraid Ella was bonding with everyone else instead of me because I wasn't able to care for her like I wanted.
I felt guilty for not being happier that my baby was finally here..
For the first few weeks I think I was in literal survival mode, just trying to stay alive and when I was finally able to stop and think about all I went through I started to really process it.
Well meaning family and friends would say things like "Well she's here and healthy, that's all that matters. Now you can move on."
That made me furious!
Not only did it completely negate everything I was going through but then it made me feel selfish for focusing on myself. I was SO thankfull that my baby was healthy but at the same time I had no idea when I was going to feel better or if I'd have any long term complications.
I had almost died twice. I went through 6 surgeries, 3 week long hospital stays, and countless other tests and procedures. I would have flashbacks or wake up and not know where I was...was I in the hospital? Am I ok? Am I having another surgery? I was hurt and needed healing. I kept my feelings to myself for a long time and that was a mistake. It just kept boiling up until I finally broke down one day and told my husband how I was feeling.I just started crying and I don't think I stopped for 2 days. But once I acknowledged my feelings, I felt like a little weight was lifted off my shoulders.
The next person I talked to was my mom and she helped me to understand how different a traumatic birth is compared to a normal delivery and that the feelings I was having were completely normal. I remember telling her that I felt guilty because everyone always says that they would walk through fire for their child and at that point I wasn't sure if I felt that way and my mom explained to me, "Megan, you already have walked through fire for her! No one will every know everything you have gone through and are still going through for your child!"
That helped me put it into perspective. Once I started talking about my feelings it got better and I started to have more good days than bad. When I did have a bad day all I had to say to my husband was "It's a bad day today" and he understood that I might be crying when he came home and that it was nothing he did, just something I had to work through.
I didn't have an immediate, blissful bond with my baby, but now I feel it. Of course I loved her but I went through an incredible trauma getting her here and I needed to acknowledge and own that. Talking about it helped me so much. Now, I can think about everything I went through and know that Ella has one tough Momma and one that would (and has ) go through anything for her.
Often, when I learn more about the long term effects of maternal mood disorders on the health and development of children, I become very anxious that I have destroyed my children for life.
*** Next are the risks associated with UNTREATED maternal mood disorders on children ***
This can be pretty scary really!
*** Resume Reading Here***
Then I remember how brave I was to get help. How important it was for me and my children that I sought medical treatment. That I let go of my ego and stopped trying to "power" through. By getting treatment, I took a huge step to reduce these risks and improve the health of my children. This is the thread I hold onto when the guilt starts trying to eat me alive. My saving grace.
So to focus on the positives, I am sharing a few images of my beautiful, healthy children. Please feel free to share yours too!
Splashing in puddles with the kids,
August is National Breastfeeding Month, the first week (8/1-8/7) is World Breastfeeding Week and the last week (8/25-8/31) is Black Breastfeeding Week. Thus, it is a time of increased breastfeeding advocacy and celebration. It is not a time to shame non-breastfeeding families. In fact, as a breastfeeding advocate, certified lactation counselor, and breastfeeding mother, nothing irritates me more than an attack on a formula feeding family.
My advocacy and promotion for increased breastfeeding support is not an attack on the use of formula. It is an attack on the lack of appropriate social support that fails the moms who wanted to breastfeed. My celebration is about how far we have come, while simultaneously recognizing how much more work there is to be done.
The percentage of women who indicate they want to breastfeed is rather high. In Florida, 77% of women do initiate breastfeeding. However, by the time that mom is 3 months postpartum, only 37.6% are exclusively breastfeeding and at 6 months only 17.3 are exclusive (CDC 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card). It is this 60% of moms that wanted to, but for some reason did not maintain exclusivity, that I work and advocate for. They must be provided the support necessary to make a change in the health of moms and babies.
Nothing good comes from placing blame, fear, or guilt on the individual family. As a system of care, as a society we need to recognize how much of breastfeeding is not in the individual's control and help to build appropriate social supports that build up all mothers, regardless of feeding method. A happy healthy mom is more likely to breastfeed. A properly supported mom is more likely to breastfeed. So let's stop throwing "Breast is Best" in the faces of moms and as a society offer true support to help moms reach their feeding goals.
