Shame the Shamers

I have something to say this morning outside of my typical mumblings.

Some may not like it, some might, but I feel like it needs to be said.

In recent weeks I’ve seen my words all over the internet which has been a huge blessing.

But with a larger reach comes a larger audience and not everyone is as kind as the people on this page.

I’m all about telling it like it is in my day-to-day.

Some people can relate, some can’t.

Which is normal because motherhood is different for everyone.

Some of us have joyous pregnancies, for others, it can be messy, scary, or even heartwrenching.

Labour and delivery is full of the unexpected with the end result always being some type of recovery for mom.

Then comes motherhood and our beautiful baby.

Some of us have the baby that latches, sleeps, coos, and smiles.

Some of us navigate colic, and nursing struggles, and have appointments lined up every two days.

Some of us have it “easy” and have postpartum depression.

Some of us have it “hard” and have postpartum depression.

My point is it doesn’t matter how it happens or why it happens or how hard it is or how easy it is we still need to feel loved and supported.

Last night I scrolled through the comments on a post and my heart sank.

“This woman clearly needs help.”

“She’s obviously battling PPD. I feel so sorry for her. Someone help her.”

“Ladies, her kids might be really challenging.”

“She’s so selfish to think she should come first.”

And on and on and on…

The thing that riles me up the most – a lot of these women are mothers and sadly, the mom war lives.

I shake these comments off. I know who I am. But I worry about the other mothers reading these comments.

Here’s the thing – not everyone is going to be kind and supportive and understanding in this big old world of ours but never EVER let that shame you.

Never EVER let that stop you from sharing your feelings and finding the friend who gets it.

Never EVER let that stop you from asking for help.

Do you know how many “me toos” I’ve heard since starting this page?

Do you know how many private messages I get a week saying “that’s how I feel but I’m too ashamed to say it.”

Never EVER feel shame.

Motherhood is full of ups and downs, highs and lows and everything in between.

On the good days, we forget the bad.

On the bad days, we forget the good.

Let’s not forget there are people who understand what you’re feeling, whatever your case may be. You just need to find them. And the only way you can find them is by sharing and by speaking up.

And for what it’s worth – that mother who appears to have postpartum isn’t crazy. She’s one of the one million women who walk this path.

She needs the world to see that she’s human. She loves her babies and her life, her family and herself. She loves to laugh, she loves to cook, and she loves a good Hallmark movie, but sometimes the days are dark – and there’s nothing crazy about that. If anything, that deserves a “me too.”

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Moms Need Attention, Too

After my boys were born, there were appointments.

To check their latch.

To check their weight.

To check their hearing.

To check the colour of their skin for signs of jaundice.

There were appointments.

There were regular pokes and prods.

Their well-being was front and centre.

I’d say, when it comes to our health-care system, they were well taken care of.

Then there was me.

A first-time mom without a clue.

Engorged, bleeding, and stitched up.

Sent home with some painkillers and stool softeners.

Thrown into motherhood with the expectation my instincts would kick in.

That I would know how to handle colic and late night feedings.

That breastfeeding would come as nature intended.

That my husband would sense my spiral into depression.

That I would know how to live in my new and very foreign body.

That this stomach wouldn’t make me feel hideous.

And my mind wouldn’t make me feel less than they deserved.

No one poked me.

No one proded.

No one checked my stitches, my healing, or my sanity until eight weeks postpartum.

And even then, it was a pat on the back and I was sent on my way.

Our world forgets about mothers.

We slip through the cracks.

We become background noise.

And in that, we learn our role… our place in our family unit… to always come last.

Folks, we can’t put mothers last.

Our babies need us.

To be healthy.

To know that we are worthy.

To know that Motherhood, while natural, can sometimes feel like the least natural role in our life.

And that deserves attention.

That mothers deserve attention.

We need our world to fuss over us the way they fuss over ten fresh fingers and ten fresh toes.

We need to be seen.

We need to be heard.

We need someone to not only ask if we’re okay but to check time and time again, just to be sure.

We’re not just a uterus.

We’re not just a lifeline to a new and precious soul.

We’re mothers.

And we need someone to make sure we’re ok, too.

 

This post first appeared on Grown Up Glamour by Anneliese Lawton.

Just Wait

There were a lot of things I was afraid of when expecting our second baby. A lot of things.

