You are there for a Purpose

It had been about 4 weeks since I returned to work and I was completely overwhelmed. Between 2 kids, nursing, working, trying to fix our house, and simply staying alive, I was beat. On top of just trying to figure out how to be a working mom of two, I was also facing an up hill battle at work. Both my home life and my work life seemed completely daunting – where do I even start?

How can I leave this cuteness???

Sometimes you just need a friend to speak truth, amiright? I called a mentor and friend of mine and we talked for a long time. We strategized and planned and it helped, but I still was feeling burdened, until she said one line… “You are there for a purpose.”

“You are there for a purpose”

Guilt and disappointment followed me on my way into work most mornings. Coming back to work after my first baby was a necessity, in more ways than strictly financial. I needed the human adult interaction and to use my brain again. I needed the challenge and I enjoyed showing the world that I could do it and be successful. But after my second was different. My first baby made me a mom, but my second baby helped me realize the small joys that come with babies, kids, and motherhood. All of this made returning to work really difficult. I felt guilty that I wasn’t at home raising my children. Shouldn’t they have their mom around all the time? Why am I paying someone else to raise my kids?

Now, the saving grace of this situation is that we were able to move home where our parents live. My mother in law graciously agreed to watch the boys when both Bryan and I are working. I can’t explain the peace that I feel knowing that we get to leave our boys with family. I am so thankful, but I still feel guilty! I never wanted to be a mom that depended on someone else to raise her kids (really, I am so fiercely independent that I hate admitting I need help or assistance with anything – but that’s for another blog post).

So all these feelings were building and building. I felt guilty, ashamed, overwhelmed, exhausted, I was at the end of my rope. But then truth was spoken, “You are there for a purpose.” I believe that no matter where life takes you, God has a purpose. Every circumstance, every encounter, every stressful or challenging thing can be turned over to Him and is an opportunity to turn toward Him.

This is the truth I want to tell you today, YOU ARE HERE FOR A PURPOSE.

Whether you are a college student, a working mom, a stay at home mom, a single woman, or a widow, you are HERE for a purpose. And more specifically, you are in exactly the right spot to be used for a purpose. It may not be immediately visible to you and it might take some thought or reflection, but I know it is there.

And more specifically, you are in exactly the right spot to be used for a purpose.

Here is one more opportunity for me to turn toward God. Every morning I get to demonstrate His love and grace (however imperfectly) to a group of adults that otherwise I would have zero connection. I cannot tell you the number of conversations I have had in my office and I leave thinking, that was a total God thing. I also get to have the experience of being humbled almost daily, my pride checked, because I make mistakes and fall. Whether noticeable to others (and sometimes VERY noticeable) or in the silence, I am consistently reminded of God’s grace with me and therefore how much grace I need to have with others. Most notably, my 2-year-old who literally does not listen to 80% of what I say.

So for this season of littles, babies, working, surviving, and figuring out what my purpose truly is, I will continue to turn toward God. He has a purpose for me, and I believe he has a purpose for you. How can you turn toward God today? What would that look like? Let me know in the comments!

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me

Psalm 57:2

We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression

I have to admit that I have been putting this off for some time.  I first heard about this endeavor in late 2016 and wanted to share and be part of this movement. But, figuring how and what to share has been difficult.

I had another post written. I detailed those first few days and weeks after the birth of my first son and explained to all you beautiful, wonderful people how much I was going through. I expressed in my best words how it felt, why it was happening, and all the things that were working against me.

And then I stopped.

If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.

I stopped because I was justifying my feelings. I was trying to justify the fact that I struggled for months with undiagnosed postpartum depression. I explained everything that was going on because I didn’t want you to think I am weak.  I so want you to understand my deep struggle and the visceral heartache that still plagues me that I wrote a very meaningful piece that did nothing.  I think it would have been fine, or even good, to share all of those things for the simple fact that I know other moms feel the exact same way right now [and dare I say that moms well beyond those newborn days feel the same? Moms of toddlers, elementary school kids, preteens, teens, and beyond? Moms who have lost children, moms who never got to meet their babies, moms who adopt, moms who perhaps never got to have children at all?].  My post was true and deep and meaningful and difficult, but I do not believe it was the right post for this cause.

