Serving women has invited me to do my own reflection, as a mother. As a therapist, I am trained and coached to set boundaries with my potential and current clients.
Be discrete! Do not self-disclose!
While I honor my ethics, I have learned that within the maternal healthcare field, I have the ability to be flexible in what I share and still stay within my ethical boundaries. I value the importance of connection and feel it is necessary to invite women to a part of me. This opening piece of my blog invites you to learn the good and the not so good in my motherhood journey. It is my hope that when I work with a mom, she feels comfortable and assured, she is in good hands. That AllState Good! While I cannot divulge my personal life to you, I can share with you my connection to doing this work and how it has fueled my passion.
Just like many moms, I had to swallow my pride and reach out for support. It is one of the most humbling and uncomfortable places to be as a parent if you ask me. It feels as if there are so many unwritten rules, society places on moms. Which I feel leads them to “Perfective Parenting”. It’s a term I use within my practice. I define Perfective Parenting as this image parents create in their minds. It gives you this unrealistic visual of what you should be doing as a parent. It makes you stretch yourself to chase this high level of demand. Perfective Parenting will leave you stressed, tired and on your way to burnout. It’s a quick way to missing out on the joys of parenting. Often times this is where I offer the most support to women. Learning and unlearning what their definition of motherhood is.
Motherhood is complex and individualized. Society has you convinced otherwise. While the faces of the women I serve look different, many have the thought…
“I am supposed to know EVERYTHING when it comes to caring for my kid(s)!”
Negative! Who told you that? Dismiss that distortive thought! If you do not, it will hold you captive and create unrealistic expectations for you as a mother. It did for me and sometimes, it still lurks and TRIES to trip me up. I do my self-work just as I ask of my mom’s. In fact, I owe the women I have served in the past credit to leading me to my own seat across the room from a therapist. My pregnancy journey was an experience I never imagined. In fact, I never imagined being a mom. I was the, "I am never having kids" type until I fell in love or so I thought I was.
I became pregnant with my daughter while I was in college for my bachelor’s degree at the age of 21. Just as I had decided to return to finish my degree, I was met with life growing inside of me. Reality set in quickly with this news. I took multiple tests but I knew I was pregnant before the test confirmed. I was in a sense of denial. I drug my Best friend at the time with me to a pregnancy resource clinic. We left with white knitted booties and found ourselves sitting in Taco Bell's dining area eating nachos and deciding who I was to inform next. Next was the father of my baby, whatever little excitement I had, was erased with his trash response. He was silent, but it was LOUD for me.
That began the beginning of my grieving process with my daughter’s father. My mother told me once before, that it would take me getting pregnant by him to leave him alone. While I am grateful, she allowed me the autonomy to figure it out on my own. I sure did not need her manifesting that over my life. All lessons and blessings but whewwww it’s an ugly process discovering your truth. It was necessary for MY MOTHERHOOD JOUNEY!! Sometimes when I think back on it, I feel robbed. If I was with child, I was supposed to create a family. Be in love and married. There goes that societal norms again. If I don’t catch myself, I will spiral into resentment. When I don’t have the capacity to climb myself out of that space, I haul in support or pull out my coping toolbox. I am not exempt from feeling or having negative thoughts because of my profession.
Okay, back to my pregnancy journey. Most days I did not feel joy about becoming a mom. When it came to my daily routine, I had to pull every ounce of motivation to show up as a student. Class was my escape, it led me back to my dreams of success to be a therapist. Once I would leave campus, the overwhelming sadness returned. I tried to keep my sadness tucked away in my room. No one knew or so I believed. I did not allow them to know! My mother had her suspicion but I dismissed her inquires all the time with lying and saying “I’m fine!” My room stored my truth thought and that is where I reserved my cries and constant sleep.
Throughout my pregnancy, external factors snatched whatever joy I had about welcoming a baby. I would find moments of excitement but overall, I just was not in the space of happiness. I felt alone in my pregnancy. My mother was my saving grace. Being back in the classroom and working towards that degree, also kept me grounded. I couldn't work during my pregnancy due to constant fatigue and nausea. I did not know at that time, but my body was speaking to me and I did not listen.