When it comes down to it, a happy healthy mom feeding her baby is the most important thing. Whether it is breastfeeding, pumped breast milk-bottle feeding, or formula feeding, a healthy mom, confident in her decision is the most important factor for the healthy development of her infant.
Supporting All Moms,
Caught in a landslide..no escape from reality... (I am sorry, kind of)
Yesterday morning, I was semi-daydreaming through a workshop titled “Expectations in Relationships”. While the workshop was focused on romantic relationships, I couldn’t help but think about a different relationship and the expectations I had once held for motherhood. The definition of expectation is “the act or state of looking forward; a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.”
The goals of the workshop were to decide if we should have expectations? Identify Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Expectations, and to offer tools to build healthy expectations.
Immediately I thought about how Motherhood is rampant with misconceptions, expectations, and idealizations that unlike the gradual reality of a romantic relationship, are typically thrust upon you in one final push.
Some healthy examples of expectations for relationships included: my partner will communicate with me and my partner will put in their share of the work. Unhealthy examples included, my partner will know what I am thinking, and my partner will complete me or make me fully happy.
Comparing the examples to the list of “Motherhood Expectations” I solicited from an online group of moms, I found that many moms are entering this relationship full of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for themselves, their partners, and their babies. The crash of reality with these unrealistic expectations has to do damage mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Where do our Motherhood Expectations come from?
Expectations typically come from our experiences (ie, we decide to do things or not to do things the way our mother did them), our past experiences with infants, and societal norms. One way our unrealistic expectations are allowed to develop is the fact that nobody talks about the ugly, the unpleasant, or the unmentionable. We often only see the pretty side of motherhood, amazing birth photos or new nursing mom's with a happy baby perfectly latched, or my personal favorite, calmly sleeping babies in a beautifully decorated nursery. Social Media highlights the joys and precious moments. What about the sore bottoms and chapped nipples? Friend and mentor Sarah Workman Checcone of Postpartum Society of Florida decided to change this by discussing the unspoken details in her book From Bump to Grind.
Let's look at some of the Motherhood Expectations voiced by the mom's group members.
Full disclosure, for my first son, some of these expectations were met. So I had no reason to believe otherwise that there weren’t universal truths. And in the same manner, some realities were blown with him, so my second time around I had no expectation of a clean house, healthy prepped dinners, or routine. But each expectation or “ideal” we strive for, is an opportunity for disappointment.
Part of me laughs as I say the easiest way to deal with this disappointment is to drop the expectations. But realistically, we will have expectations. So, based on the suggestions from the presentation, I would like to offer some tools, or tips really, for creating healthy expectations.
Occasionally, even when we manage to lower our expectations, we discover that something about motherhood just doesn’t meet the bar. When these expectations are unmet, it is common to feel upset. So I leave you with a few reminders of what to do when you find yourself disappointed by unmet expectations.
I remember asking Daniel to go get a pregnancy test. He scoffed at me and blew my instinct off because so many times I had felt pregnant and was wrong. Still he came home with a pregnancy test that night after work.
Unlike the 20 or so pregnancy tests I took hopefully expecting a positive result during my first marriage, this pregnancy test I was praying would be negative. I had just been laid off a few months earlier. Neither Daniel nor I had a driver’s license. I was 20 pounds heavier than my heaviest weight. I was not prepared to be pregnant. I knew this was the worst possible time in my life to be pregnant. There was no way after trying for 5 years and not getting pregnant. There was no way to conceive with out fertility treatment like I’d been told in my last marriage. How could this be happening now with no medical intervention?
Obviously the pregnancy test was positive, or I wouldn’t be writing about perinatal mood distress.
Daniel’s knee jerk reaction was, “What if we abort it? You really shouldn’t be pregnant or deliver a baby with all your health issues.”
I sat outside on our balcony. I thought about aborting the pregnancy. I thought about how I had always wanted to be a mom. I knew I had to have the baby. I had to give it a try because what if I never get pregnant again.
So we decided to have a baby. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
We moved the weekend following the positive test. This was December 2009, by Christmas we told our family.
Before New Year’s I realized something wasn’t right. I just felt so hopeless. I couldn’t eat. My mind was consumed about how everything in my life was going wrong. I had no money. I had no way to get around without depending on my mom. I had no health insurance.