This cause is about ending the stigma of postpartum depression – PPD – and postpartum anxiety – PPA.  If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.  It certainly feels good when we someone else understands the way we feel and why we feel it, but even if no one else ever understands the way you are feeling, you are still dealing with depression, and that’s okay.

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This is after we got to our recovery room. I had been awake for about 36 hours at this point and just had a C-section. 

I want you to know that it is okay to deal with depression even if you had a beautiful birth, just the way you wanted.  It is okay to deal with depression even if you have a beautiful baby that you cherish, love, and adore. It is okay if you have depression even though breastfeeding went well for you.  It is okay to have depression even if your baby sleeps through the night.  It is okay to deal with depression whether you prayed for your child for years or you had no idea motherhood was before you. It is okay.

Our first picture as a family of 3

There is no qualifying list, no one way depression manifests itself.  In the midst of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation, depression can seem like it will take care of itself if you can just sleep, just relax, just get away, just have one minute to yourself.  And sometimes it does, but other times, in darker times, it sticks around.  It follows you like a lurking shadow.  No matter how bright the lights are, the shadow is still there, attached to your every move.  The shadow is not nimble, it is cumbersome, it is exhausting.  Your shadow is a physical weight that you carry on a daily basis, an emotional sink that you keep pouring into, but never fills up.  The shadow clouds your judgement, you ability to think and concentrate, your patience and ability to deal with your ever-changing emotions.

One of my favorite pictures, but one that I forced myself to take because I knew, someday, that I would want to see pictures of his little face.

There are signs of PPD/PPA, certainly, and I had many of them.  I felt disconnected and numb. I told myself I HAD to take pictures and I HAD to tell Vincent that I loved him everyday because I didn’t feel like doing either of those things. I wanted to get away from the baby, but as soon as I was away I dealt with anxiety that something terrible would happen while I was gone.  I was irritable and impatient with the baby, but as soon as I felt myself snap I would melt into a big ball of tears. But the fact of the matter is, you can hide these things if you really want to.  The shadow can continue to follow you if you let it, and many times, no one else realizes it’s there except for you.

We must act. We must speak out. We must advocate for each other. And in order for women to seek the help they need, we must end the stigma.

You can read more about my newborn experience here.  I won’t detail it in this post, but I will tell you that I was struggling and I didn’t know how to tell people I was struggling. How do you verbalize a change that happened so quickly you don’t have time to process it? It’s more than, “I’m having a hard time.” I wish I would have said something. I wish I would have had help. I wish I would have known how to do more than take the 2 minute survey at the doctor and be told my feelings were normal.  [and yes they are normal, but there was MORE going on and I wanted SOMEONE to see it and identify it FOR me, I just wasn’t able to do it myself]

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So what I want to share is this: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to ask for help, even if you don’t know what you need or what help looks like. If you start to ask for help you will find relief and reprieve, you will find healing. The road will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I would also add that as a culture, WE MUST SLOW DOWN.  If you know a new mom, slow down enough to look her in the eye and say, “How are you doing, really?” And when she says, “Oh I’m fine, just tired,” look her in the eye again and repeat, “Really?” I fear that our culture has become so fast, so focused on posting the perfect Instagram picture, so busy, that we won’t slow down enough to see people who are hurting, struggling, and in need of a friend.  New moms especially fit into the category. Your ENTIRE world was just changed and now you have the responsibility of raising a tiny human. The pressure, the loss of independence, the sleepless nights, the physical recovery that has to happen all while caring for a newborn is more than anyone has ever dealt with before and it is okay to not be okay.

I give you permission to not be okay.