The things I read and people I spoke with with told me to “just wait”. That life would change and never be the same.

That I’d be stretched thin. That my husband and I would pass like ships in the night. That I might lose myself.

Things I read and people I met also told me this when I was expecting my first.

And each time I anticipated the arrival of my baby with anxiety and questions. So many questions.

Then my baby arrived and every fear was put to rest. For a little while at least.

You see, what some people warn you about and say is true.

Some days will be hard, some days will be long, some nights will be longer.

There will be a day where it feels like the honeymoon phase has ended and this baby thing isn’t what you signed up for at all.

There will be a day where you lose your temper with your husband. A day where you feel lost. A day where you feel lonely. A day where you miss your freedom and thin waist. A day where you want to throw your hands up and leave.

And it’ll be hard for that day, or that week and you’ll think “they were right”. And maybe during that day or that week you’ll come across a new parent and tell them to “just wait” for what’s to come.

I was tempted to do that today. To take to my platform and complain about this week. This absolutely trying and horrible week.

But as an “experienced” parent (and I use that loosely), I know if I “just wait” we’ll eventually turn a corner. I know if I “just wait” my sick and clingy toddler will soon start giggling and playing. I know if I “just wait” I’ll grow more patient with my husband. I know if I “just wait” we’ll make it out of this parenting lull and there will be periods of beautiful things.

So, to the parents afraid of what’s to come, and to the parents meeting their match of what-is. Just wait. The clouds will break.

I’m Going to Have My Hands Full? I Had No Idea.

This piece was originally posted on Her View From Home

That’s it. It’s time to call you out.

Yes, you. The person who feels the need to interject their commentary on strangers in the grocery store, post office and yes, even in a public bathroom.

I’ve met you before – about a year ago – when my belly was busting at the seams and my ankles were overflowing from my shoes. You were astounded by my size and convinced there wasn’t a baby, but in fact a toddler swimming around my womb. And if I recall correctly, you rubbed my belly…just to be sure. Thanks again for that 😉

Now here we are again, a year later. My belly not quite big enough to draw your attention, but my situation appealing nonetheless.

You see us – me (pregnant belly and all), my husband and my one-year-old son – and instead of smiling at our beautiful (and exhausted) young family, you share a critical piece of information we may not be able to live without:

You know, you’re going to have your hands full.  Smirk, smirk. Giggle, giggle. 

It’s cute. It’s innocent. It drives me batty (that’s not the hormones talking).

I’m not quick on my feet to come up with a witty-response to your well-meaning comment. That’s why I’m taking it here – to the internet – to rant in all my glory.

Look, I get it. We’re going to be busy and I’m terrified. But, that whole having a newborn thing? I’ve done it. I know exactly how hard it will be and exactly what to expect. I may not know how to manage a baby on the boob while keeping my toddler Picasso off my walls or change a wet diaper while my older one decides my grandmother’s antique bowl is a potty… but we’ll figure it out, just like we did the first time around.

I love when you approach me and comment on how beautiful my son is or how my pregnant glow reminds you of a Christmas display. I’m not screaming, “Stranger danger!” when you come my way. But I’m not sure what the criteria is for the other type of comments. Is it seeing a parent with one misbehaving child? A family with two, three, heck, four kids? How many kids does it take to demonstrate a mastery in the art of multi-kid-tasking? (When I figure it out, I’ll let you know).

Whatever it is, please just try to smile and nod the next time you feel a parent is downright doomed (we kind of feel that way already and it’s always the last thing we want to hear).

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Now, to the parents. I know you’ve heard this before. Hit me with your best comebacks!

Why I’m Okay with Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

I decided I wanted to be a mom when I was five. It was around that time I also decided I wanted to change the world…and become famous. Looking back, it appears I wanted to become some sort of hybrid between June Cleaver and Oprah Winfrey. Daytime television can be pretty influential. With that in mind, I should probably limit my son’s exposure to Paw Patrol. Though if he decides he wants to grow up to be a crime-fighting dog, I promise to always support him.

The dream of being June and Oprah were always an attainable goal. I grew up in a time where women were encouraged to never settle for less, where our futures were bright and (almost) equal. So, for six years I tackled life as Oprah. I completed two post-secondary degrees, engulfed myself in my career and made it a priority to give back to my community. It was during this time I met my husband, a wonderful man who shares my same ambition and values in life, especially when it comes to family. We welcomed our first child a little over a year ago, and that’s when I finally got to experience myself as June.