The uncontrollable crying began. The intrusive thoughts, of hurting myself or falling on my uterus causing the baby to be aborted, began.
I told my mom and Dan about my fears. We took steps to find help. I got my proof of pregnancy from the health department. I called an Ob/Gyn to help me find a provider to take me to provide treatment for my depression during my prenatal care. I was told sure they would give me prenatal care as self pay but I had to see a psychiatrist for depression. I called psychiatrists and they told me that I needed to see an OB for it because I was pregnant.
I remember going to PEHMS Emergency Adult office downtown St. Pete. I stood at the receptionist window sobbing. The lady was nice, but she told me because I had no insurance and no Medicaid, I was ineligible for services. She also said, “It’s normal to be so tearful in pregnancy, it’s just the hormones.”
Even with my attempts to find treatment, I received nothing. No meds, no counseling, nothing. My depression and isolation worsened. I began looking into midwives and birth centers. Insurance policies and finances excluded many of these options. I had some prenatal care at one office, but I wasn’t happy with my care there. I went to Breath of Life and spoke to Chris Hildebrandt. She listened, she didn’t dismiss my depression. She recommended Family Systems of Care.
After an intake session and setting up some case manager visits at home I got to be seen at Directions for mental health with a counselor. My first counselor there again dismissed my issues as pregnancy related and told me that everything would be better once I had baby. I was so distraught, I felt belittled and ignored by yet another person dismissing my condition.
I spoke up to my case manager and was assigned a new therapist. Finally I had a therapist that I could work with. I also began seeing a psychiatrist about the possibility of taking medicine. Things got better. The light at the end of the tunnel could be seen.
That light ended with a beautiful baby. I am so happy to be raising a delightful little boy. I still struggle with mental illness, but I now know it is common and can be treated when caught by knowledgeable and caring providers.
I want all moms and anyone that works with moms to know that pregnancy or prenatal depression is real. It isn’t just hormones, though it can be exacerbated by the hormones of pregnancy. I want providers to know that treating mood disorders like they are simply side effects of pregnancy or the postpartum period and not addressing the root illness is the ultimate reinforcement that mothers don’t matter. There were more instances of my experience being dismissed I only mention the most memorable. These examples of dismissal say to me that women’s mental health issues aren’t important enough to be dealt with and treated. I ask myself, “How do psychiatrists not have knowledge of prescribing medications during pregnancy? How do obstetricians not know more about how to address refer and treat women who sit on their exam tables suffering?”
Due to my experiences, I desperately feel that appropriate care for moms experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders is a human rights issue. Thankfully, Chris caught me and directed me to Family systems of care, who helped me obtain treatment at directions was my salvation. Sadly, Directions is currently unfunded.
So who is helping moms like me today? That's right, I am.
Cat, a fellow Seventh Mom
A Note form The Seventh Mom Project, Inc.
Perinatal Mood Disorders, such as Depression and Anxiety can rear their ugly heads anytime during pregnancy or in the postpartum period (up to one year or more!)
Please watch yourself for these symptoms:
Contact your provider if you have any questions regarding your mental health during or after pregnancy. If you are not sure who to contact, please feel free to contact us for assistance. In an emergency, please contact 9-1-1.
Expectations and New Motherhood
One of the topics we talk about often in support groups and peer settings is that motherhood is not what we expected.
Some are more vague, but some expectations are very specific. I had this idea of what a great homemaker I was going to be when I decided to stay home after my son was born. I was wrong. I thought I was going to be able to cook and clean and spend so much time with my son all while looking like a 1950s television housewife complete with full hair and makeup every day. Then reality showed up and said "Be glad when you get to shower and brush your teeth undisturbed!"
Tired of so many moms saying to her, "I wish someone had told me...", our mentor and friend, Sarah Workman Checcone has even written a semi autobiographical book about all the things they don't tell you about labor, birth, breastfeeding and the postpartum experience. Her book, Bump to Grind is a very point blank reality check for many moms.
(NOTE: Bump to Grind is the story of many mothers, but Elizabeth suggests to balance your childbirth education with something like Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and to talk with as many moms as possible to get a better picture of the various ways birth happens.)