So, mama, I give you permission to struggle and need help. I want you to know that people see you and hear you.  We know the heartache and we are here for you. We want you to feel free to share what is going on so that we can better help you.  We are here, and we are here to stay.  It’s okay to not be okay.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.}

 

Eleventy-hundred Reasons I feel Mom Guilt

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Mom Guilt: That feeling you have on the regular that you could be doing more or better. The realization of responsibility and uncertainty that you are fulfilling your child’s needs. The crushing sense of uncertainty with many parenting decisions and then wanting to make a different/better decision the next time around…. The mom guilt definition could go on. Here is an EDITED list of reasons I feel mom guilt on the daily:

  • Not letting my child “settle himself” at 3am and getting up to nurse him because he will go to sleep faster
  • Letting my child cry-it-out so that he learns to settle himself
  • Nursing my baby on a schedule ( You need to feed on demand! )
  • Nursing on demand ( Your baby needs a routine! )
  • Not wanting to nurse at 11pm, 1am, 3am, and 5am ( Nurse your baby whenever he wakes, he needs comfort! )
  • Wanting to sleep (see above timeline )
  • Eating too much chocolate for the nursing baby’s tummy
  • Not getting my child up at 5am when he wakes [ You just let him lay in bed for an hour? ]
  • Not having enough structured play for my 2 yo [He is so smart, you should do more with him! ]
  • Having too much structured play/learning time for my 2yo [Kids learn best by free play!]
  • Not having “self-care” [You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your kids]
  • Feeling selfish for taking time for “self-care” [ Bottles, pumping, toddler hanging off of you when you leave the house and crying as you go… it’s a lot of work to take time for yourself]
  • Feeding my toddler mac n’cheese for the 4th day in a row [ because, left overs ]
  • Too much fruit and not enough veggies [ but it’s all he will eat ]
  • Telling toddler they cannot have a sugary dessert [ Ice cream mommy! ]
  • Not being flexible enough to allow toddler to have said sugary dessert
  • Being “too strict” with bed time [ between 6:30 and 7 in our house ]
  • Not being strict enough with bed time [ maybe we should be in bed at 6? ]
  • Being a stickler for the 4 month old’s routine and nap schedule [ up for an hour? time to start the nap time routine! ]
  • Worrying about the 4 month old’s naps because he is only 4 months old [ You should go do things while you can! ]
  • Not sticking to the 1 hour rule for the 4 month old and then suffering the consequences [ over tired, very upset baby at nap time ]
  • Not giving the 4 month old solids [ You know you can start him on solids now, right? ]
  • Thinking about starting 4 month old on solids [ You know that he can be exclusively breast-fed until 6 months, right? ]
  • Pushing through and nursing for a full year [ You can always just give him formula and he will sleep more ]
  • Having to supplement formula [ Your body can produce enough milk for your baby! ]
  • Not getting the toddler outside daily
  • Getting toddler outside, but not putting sun screen on [ oops ]
  • The fact that baby cannot nap because toddler needs to get outside [ He does not nap in the stroller anymore – we discovered this while in the stroller ]
  • Not playing with toddler because baby needs to nurse [ Come on Mommy! ]

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  • Sitting the toddler in front of the TV so that I can put the baby down for a nap for the 4th time that day { Daniel Tiger! }
  • Letting toddler continue to watch TV after baby is in bed because I just want to sit on the couch { Annnndddd mommy closes her eyes…just for a minute…}
  • Having a completely “tech free” day, but then realizing that the toddler actually learns something from Sesame Street { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Mommy 5! The count, 5! }
  • Not wearing the baby enough (He won’t feel loved and attached!)
  • Baby-wearing too much [He will never be independent! He won’t be able to sleep on his own!)
  • Not using cloth diapers….then reading that cloth diapers use more water so then it’s okay….but then reading that disposable diapers take 20 years to degrade in the land fill….the cycle starts again
  • The toddler only got 9 hours of sleep last night! { shouldn’t it be 12? }
  • Worrying every day about how much sleep each child is getting { just relax! they will be fine! }
  • Not being a “fun mom” and playing games
  • Playing games and having fun when I should be holding the baby or doing laundry
  • Doing laundry and chores instead of playing games
  • Crap, forgot to change the toddler’s diaper before nap time… did I change the baby’s diaper? Wait, when did the baby eat last?…. Now feeling guilty because I can’t keep either child’s schedule straight
  • Going back to work [ I just love being home with my kids! But isn’t that a waste of your Master’s degree? ]
  • Not wanting to stay home with the kids [ Are you just dreading going back to work? Umm… only sometimes. ]
  • Taking time to work out [ I can have it all! ]
  • Not taking time to work out [ Oh M geeeee I just want a nap ]
  • Putting the kids to bed early because I JUST CAN’T anymore