For awhile, Oprah and June struggled to find balance. Mothering instantly found a tender place in me, yet part of me yearned to be valued outside the four walls of my home. Then the time came for me to leave my sweet boy and return back to the workforce. And while I had every intention of being Oprah and June in unison, my new perspective on life made the transition even harder than I imagined.

For six long weeks I tried to fake it till I made it. Everyone said my son would adjust to daycare – and he did. They said I would find my groove and learn simple ways to make it work – and like Stella, I got my groove back. They also said it would get easier, but it never got easier for me. Actually, those six weeks were some of the hardest weeks of my life.

Those six weeks helped my husband and I define the upbringing we really want for our children. We had endless conversations about what’s truly important to us and what lifestyle we really want to live. Those conversations led to the very significant decision that I would leave my job and become a stay-at-home-mom. A decision that came after much thought and planning on how we would make it work relying on only one income and my freelance work. A decision that came with weeks of analysis and budgeting, and years ahead of sacrifice. With that being said, at the end of the day this decision wasn’t based on numbers (though it was a huge deciding factor), it came down to lifestyle and my feeling of accomplishment.

When making this decision I really struggled with finding the answer to three questions:

Does being home with my family mean I’m not accomplishing my dreams?

Does it make me a lesser person because I couldn’t handle life as a working-mom?

Should I feel worthless because I seek a future with my family and it goes against everything I’ve worked so hard for?

In taking time to soak in this big decision, I’ve realized the answer is no. I’m not saying I won’t go on to be Oprah one day (#RememberMyName), or that I won’t continue to work hard to pursue my dreams as a writer. What I’m saying is that I’m going to be proud of  being true to myself, proud to seek a path that makes my family and I truly happy.

At some point all mothers face this cross-road in parenting. We come up for air and realize there will always be something in our life that has to be sacrificed. We must redefine who we are—all with less sleep, clarity and the greatest responsibility that we have ever had to assume. At the  very same time we’re constantly questioning if we could be doing it better. We hold guilt over snapping too easily, not engaging the way we think we should, having unwashed dishes in the sink and unfolded laundry in the dryer.

It was living moments like this every single day for six weeks that made my husband and I consider what we really needed versus wanted in our life. If vacations can wait, if cars can be driven into the ground and if I take a crash course in extreme couponing we can each place ourselves in the role we truly want – and for me, that role is mom.

 

 

 

The Problem with Mental Health Care: How Our System is Failing Mothers (and Everyone Else for that Matter)

As many of you know, I’m an open book. I’ll openly talk about my uterus, breastfeeding and  discuss the mistakes I’ve made over the course of my life. It’s why I started this blog. To share as a way to help myself heal, remind myself to laugh, and to hopefully inspire others do the same along the way. While I usually don’t leave anything off limits, I’ve never found the courage to openly discuss…the real me.

Every once and awhile I feel inspired to disclose my secret when I read a story by one of the many people who live, feel and experience life the way I do, yet I can never put my thoughts into words quite as eloquently. Because let’s be honest, anxiety and mental illness is hardly ever eloquent. Whether this comes out as beautifully written as a Shakespeare play or as confusing as a grade one journal entry, it’s time to create something with these words.

While I’m sure  through initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk Day and campaigns from the Canadian Mental Health Association you’ve become aware that mental health patients have few resources in our country, you may not be aware that our system is completely failing them.  Each and every day people seek help and fall tragically through the cracks. While you read this, here are some important stats to keep in mind:

  • 1.2 million Canadian children live with mental illness
  • In any given year, 1 in 5 adults in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness, but only 1 in 3 will receive treatment
  • 1 in 13 women report experiencing depression during the postpartum period

Mental health has long been recognized as a fundamental aspect of one’s health, however under our current health regime the majority of mental health services do not meet the eligibility requirement of “medically necessary.” Unless received in a hospital, psychological services must be paid for out-of-pocket or covered by private third-party insurance. This means that weekly visits to psychiatrics or counsellors come at one’s own expense. With the burden of paying for one’s mental health left to the individual, it is not surprising that so many Canadians put mental health concerns on the backburner.