I don't know if I should even get into all the things I was wrong about becoming a mother. The process of becoming a mother, followed by parenting a tiny little human is full of possibilities for making what I used to consider mistakes. Pregnancy, labor, hospitals, feeding, sleeping, toys, clothes, cartoons, mothers and mother-in-laws. For instance, after the birth of my first child, I vowed never to wear those ridiculous mesh panties again, and held to the promise through two more babies. Enter baby number four and hello cheesecloth underwear. Again. I was wrong.
In our year of conversations, Elizabeth and I have discovered many similarities in unmet expectations. I, too, was once a woman who thought if I have the most beautiful, amazing, natural birth, I'll will avoid postpartum depression. Guess what home birth moms can and do struggle with perinatal distress as well. Elizabeth shared her story recently about how her reality challenged her expectations after her perfect birth.
I also believed that the feeling of detachment I experienced in pregnancy would go away as soon as I held my baby. I just knew all those happy mushy in-love feelings would simply appear the moment he was born. Nope. Not after I first held him. Not after we left the hospital. Not after I went back to work. Not after I quit my job and stayed home. In fact, it took months before I actually felt like "I love this tiny human; I really love my baby".
Another mythic image of motherhood is the blissed-out new mom, breastfeeding with no trouble and no signs of lack of sleep. I can tell you now if a mom is breastfeeding or pumping she's giving up sleep somewhere and it's going to be visible. If she's formula feeding, she's also losing rest to feedings; possibly even more time than the mom who's nursing. Breastfeeding in itself can be mythical.
For some moms, breastfeeding comes almost second nature. For others, breastfeeding hurts or causes a multitude of other issues. There's poor latches, engorgement, thrush, and mastitis. I'm pretty convinced that difficulty with nursing or not meeting our own expectations can exasperate postpartum distress. Let's be real with new moms and moms to be. It's not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. For some women the hormones that our body produces associated with breastfeeding can really upset their mental state. And weaning depression, yeah it's a thing. it's a real thing for anyone who thinks that it's easy to just stop breastfeeding and move forward happily even when they had difficulty and did not enjoy breastfeeding, guess what they're wrong too. In fact ask my friend Cat, an IBCLC about breastfeeding and maternal mental health. Oh boy what she could tell you about false expectations! She voiced a multitude of concerns that we will have to share with you later.
For expectant moms, we suggest lining up the people you will need for breastfeeding support now. Find a local La Leche League group or Lactation Support Group. Moms that have a goal and a plan including the support of their partner are most likely to continue breastfeeding than those that don't prepare. Breastfeeding classes in Hillsborough County can been found here.
Another example of a wrong mother moment: I'd be the super happy energetic mom who never loses her patience, enjoys playing with the same singing Elmo toy for hours every day while refereeing Lego fights in between making endless kid friendly snacks and who is always thrilled to run errands with four kids in tow. If you know someone like this, chances are she's putting up a good front and you can do her a world of good by letting her know you see her. You can relate to her struggle and offer a safe place to vent when she needs it. If you are her, I need your secret. Seriously.
There's so much I was wrong about before having kids. So much I was wrong about having two, three, and four kids. I would not change my past nor give one of my kiddos up, but I would gladly pay for the cure for tantrums, tattling, and whining. I'd pay good money to never experience a diaper blow out that ruins my clothes. But I can't. And neither can the rest of the moms or the moms-to-be.
Elizabeth's Post Midnight Thought Pattern
Today is Everything You Think is Wrong Day. It's also the Ides of March, beware this can get kind of confusing. Taking the idea of everything you think is wrong and putting it into context of motherhood is counter-intuitive for me. Everything you thought about motherhood is probably wrong; when you think about the cute and cuddly baby, always smelling so delicious with rosy cheeks, quietly snuggling in your arms. Yeah that happens in motherhood. But it is the reason well meaning people say to cherish every minute and soak it up. You will miss the snuggles, but the snuggles are not the only thing happening in most mother's postpartum experiences. The screaming baby exists. We don't often see pictures of the screaming baby preconception, and even if they come across our radar, we tend to blame the parents. And since we ALL know we are going to be that mythical hero, AWESOME MOM, it won't happen to us.