Mamas – why do we put ourselves through this? We are all trying to do our best! This self talk needs to change. We are doing the best and hardest work! We need to give ourselves a break.  As moms, we have the weight of responsibility and it’s easy to let that stress take over and not enjoy the little moments of motherhood.

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I am so thankful that every day is a fresh start. If I don’t like the way something went yesterday, I can change it today. If I tried a new parenting technique and it doesn’t work for our family, I can try something different the next time around. It’s a learning process and we all have the same goals in mind: creating a healthy home environment for our families to thrive in. That looks different for different people, but I think we can all agree that we want the best for our kids. If we all have the same goal, we can focus on supporting each other and not worrying about what we are [ or aren’t ] doing.

I’m GREAT at Religion [but I’m a struggling Christ follower]

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Here are some facts about me:

I am efficient. I strive to do things better and faster and have no patience for anything else.

I am a rule follower. Give me guidelines and I will operate within them, strictly following each letter of the law.

I am a high achiever. I believe I can always do better, achieve more, and succeed no matter the obstacle in front of me.

I am very independent. If I see something that needs to be done, I do it; I handle it and take responsibility.

These traits naturally lend to being REALLY good at Religion – the rule following especially. Religion, at its very basic level, is a set of rules and guidelines that one must follow in order to go to Heaven. If you follow these rules and do the right things you get to go up when you die. If you don’t, you go down. So, as a rule following, efficient, strive-to-do-your-best, independent person, Religion is my jam.  The 10 Commandments? Yep, I can follow those. Trying to be the best person I can be all the time? I have been trying to do that since I can remember. Doing the right thing because God says I should? I strive to do that too. Tithe 10%? Okay, it’s in the Bible, I can follow that rule. I can see sin in others and I can tell you what the Bible says about it. On and on with the rules. I will try to achieve them all. I will do my best. I will…. I….

Did you notice how many times “I” came up? I am good at Religion, but I am struggling as a Christian. Why? Because ultimately, I am trying to earn God’s grace and acceptance. Instead of going to God first and seeking His will, His grace, and His mercy, I take control and try to make peace with God. That is Religion, when WE try to make peace with God. I naturally fall into the religion category. In fact, go ahead and call me a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were the religious elite of Jesus’ day. They knew the Old Testament books and teachings inside and out. They knew every. single. thing. they should do and say. They could follow all the rules and they challenged Jesus often based on their understanding of the Old Testament. The Pharisees were supposed to be the example of God’s love and covenant with the Jewish people. They were to help Jewish people perform sacrifices and answer their questions so that everyone could be right with the Lord. However, they soon became a ruling class. A group of people so caught up in the rules and regulations of the law that they missed the whole point of the Scriptures and also missed the fact that Jesus is Messiah.

Lately, I have seen myself fitting more into the Pharisee category than the Jesus category. I want to follow a set of rules. I want to clean myself up before I approach the throne. I want my works and my actions to bring me the peace that God offers. I judge others based on outward decisions. And then I feel like a complete failure when I am not enough and I can’t do enough to be where I want to be with Jesus.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees often. In Matthew 23 verses 3 and 4, Jesus says this, “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”  How often I do this to myself and others. Do I practice what I teach? Do I put into action the teachings of the Bible and the words of Christ? Sadly, I often do not.

The truth is friends, I can NEVER do enough to feel at peace with God. The only way to be at peace with God is through relationship with Him. Changing my behavior will only work for so long before I burn out or make a major mistake. Truthfully. the only thing that can bring me the peace I so desire is communion with Jesus. But because of my innate gifts (which by the way God created in me, why couldn’t he have made this easier?) this is very difficult for me to do.