We can’t do this anymore. We need to take a stand. 

So, here I am taking my stand and calling bullshit on the whole system.

Three weeks ago I was faced with a daze and emptiness I haven’t experienced in a very long time. Be it the collective emotions that came with my new role as a working mom, prolonged sleep deprivation and pregnancy hormones or hell, just the stress of living and thriving in our social media dominant, mess of a world, something caused me to die a little inside.

In a moment of desperation, I put my life on pause – an opportunity moms rarely have. I called in sick to work, brought my son to daycare and went home for a date with Netflix, a cup of coffee and my couch. Instead, when I walked in my house I wrapped myself in a blanket and I cried. I cried and cried, then sobbed, and then I hit rock bottom.

You should know, this is not a good time for me to lose it. I have a loving and supportive husband, a beautiful and healthy son, a silly and quirky dog (yes, I love you too, Louie) and a little bean inside my belly – all of them need me. Now is not the time for my mind, body and soul to scream “I’ve had enough.” But you can’t argue with truth.

As much as I want to wallow in self pity, life doesn’t pause and let you heal. Bills need to be paid and babies need to be snuggled. In an attempt to nip this overwhelming sense of… well….feeling overwhelmed, I did something I never do and asked for help.

I Googled “support for moms in Halton Region”, and results flooded my screen. There were mommy support groups, a crisis hotline, even a warm line at a local hospital that provides 24 hour support to moms in the first year of their child’s life. All incredible resources, right? I thought so too. Then I started dialing.

Between tears, I dialed numbers, trying to find a program to help me cope with all the unorganized thoughts and emotions flying through my mind.

I’ll save you my feedback on the 7 publicly funded organizations I reached out to – in short, they have a lot of work to do.

While initially it seemed like there was a world of help and support for an overwhelmed, new-ish mom like me, there really isn’t. At some point along the way, each and every resource let me down. They listened to me through tears, told me self-care was critical, and failed to provide any resources they promised to.

And here’s the sad part, I’m not alone. People used to say that it takes a village to raise a child. Today, some of us are lucky to have support from our extended family but this village you hear of costs approximately $2000+ a month in daycare costs, maids, nannys, therapy, takeout and bottles of wine (when mommy has just had enough).

Our society today provides moms with little to no support. We literally grow and birth a baby, get a high five and are sent on our way. No one prepares us for the worry (is my baby eating enough? are they happy? is their poop supposed to be that colour? why are they crying? why aren’t they crying? what is that spot on their leg? THEY HAVE THE MEASLES!). No one prepares us for the weeks, months, sometimes years of being up around the clock. No one prepares us for breastfeeding failure, drifting from our friends and partner, or coping with zero – and I mean ZERO time for ourselves. No one prepares us for the work + life + baby balance.  No one prepares us. We’re expected to shower, smile, eat, stay fit, work, clean, maintain romance, maintain friendships, maintain our eyebrows, raise a tiny army, run an envy worthy Instagram page AND stay sane through it all? Nope. Not happening. Maybe I’m doing something totally wrong. Maybe I expect too much of myself – but this whole system isn’t working for me.

There needs to be more resources.

There needs to be more support.

And we can’t continue to treat mental illness like a separate entity to our health.  It’s not.

Our mind is our being, it’s apart of who we are and it’s a big part of how we love, laugh, function and remain healthy day to day. Our country can’t continue to turn a blind eye to the millions of children, adults and mothers who silently struggle every day, trying their very best not to lose it.

With all that being said, here’s my call to action: if you feel the way I feel, I encourage you to speak about it. More importantly, I encourage you to tell all levels of government about it. Demand they make changes to our system and stop failing our people. In the meantime, I encourage you to be kind to others, to kind to yourself and to bring back the village.

Back to Work: I survived. It was one hell of a week, but I survived. 

This past Sunday my sweet baby turned one. A whole year old.

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A year where the first 6 months felt never-ending as I navigated the unknowns of motherhood. And where the last 6 months felt like my entire life was flashed before my eyes, as I watched my boy learn, grow and develop into what would be a happy, hilarious and tiny toddler.

As I reflect on my year with Jack my heart hurts. There were so many moments I neglected to enjoy as I struggled with postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation. My heart also hurts because it’s beaming so much with love and pride, a hurt that can only be felt when you truly love someone more than yourself.

