Posts

I see you, mama, sitting in a messy house, filled with dishes from last night’s dinner and laundry piled high. You’re trapped in a house during a quarantine and it’s taking everything to not go stir crazy. I see the exhaustion and the exasperation that comes with toddlers running around. Demanding snacks, begging for attention, needing to have what they want, when they want it. I see you trying, trying to juggle their needs and your work’s needs, and maybe, sometimes, even your own needs. I know that feeling of being stretched so thin that you’re barely keeping it together. The seams beginning to unravel, slowly then all of a sudden… you’re hanging on by one tiny thread. 

I see the frustration of an interrupted Zoom meeting, the agitation from a plea for yet another snack, the expectation to be completely focused on that work project and completely focused on caring for your kids. It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s unrealistic to think that anyone could handle the balancing act that all of a sudden we are called to perform. 

So why do you feel like a failure? You know it’s impossible. You know you’re only human. But what about them? What about society? And employers? And family and friends? Yeah… what about them? Everyone needs to adjust their expectations. Including yourself. You are doing the best you can. You are facing the unknown and taking on more than anyone should be expected to. Give yourself grace. 

In fact, give yourself permission to let the dishes sit in the sink a little longer.

Make friends with the dust bunnies who have joined your space. Let your kids jump in the piles of clean laundry that still need to be folded. Go outside and take a second to breathe. Feel the fresh air fill your lungs and be grateful for all the things that are going right in your world. And for anything that’s got you stressed or worried or on edge, add “but” onto the end. 

“We’re stuck at home… BUT… we’re SAFE.”

“The house is a mess… BUT… I have a roof over my head.”

“The kids are driving me nuts… BUT… I get to be their mom.”

“Working from home with kids is so hard… BUT… I’m grateful for the flexibility and that I STILL have a job.” 

So, take it one day at a time, mama. This is just a season that you WILL get through. Be mindful. Tell yourself a different story. One of resilience and patience and overcoming obstacles against all odds. You are NOT a failure. You’re capable. You are strong. You are amazing, in PJs and all.

Image from Pexels.com

Panicking About Your Kids’ Phones? New Research Says Don’t is the title of an article in the New York Times. 

The writer says a growing number of academicians are challenging the true impact of social media and smartphones. They’re questioning whether too much time on devices is the culprit for the dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, especially in teens.

You might want to hear what psychologist Jean Twenge has to say about it, though. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State. She’s also the author of numerous books including Generation Me and her most recent release, iGen: Why Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

In a blog for the Institute for Family Studies, Twenge calls out the NYT writer on six facts that, she claims, he ignores. 

Twenge contends that the NYT article grossly misrepresents the research consensus on technology and mental health because the article makes it sound as if the majority of researchers have concluded that technology use isn’t related to mental health. Twenge says that’s not the case. 

“The article also misrepresents findings from a recent review of screen time and mental health studies,” writes Twenge. “The article does mention a recent review of studies on screen time and mental health by Amy Orben, who concluded that the average correlation between social media use and depressive symptoms is between .11 and .17.”

It cites this study as evidence that the link is small, but Twenge argues these are not small effects. Data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Survey of US High School students indicates that twice as many heavy users of electronic devices (5+ hours a day) compared to light users (1 hour a day) have attempted suicide (12% vs. 6%).

Twenge states that the NYT article quotes experts who, without plausible evidence, dismiss the possibility that the rise of social media and smartphones might be behind the marked rise in teen depression, self-harm and suicide in recent years. 

The article quotes Stanford Social Media Lab’s Jeff Hancock as saying, “Why else might American kids be anxious other than telephones? How about climate change? Income inequality? More student debt?”

“The problem with this argument is that none of these factors can explain the increase in teen mental health issues that began in 2012,” Twenge writes. “First, they didn’t happen at the same time. The largest increases in income inequality occurred between 1980 and 2000… Student loan debt has been stable since 2012. The number of Americans worried a fair amount or a great deal about climate change went from 73% in 2012 to 74% in 2019.”