Are you here, too? Maybe you have been trying to be good your whole life and just can’t measure up. Maybe you DO follow all the rules but STILL don’t have peace. Perhaps you are the good religious person, but find you lack grace for others and yourself.

I think most of us have it backwards. Instead of us striving to be right with God, we should be surrendering to God and allowing His peace to wash over us.  Instead of trying to do good works, we should be asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can participate in the larger plan that God has. Instead of worrying about what to do and say, we should look to the example of Jesus and seek to honor him in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God” (NIV) another translations says “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God” (GW). Yet another translation says “Cease your striving and know that I am God” (New American Standard).

I want to honor God in all I do, but I need to let go of my need for control and my desire for clearly laid out rules and instead seek to find God first. I need Jesus to be the Lord of my life in order to enjoy the fullness of life that has been offered to me. I am still figuring out how to do this, but I think it all starts with a simple statement:

Cease striving.

Millennials: Made for More

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I was speaking with a colleague the other day and he said to me, “I feel like I am made for more than this job.”  Our conversation revolved around staying engaged at work, feeling like you are making a difference, and putting your all into work or a company when you feel like you were made for more.  This is the cry of our generation – we were made to be more than order takers or paper pushers! We were made to change the world!

As a manager and a Millennial myself, I am conflicted when I have these conversations. There is certainly part of me that agrees – I do feel that we as individual people were made for more than “just doing a job.” But in my professional career, being responsible for a team of representatives, there is a job to be done and it is my responsibility to make sure everyone on my team is pulling their weight. During this particular conversation, I voiced some opinions that helped me clarify and solidify my stance on where I stand as a Millennial and how I want to encourage my fellow working Millennials to approach work, career, job, and life.

I have been at my current company for 6, almost 7, years.  There have been days where I feel like finding more, where I want to move on to something bigger and better, but I have stayed put because its just always seemed like the right thing. In my time staying with one company I feel like I have learned a few things that have helped to fit my Millennial ideals into corporate America.

If you were “made for more,” MAKE YOUR WORK MORE.

I think that we have fallen into the trap that somewhere out there is a job that will automatically be MORE for us. A theoretical space where we can achieve our best, have an amazing career, love what we do, and make a difference in the world.  I have friends who absolutely occupy this space, but I have plenty more who desperately wish they could find this mystical dream job.

My point is this – do your best to make your current circumstances BE MORE.  Exact change in the space that you occupy, don’t waste away time wishing things were different. Make changes NOW to be better tomorrow.

Here is what this looks like for me: managing a team of individuals, I have the unique opportunity to speak into their lives. I can speak words of truth and encouragement; I can spur them on to achieve higher goals than they thought possible; I can work to motivate each individual and bring us together collectively as a team; I can care about my team beyond numbers and goals and show them that I value them as people and contributors to both our company and society as a whole.  As someone in the customer service field I can show my customers that they are important people by listening and caring about their needs. I can be positive and do what’s right for every individual. I can help people to the best of my abilities and be honest when things go wrong. No matter what I can show people respect and that alone can change someone’s day.

See, I think that we need to stop feeling like we aren’t doing enough and start focusing on the little things that we can do to change the world around us daily. The people you have the most impact on are the people you live with and work with – what would it look like to love and encourage those people the most? What would it look like for you to be the best damn representative your company has ever seen?  How would your team or office change if you started encouraging everyone around you? If you offered to help your colleagues even when they maybe don’t deserve it?

I am not saying that you can’t pursue your dream job or that you have to stay at a job you hate.  But I do think that we make a mistake by thinking there is always something better when we could invest where we are.

So show up with PURPOSE. Commit to do YOUR BEST every day.  Look for ways to enact change NOW. INVEST in your co workers. Make whatever you do MATTER because you make people around you matter. Most of all, don’t let an opportunity slip away because you are hoping for something better, bigger, or more – make your work MORE now.

So, what helped?

After my last blog post When you [don’t] love your baby I was asked a question by a friend (who gave me permission to use this question):

     “What specifically helped you through this time with Vincent – spiritually, emotional, mentally?            What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?”