Near the end of my second trimester, I was told my daughter was not growing and was referred to a fetal specialist. This made my pregnancy high risk. Dr.’s expressed concern that the lack of growth would impact my daughter’s health. The Dr. recommendation was a high protein diet and bed rest. The news added pressure to me to fight through but significantly tripled my stress level. During this time, I could not gain weight. I ate when I felt like it but most times, I had no appetite or I slept. Many questioned if I was truly pregnant.
I was the smallest I had ever been in my life. Within medical practice, emphasis of my health was always on the physical. Not once was I asked about my mental health. I cannot say that I would’ve been truthful and divulged my personal life but the invitation may have been an early introduction to ensuring mine and my daughter’s health. Today, I always recommend accessing pregnant mother’s mental health while I practice in the maternal health space.
As my pregnancy journey continued, and I neared my due date, I began to plan for my baby shower. Planning my baby shower served as a distraction. I was able to find some joy in planning a celebration of welcoming life. It gave me something to look forward to for weeks and then...
Death hit home. My daughter’s grandmother passed unexpectedly and in an unimaginable way. It completely shocked and shook us all. The father of my child was never the same again. He was already disconnected from my pregnancy, but the loss of his mother further led to his detachment. To this day, I believe he associates my daughter’s birth with the loss of his mother. I do not excuse his choice to stay away from parenting but I see his parenting experience was lost with a traumatic experience he has not discovered how to heal from. Let me save that storyline for another piece though, because there is a lot to unpack there. Despite where him and I stood, I still tried to show up for him as he grieved and still tend to myself. It really made the last few weeks of pregnancy numb.
Here in this picture, I am 36 weeks’ gestation. I’m grateful to my mom’s good friend who encouraged me to leave my bed and capture this moment. Without his nudge, I would not have had the opportunity to capture a part of my pregnancy.
We never knew BUT the risks were there for me developing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Mine were as follows…
Pregnancy intent (Unplanned vs. Planned)
Interpersonal relationship issues
Family history of mental health
Limited social support
Personal history of mental health (I struggle with anxiety)
Major or recent life event; loss (I had multiple)
History of sexual trauma or abuse
At the time I was not aware of this, but I am now. If you take into account my risks and factor in the experiences I endured with my pregnancy, I definitely had perinatal depression. I always knew something was not right but did not have a name for it. It wasn’t until I began to learn other women’s stories and invest in being certified in perinatal mental health, that I discovered what occurred with my pregnancy. I can grant grace to my doctors because I honestly believe they lacked the awareness too. I do wonder if I was offered the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale would that have had let to my own treatment and healing sooner?
There's so much more to my pregnancy story but that is protected for me and my therapist to hold. The point I want to stress is the signs we miss. The pressure we put on ourselves to be all and know all as we prepare and walk into motherhood. I hope that being a little vulnerable and sharing a part of my mom journey encourages a woman to take a look within her own motherhood journey. I am truly dedicated to this work, advocacy and research on how to take care of mothers so that they may care for themselves and family. I know there are more women with stories of challenges with birth and motherhood and I welcome you.
Give yourself permission to figure your role out as you grow yourself as a woman.
Give yourself grace to make mistakes at times and KNOW that you are simply doing all that you can with what you have.
I see you mommies and I know that your role is demanding & sacrificial from the moment you conceive or prepare to.
I hear you mothers when you say I'm tired. I even hear your unspoken words of needing some help on this journey of motherhood.
As a mother too I'm learning to be more patient with myself as I raise my princess. Do I always know what to do as her mommy? No! But do we figure it out together? HELL YES! Almost 11 years in this game and if you ever have the pleasure to meet my daughter that will be the proof of how I'm doing as a mother. Our babies are a reflection of the work we put in. Are you ready to begin yours??
The Womb Therapist