I first joined the mommy club in 2012 when I found out I was pregnant with Abigale. I was so excited to meet her but I also had kind of a rough pregnancy. She burst into the outside world January 31, 2013. I had trouble adjusting to the lack of sleep. We struggled with breastfeeding but made it work. She was born on a Thursday and her daddy had to leave us to go to work on Monday.
This mama had postpartum anxiety. She had frequent fears that her baby would die. Her baby slept “too long“ without waking to feed? She must have died of SIDS. (This didn’t happen.) Mom was heading to work on night shift? Daddy probably wouldn't hear the baby’s cries and Abbi wouldn’t get fed. (He woke up and fed her, of course). Mama was so tired and struggled with nighttime baby care? That made her selfish. (Actually, it just meant she was human). When I found out I was pregnant with Aurora I cried— not because I didn’t want her but out of fear I’d have another miscarriage. again, pregnancy was not the easiest on my body and I vomited at least once a day until I was in my 18th week. I was excited to have gone three days without vomiting… and then my world collapsed around me because I’d just been widowed, quite unexpectedly. Grief had me vomiting for the next month.
This mama was traumatized, grieving, and parenting two very tiny humans solo. She loved her babies so much but she was stretched far too thin. Ideally children are not meant to be raised by just one adult. This mama’s stress was a steady 9.5/10 on a normal day. This meant the tiniest thing threw her into “I’m completely unable to cope any longer” mode. No matter how much her family and friends tried to support her, it could never make up for the death and absence of her young husband. Mothering felt more difficult than it did blessed. Life marched on as it does and I got into a parenting groove. It still wasn’t what I’d pictured or how I wanted it to be, but it had certainly gotten easier. My daughters were very needy and still very small but we were making it okay.
This mama struggled with anger. She was angry to be doing this without her husband. She was angry with herself when she failed to be a “perfect” mother, and that was often. She was angry when her kids misbehaved and she was angry with herself for not being more patient with them. It was during this period of time she allowed unkind words to be spoken to her and did not dispute them hard enough. Someone said to this mama, ”I don’t think you like being a mom. I think you like kids, at least, but I don’t think you like being a mom.” The person who said this had no clue what it was to be a parent or a widow, let alone both at the same time. She made a feeble attempt to explain instead of letting them know such a statement was damaging and unhelpful.
Eventually Don entered our lives. He was a faithful father of eleven years and counting. He was a wonderful boyfriend to me and quickly became a positive influence in the lives of my daughters. He forced me to step out of my fiercely independent trauma parenting and let him help me. He loved my children as his own.
(Jenn Fortune Photography)
This mama was growing. She was learning to accept help. She was learning to be loved again and to let her kids be loved. She was learning to loosen control a bit. She started counseling to try to work through her trauma. She finally found a medication that adequately addressed her crippling anxiety. None of this was easy but it was worth it.
(First Cry Doula and Photography)
This mama is content. She got to have her husband home for two weeks after welcoming the newest baby. Her church provided lots of meals. Her midwife has been a huge support with any concerns she’s had. Her family has been a big help. This mama is older and more laidback. She’s doing well with anxiety, in great part thanks to her continuing medication. She’s learning that her worth is not defined by her productivity; that her beauty is not defined by her dress size or the weight on the scale. She’s soaking up the joy of being present with her son in these early days. She’s finding happiness in holding his sleeping form or nursing him at 3 am. As my surrogate dad told me a few years back, we need to find joy in the journey not just the destination. Life is much more about the traveling than the spot we land. I’m so grateful for the beautiful kids I am privileged to raise. I’m thrilled to have Don alongside me in this great adventure.