No matter what you thought about motherhood, if those thoughts were full of staunch, black OR white, irrevocable ideas about the perfect baby and perfect way to parent, everything you think is wrong (or will be soon).
We have so much social pressure to be the perfect mother and before we are the perfect mother we have a really good idea of what we think the perfect mother's going to be so everything you thought was wrong. However everything you think once you get past that mythical mother, is right. Once we let go of our mythical expectations, I have found, it's really, really hard to come up with absolute wrong ways to mother. Most of us are walking around doing the best we can, with what we have. In my opinion we could read lots of blogs, journals and books; do all the research, but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. We are our baby's experts. It's what you, your family and your baby come up with to survive that matters. Motherhood is a game of survival. If you're both still here; you're doing something right.
We would like to amend the national day calendar, making March 15 "Everything You Think You Know About Motherhood is Wrong Day". Let's just give ourselves a clean slate. Seriously there are days I need a do over. How about your ? What expectations were you certain you knew everything about? What challenged these beliefs and how did you reconcile your new truths? Comment below! We want you as a part of the conversation as we help break down unreasonable expectations for new and expectant moms.
While reviewing Tuesday’s blog post about International Women’s Day, it occurred to me how happy I am to have my amazing, feisty daughter. I am excited to be pushing these initiatives today, to provide for her generation a better tomorrow for women. I am not only excited to guide Allison and aid her individual growth; but also am excited to see who she will become. I look forward to a future of strong female leaders in a society that takes care of mothers the way they deserve to be cared for.
But it wasn’t always this way. From the moment I was pregnant, I tried to deny I was pregnant with a girl. I was so brutally sick, depressed and anxious. I wasn’t ready to accept I could parent a girl. People would ask and excitedly say, “One of each!” I would fill with dread. I was perfectly happy to raise two little boys and their older bonus sister on the weekends. I already had a girl and I had the luxury of sharing the role model responsibility with her biological mother.
My family was undergoing a lot of external stress when we found out we were pregnant with a girl. I luckily had read that girls withstand stress in the womb better, so I clung to that as a good thing. At least my baby would be more resilient. This was quickly counteracted with “WHO THINKS LIKE THIS?” screaming through my thoughts. Calmly followed by, “You, you do, because it’s all you have to hold on to right now.” My prenatal depression fed me lies. Told me I wouldn’t be a good mom to a girl. That I wouldn’t know what I was doing. My disappointment fed into my guilt and the whole thing escalated beyond my control. So I kept life moving, but underneath, I was an anxious, depressed kettle, ready to explode.
After International Women’s Day, and my epiphany that maybe this wasn’t an individual thing, maybe, like perinatal distress, there are more moms experiencing this disappointment, fear and guilt. So, I did what most moms would do, I turned to Google to find out. I was blown away by how prevalent this issue appeared on mom blogs and discussion boards. Notice the 282,000 google results!
I am linking a few that hit my heart hard:
Gender Disappointment – Tips For Coping With Gender Disappointment
SECRETLY SAD: OVERCOMING GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT
It’s a Boy, and It’s Okay to Be Disappointed
I am glad other parents are speaking out about this issue! It’s always nice to see that you’re not alone. I attempted to access some scholarly articles, and the one I found that linked gender disappointment as a risk factor was based on a cohort of women in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Interestingly enough, that study found that disappointment in having a girl was the concern for these mothers; while according to my completely unscientific review of the Internet, the western world seems to covet little girls. I found this personally interesting. The other studies I found on Google Scholar required paid memberships to access or a student ID. In my motherly opinion, I feel strongly that gender disappointment in the USA has to be tied to unrealistic expectations in American parenting (a subject I feel very soap boxy about, so let’s catch up another time). I would love to see more research and a transparent examination of gender disappointment; why it happens, how to help reduce the occurrence, and how to cope with it.
Realizing how much I love being a strong woman, made me realize how excited I am to raise a strong woman. Yes, it made me twinge with guilt for not embracing my daughter earlier, but also made me realize that I have embraced her fully. For this I am beyond grateful. She is my driving force and when (if) she has babies, postpartum life in America will be vastly different. This mama is making sure of it.
So tell me, did you experience mixed feelings when you found out the gender of your baby?
Reflecting on the rain,
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the