While sitting on my couch this Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. the memories from this year, both good and bad, flew through my mind like you expect your life to flash before death. Indeed, I felt like a piece of me was dying – more specifically, a piece of my heart. In only a few short hours I would be bringing my son, my one very true love besides my husband, to a facility –  leaving him in the arms of a stranger while I spend my day in a cubicle making money for The Man. My heart ached and I cried.

As if this wasn’t torturous enough – abandoning my baby – my mind also questioned how we would survive?

If you’ve talked to me about my son recently, you would probably know he doesn’t sleep. If you’re inside my close social circle, you’d know I haven’t slept longer than 2 hour stretches in the last 8 months. This is no exaggeration, and yes, we’ve tried pretty much everything. Returning to work meant not only giving up my necessary afternoon nap, but it also meant a stranger holding, consoling and rocking my baby as he struggled to sleep.

If you’ve talked to me recently, you’d know my husband and I are expecting our second child. Another little being, who we are elated to meet. If you’re inside my close social circle, you’d know I found out I was pregnant when my son was only 8 months old and I was battling some serious postpartum hormones. Returning to work meant putting myself another peg lower on the totem pole, and not fully healing before the arrival of our sweet baby bean.

If you talked to me this week, you’d know my first day back to work was an absolute shit-show. I began my day on 3.5 hours of sleep and ended it with a scene out of a horror movie – though now that I’ve healed, it seems more like a comedy show. I picked up Jack and we scurried home for dinner and snuggles. Not knowing exactly what he had eaten at daycare or how much he had eaten at daycare, I filled him with his favourite ravioli. Note to parents making this transition; ALWAYS ask your care provider when your child last ate and how much. When I picked Jack up out of his high chair, he instantly projectile vomited on my shoulder which went in my hair, down my shirt and made its way down my pants. In return, my disgusted and pregnant self couldn’t contain my dinner and joined him in emptying my tummy. Cue the dog –  who decided it was time for his dinner. Dave walked in to not one but two babies, crying on the bathroom floor, naked and covered in vomit…and a very happy dog.

It was then and there on that bathroom floor, after just one day of trying, I decided I wasn’t cut out for this whole working mom thing. I decided I wasn’t strong enough and I decided the only logical answer was to quit. If I quit I could continue to make home-cooked meals for my family,  take my naps,  fuel my son’s mind, grow my young bean, be a kick-ass wife for my husband and heal my very neglected soul.

As all these thoughts went through my mind, I remembered a feeling from that day I hadn’t felt in a year – the feeling of being a useful, intelligent, strong individual and woman. The feeling of being proud of myself for providing for my family, communicating as an adult, and inspired by things I’m passionate about (outside my family).

In reality, as hard as it is to crawl out of bed after a restless night of (no) sleep, drive my son to daycare and wave goodbye to him (and his tears) in the arms of kind and loving women, not all of this experience is bad . Parts of it are challenging while parts of it are refreshing – and I’m learning I’m capable of so much more than I’ve ever given myself credit for.

Although I’m only at the beginning of my short jaunt as a working mom (kudos to the mommies weeks, months and years into this journey), I’m quickly learning that with anything, balance is important and putting yourself first is priority. Moms are seriously wonder-women – but do you hear me here? Putting yourself first is priority. There will be days I’m going to call in sick because I need a day to calm my mind or play with my son, there will be days I’ll order takeout because I simply don’t feel like making dinner, there will be days Jack and Dave won’t have my full attention because my heart needs it more and there will be days, like this Tuesday, where I just want to quit.

Being a mom and a (pregnant) working mom is no easy feat. It takes time to adjust to new roles and routines but be kind to yourself, as I’m learning to do now. Life at home with Jack was hardly ever glamorous. We had our fun and I would jump back into that stay-at-home mom role in a heartbeat, but 5/5 days of the week Dave would always receive a subtle “when are you coming home” text when I was at the end of my rope. Neither being home with your kids all day or working full-time is glamorous.

Here’s a big (virgin daquori) cheers to you mommies, you bomb-ass-do-it-all-babes.  I’ll be taking notes from you as I dredge through this messy new chapter in my life and learn a whole new way to balance (I seriously was just getting the hang of having a kid).