BIG, BIG NEWS ALERT

IT’S HAPPENING!

You know how people tell you that you should shoot for your dreams? This year, after far too long of mulling over it, I went for it. I launched myself towards them and I didn’t look back.

I’m so excited (and quite honestly, in a bit of disbelief) to announce that I’ve signed with an AGENT and MY BOOK is officially underway. It was written about motherhood for YOU. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll look a lot like what you see here – and I hope you’ll love it.

My agent and I had a chit-chat this morning about next steps, and he will be pitching it to publishers come January.

Keep your fingers crossed, send your prayers, and your best vibes.

I’m so excited to share the next stretch of this journey with you and am forever grateful for your support and friendship. ❤️

All my love, always.
A

P. S I see you, Maxwell.

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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.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Series: Anxiety & Worry

A few weeks ago I shared a post on mental health (postpartum depression) and the lack of resources available to mothers. I want to begin by thanking all of the women who reached out to me (both publicly and privately) to share their mental health story. I’m touched by your honesty and inspired by your strength. I’m also saddened to hear how many of you have fallen through the cracks of our health care system. As we wait for our government to take the steps to make mental health a priority in our country, many of us continue to suffer in silence, restricted by access to resources and finances. As mothers, we can do our best to support our tribe.

Motherhood is a unique community. It’s a community where women can feel safe to share their feelings, while others can lend an ear or a shoulder to show compassion and understanding. It’s a community that has left cookies on my porch time and time again over the last year. While I’m not a therapist and unable to provide specialized help to you, I want to extend my community and help in any way I can.

Through my husband’s insurance I’ve been lucky to have access to therapy which has introduced me to some cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) tools. These tools that can help those with anxiety develop the skills and strategies to live a fuller and happier life. While these tools are most effective when used in conjunction to therapy, I’d like to provide you with worksheets to help you find some happiness.

For those who aren’t familiar with CBT, it’s a process which aims to challenge the negative thought patterns one may have about themselves or the world around them. This is done by learning to identify and question one’s own thoughts, while challenging negative emotions and behaviours. CBT often uses ‘activities’ to help in the development of tools that can be used in life – a typical course of CBT can take months to allow patients to:

  • Identify distortions in their thinking
  • See thoughts as ideas about what is going on, rather than as facts
  • Stand back from their thinking to consider situations from different viewpoints

With the CBT introduction above, you can begin exploring worksheets and activities to take control of any negative outlook that may hold you back from being happy. To help my community in this journey, I’ve decided to write weekly entries geared towards self-directed CBT. Below you’ll find the first entry in this series that seeks to help you understand and manage your anxieties and worries. These weekly entries will alternate between the introduction of new topics and the review of my ability to use the tools. CBT isn’t magic, it’s a journey – that’s why I think it’s important to talk about how these tools are used in real life every other week.

Week 1: Anxiety & Worry

 

 

We can thank evolution for anxiety and worry. Thousands of years ago, when humans lived in an ‘Immediate Return Environment‘ (when actions deliver immediate results), stress and anxiety were useful emotions because they helped us take action in the face of immediate problems.

For example: A lion appears across the plain > you feel stressed > you run away > your stress is relieved.

This is how your brain evolved to use worry, anxiety, and stress. Anxiety was an emotion that helped protect humans in an Immediate Return Environment. It was built for solving short-term, acute problems.

Today, we as a society have much more chronic stress brought on by problems that can’t be solved right nowWill I get that promotion? Will I repair my broken relationship? Do I have enough money to pay the bills each month? Our threats seem to never subside and our anxiety continues to rise.

Some exercises exist to help manage these anxious feelings. Below is an example of an activity that can help transform your anxieties from crippling to productive.

How to participate:

Set aside 15 minutes a day dedicated to worrying – this sounds easy right? I know lots of people (myself included) that spend wayyy more than 15 minutes a day worrying. The key to this exercise is to focus only 15 minutes a day to worrying – no more. Each time a worry or anxiety comes into your mind outside of that time period, write it down in the table below, acknowledge it exists, and tell your mind you will worry about it later.

Worry, I know you’re there, but right now I’m focused on playing with my son. We’ll deal with this later. 

I know this sort of mantra might sound silly but as with the mastery of all things, repetition really does work wonders; mantras also help to focus your energy away from potential anxieties.

During your worry time, fill out the rest of the below table and evaluate the situation that brought on your worry and the thoughts associated with it. Come up with some ways to make your worry productive to realize some value from the situation – you were worried for a reason right?

Situation

(describe the time and event that brought on the worry)

Worry

(what were you worried about)

Physiology

(specify how your physical body felt: tense, high BP, lower back pain, etc.)

Thoughts

(write down the thoughts which were present)

Productive Goal

(what can you do moving forward to manage this worry)

Woke up to a messy kitchen, don’t feel like I have enough time to manage my household. Worried about not having enough time. Tense. Feeling stretched too thin. Feeling unorganized and chaotic. Dedicate time each night after the kids are asleep to do a quick clean. Organize and purge on weekends.

That’s it for this week. Next week we’ll find out how I did managing this new tool and then we’ll follow-up with a new activity that aims directly at our own notions of self-worth.

Good luck and remember your community is there to help, you don’t have to do this alone!

 

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.