I thought these were great questions – but I really had to think about them.  How did I actually do this? What did help me during this time? I have been reflecting on these questions all week and I have had some thoughts that I wanted to share. There are 3 things that I think helped me through those first 8 weeks.

The first thing that helped me through this time is my relationship with Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I cried out to God in silent prayer, wrote in my journal, or just asked for comfort.  I honestly do not know how parents do the whole parenting thing without believing in a higher power. I feel like I need God’s help, peace, and guidance every single day.  That being said, I would like to add that Jesus did not magically make the process easier. I would ask God, “why can’t I just set this baby down?!?!? Please Lord, just let him sleep for 30 minutes by himself!” or something of the like. I can tell you that at those moments Vincent did not automatically fall into a peaceful dream state and then I immediately calmed down and then had a perfect day after. Why? Because newborns act the way they do for a reason – they are learning how to function in this new world and it’s overwhelming. I think that my relationship with God gave me a solid foundation to stand on, I stood on my rock and this kept me grounded even on the hardest days. God DID send me comforts – Bryan would get home from class early so I could take a nap, a friend from church would text or bring over dinner, another new mom would stop by with her baby and I would have company, my parents would call with encouraging words.  It might not have been the 8+ hours of sleep that I was hoping for, but God bore me up in different ways so I could keep going.

The second thing that got me through is my self talk. I have always had a strong inner dialogue with myself.  For majority of my life this was third person.  I don’t know if you have ever thought about how you speak to yourself, but typically when I speak to myself in the third person it is negative, “Why did you do that?!” “How could you make that mistake!” etc.  Thankfully, one thing that I began before Vincent came was talking to myself in the first person and asserting truths when things were difficult.  When I was feeling like the worst mom in the world because I didn’t want to hold my child anymore, I would speak to myself truthfully and logically (sometimes out loud) “You are tired, and that’s okay, but Vincent needs to be held right now and you can do that.  Holding Vincent helps his brain develop, I am helping him feel protected and cared for.  I am a good mom because I am doing exactly what Vincent needs right now.”  I would also assert Biblical truths over myself and Vincent.  You see, Satan (who is very real) plays tricks on our minds often. Unfortunately, he just has to plant a little seed of doubt, discouragement, question, or deception for our brains to latch on and let them grow out of control. He would slip in with thoughts of “You aren’t good at this” “You can’t keep going” “You shouldn’t have had a kid” and on and on. What I have learned is that we have extraordinary power over ourselves simply based off of what we think and what we listen to. When these thoughts would slip in, I would speak a truth to combat the lie.

Lie: “You aren’t good enough”

Truth: “Jesus died on a cross and said that I am worth the price, I am his daughter, I am good enough for Jesus and I need nothing else”

Lie: “You shouldn’t have had kids”

Truth: “God knit this child together in my womb. He created this life and chose me to be his mom. This was divinely appointed, not by chance. I am supposed to be Vincent’s mom”

Lie: “You can’t keep going”

Truth: “God will lift me up on eagle’s wings.  He will support and sustain me.  He is Jehovah Jireh – God who provides. I cannot do it on my own, but God will help me”

We have such power in what we say to ourselves and what God says about us. It’s amazing how quickly things turn around when we start focusing on God’s truth and do not let the lies enter into our thoughts.  If you don’t have a relationship with God (or even if you do), I would encourage you to ask God a question, “What are lies I am currently telling myself?” and then if you discover any, “God, what do you say about these things?” I think it would be an interesting experiment. Even if you don’t feel like that would work, or you are opposed to a higher power, I would encourage you to start practicing positive self talk. No matter what, I think you will see a difference in the way you hold yourself, act, and respond when negativity comes your way.

Third, I am extremely stubborn and hate failure. And this really helped me persevere.  Being stubborn and having a fear of failure is definitely something that I am not always proud of, but in this circumstance it worked to my advantage. You want to know why I was able to breastfeed for a year? Because I am stubborn and I set a goal – I was going to achieve it NO. MATTER. WHAT. I didn’t want to fail. You want to know why I woke up every two hours to feed Vincent for those first 8 weeks? Because I am stubborn, I wanted to continue to breastfeed, and I knew I had to keep going in order to be successful. When I felt void of emotions and that I wanted to shirk away from responsibility – I couldn’t because I am too stubborn to admit that I couldn’t do it so I just kept going. This is called perseverance and the experience of living through the newborn stage helped me realize how important perseverance is in life overall.  They say the best things aren’t easy, and I would say motherhood and the newborn phase definitely fall into that category. I learned a lot about humility and asking for help with Vincent, which was good growth for me. But ultimately the will and drive to not give up and just keep going did help me get through a really hard time and continue to breast feed through it all.

The second part of the question, “What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?” this part is more difficult. Apparently, to outsiders it looked like I was fine. After I wrote the original piece my husband said, “I had no idea you were feeling that way.” In my head I thought,how could you NOT know that I was feeling that way?! I was a wreck and I looked like a disaster!  But at the time, I didn’t express much of the lack of feeling because everything was SO OVERWHELMING. While I didn’t feel like I loved Vincent and felt void of many emotions, I was equally overwhelmed with the amount of change that occurred. I have been able to process these feelings in the year that has followed and I have been able to sort through the difficulties. At the time, I couldn’t express these feelings because I didn’t really fully grasp what was going on. I simply existed and got through the day.  AND WE HAD GOOD DAYS! Here is proof

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See! I am actually happy, that’s not a fake smile. I don’t mean to sound like everything was doom and gloom, it was just hard. I do remember happy times in those early days, too.

As I reflected on this time I realized that social media also played with my head. I had several friends that also had babies around the same time I did. They were posting pictures of these precious little bundles with captions like, “My everything!” “I love him/her so much!” “We are so in love with our little one!” etc. I would see these pictures and think, “I don’t feel that way!” but then immediately feel the need to post a picture with some sort of heartwarming caption because other people were doing it. Here’s the thing – I STILL don’t post pictures with captions like that. My captions are literal, sarcastic, sometimes (I think) funny, etc. The closest I got to “heartwarming” was when we were in the hospital and snapped this pic with the caption “Be still my heart” –

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but looking back it is interesting that I felt I needed to SHOW and PROVE my love for my child via pics and captions on social media. Just because I don’t post things that way, does it mean I love my child any less? No, it means that type of characterization is not genuine to who I am as an individual. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be sappy just because I am a mom. So this time around I know that social media does not define my affections for my child and I don’t need to worry about how much or how little I post about him.

So those are my thoughts and responses. Mamas – what got you through the newborn phase??

 

 

When you [don’t] love your baby

This blog post has been a long time coming, but it’s one that I keep putting off.

It’s a hard topic to talk about, but a few interactions recently have made me realize how important it is to share about the reality after your baby shows up.

So here it is…

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Prior to Vincent arriving people would ask me if I felt prepared. My answer was almost always, “as prepared as I can be.”  I knew that motherhood would be like nothing I had experienced before, but I also knew that I was a strong person who had lived through difficult experiences so I knew that I could conquer life with a newborn.

No matter what people tell you or what you think you are prepared for, no verbal explanation can explain the first 6-8 weeks of motherhood.  The first 8 weeks were especially difficult for me. I don’t know that I was suffering from postpartum depression, I was actually vigilantly looking out for this because I have suffered from depression in the past. No, what I felt was complete distance from who I used to be with this new life that now depended on me for everything.  I was extremely sleep deprived, away from family, and had a husband in the midst of nursing school and clinicals.  Many days, it was all me all day with a newborn. And many nights I was getting about 30-45 minutes of sleep between feedings while my newborn slept on my chest because he hated being set down.  One day I went from being an independent and self-reliant individual to a mom, and that’s something that no words and no verbal explanation can prepare you for.

Most of all I didn’t feel like I loved my son. I remember when Bryan brought me Vincent in the hospital and I literally had to tell myself out loud “this is your baby, this is Vincent!” But I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t overwhelmed with any sort of feeling really, I felt next to nothing.  I went through the motions, started nursing, tried to sleep (which in the hospital is a joke).  We took Vincent home and I continued to do the things that moms are supposed to do, but it all felt detached. It didn’t feel genuine, it was an obligation, a responsibility that I was now stuck with and no one else could really help with. Bryan did everything he could – he would be up late studying and hold the baby so I could sleep. He forced me to take naps and made sure I was eating while he was around.  But it’s not the same as being a mom.

The most difficult and most unexpected transition was the loss of independence. Suddenly, you have to think and plan every hour of every day to make sure that you are able to provide for your child.  Since Vincent hated being set down, this meant that I literally had a baby attached to me almost all the time.  Being a very independent individual, this was shocking and revolting to me.  Whenever people would come over I would immediately hand over Vincent because I just didn’t want to hold him anymore. I remember telling myself that I had to take pictures of Vincent because SOMEDAY I would want to look back and see how little he was (and that definitely DID happen! Now I wish we had more pictures of those early days).

All of this made me think that I didn’t love Vincent. I would physically make myself tell him that I loved him every day, because I knew that deep down I probably did love him even though I didn’t FEEL like it.

What I learned is that newborn love is a different kind of love.  I was used to relationships with reciprocity.  Babies don’t do this.  You pour out into your little one and you get crying, sucking, and poop in return.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some precious moments, but mostly it was just trying to make it through another day. What I realized was that I DID love my baby because I was doing everything I needed to do in order to care for him. I was nursing him, holding him so that he would sleep, cuddling him, cleaning him, and learning how to be his mom.  This is how you love a newborn – you survive, you learn, and you do what you can every day.

Our feelings lie. Especially sleep deprived hormone driven feelings.  Feelings come and go, like the ocean tides. They well up and overflow and then they dry out. Actions don’t lie. Actions show who and what we really are.  So if you are having a hard time and your actions are to seek help, tell your doctor, ask for assistance – this is you loving your baby.  If you feel like you don’t love your baby, but you nurse him every time he is hungry and then walk him around for 45 minutes at 3am because he is fussy, this is you loving your baby.  If you are a natural and you just have the mom thing down, your actions are still what demonstrate this love.  Babies feel loved by being taken care of, protected, cuddled, swaddled, and being nestled against mom or dad. They experience love in safety and comfort, not words or expressions.  I know that Vincent felt loved because we did everything he needed in those early days and on those really hard early days, I knew that I just had to act like I loved Vincent no matter what my feelings were telling me.

I recently heard of another mom who was experiencing the same feelings that I was during this early period.  My friend was concerned and shared her story with me. I asked if I could write her a letter.  I later had the pleasure of meeting this new young mom and she thanked me for the letter and encouraging words.  So here is a letter to all new moms and especially moms that don’t feel like they love their babies.

Dear Mama,

I am so proud of you. You brought new life into this world and now you are literally sacrificing your own life, sleep, and sanity.  It is not easy, but somehow you are doing it.  I remember those early days and I remember how difficult the first few weeks are.

I remember that I didn’t feel like I loved my baby and maybe that’s how you feel, too. But I want you to know that YOU DO LOVE OUR BABY.  You are doing everything you can for your child, and this is love. You are working hard to feed and nurture, hug and cuddle, figure out sleep and adjust to this new life. It’s a hard adjustment and it takes time. YOU CAN DO IT!  Take things one day at a time, each day gets better.

I promise that things get better. Nursing gets easier, sleep gets easier, you figure out how to balance your own needs with your baby’s.  But it takes time. I know that days feel like weeks and it seems like it will never end, but I promise you will both survive.

I am so proud of you and the effort you are putting into your little one. Remember, ask for help and tell people what you need. Pass that baby off every chance you get – catch a nap, take a shower, take a break. It is important to take care of yourself so that you can care for your child.  But every time you change a diaper or sit down to nurse, I want you to know that those actions clearly show you LOVE YOUR BABY.  Despite what your feelings tell you.

Good job mama – You Rock!