Twenge contrasts this with 2013, the first year the majority of Americans owned a smartphone. By 2018, 95% of teens had access to a smartphone and 45% of them said they were online “almost constantly.”

“The largest increase in self-harm, self-poisoning and suicide occurred among 10- to 14-year-old girls,” Twenge writes. “Hancock would have us believe that 10- to 14-year-olds are harming themselves because they are upset over income inequality or possibly someday having to pay off student loans after college—not because they are bullied online, not because they feel constant pressure to look perfect on social media, not because they can access online sites instructing them in self-harm, and not because electronic communication has replaced in-person interaction, a basic human need.”

While Twenge states that concern about climate change seems plausible, but she asks, “How many 12-year-old girls do you know who are cutting themselves because the planet is warming? It is much more likely they are concerned about self-image, social status, friendships, and family relationships—all issues that have become fraught in the age of social media.” 

Twenge also notes that the rise in depression, self-harm, and suicide has been considerably larger among girls than boys.

She contends that all of the issues listed above should impact boys and girls equally. Thus, they do not explain why the rise would be larger for girls.

Technology use, however, does differ by gender. Girls spend more time on social media. This may be more toxic than the gaming, which is more popular among boys.

Twenge calls out the author for combining two completely separate questions:

  • whether technology use is related to depression among individuals, and
  • whether the increase in smartphone and social media use is related to the generational increase in teen depression

“Even teens who don’t use technology have been affected by the shift in teen social life from in-person get-togethers to online interactions,” Twenge says. “Consider a teen who doesn’t use social media and would prefer to go out with her friend, but who will she go out with when everyone else is at home on Instagram?”

The NYT article also points to Europe as proof that smartphones are not behind the increase in teen depression. Yet the evidence shows otherwise. The study used to make the case examines adults, not teens. The World Health Organization reports increases in suicide rates around the world, with the largest increases among youth.

Here is the last point that Twenge makes. While the researchers claiming that technology use is unrelated to well-being said they had not taken any funding from the tech industry, one of them is currently employed and one was previously employed by the Oxford Internet Institute. The OII is funded by Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. 

“Parents can rest assured that their instincts to protect their kids from too much screen time are not wrong,” Twenge writes.

“If kids who ate five apples a day versus one were twice as likely to attempt suicide, parents would make extremely sure their kids didn’t eat too many apples. Why should our response to technology time be any different?”

The moral of this story is, don’t believe everything you read. Check the facts for yourself. What you don’t know can hurt you and the ones you love.

Image from Unsplash.com

Chattanooga is home to a ton of fun events, activities, and experiences for kids of all ages!! Explore the rich history of the city, enjoy all the animals (from penguins to the average house cat), get your creative juices flowing, and more with these unique, Chattanooga local mother-daughter date ideas!

BONUS: Want to download this list of Chattanooga mother-daughter dates? Click HERE!

Local Chattanooga:

  • Polly Claire’s Tea Room This quaint, historic tea room is the perfect place for your next mother-daughter experience! Enjoy a cup of tea and your daughters company for an experience she won’t forget.
  • Pottery Painting (The Pottery Place or River City Pottery) Grab a brush, some paint, a pice of pottery, and create a masterpiece! Your daughter will love this creative experience.
  • ArtsyU Painting Studio Similar to painting pottery, why not take a painting class together? You and your daughter can create a beautiful piece of art while being instructed by a professional.
  • Chattanooga Zoo Experience wild peacocks, exotic animals, fun events, more at the Chattanooga Zoo! You can even book a wild encounter to get a behind-the-scenes look at the animals, how to care for them, and why they’re at the zoo!
  • TN Aquarium Who doesn’t love river otters, penguins, butterflies, lemurs, stingrays… the list just keeps going! Be sure to reserve a full day to get the most of all the aquarium has to offer.
  • High Point Climbing Center Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb the wall with her if you don’t want to! She’ll have a great time feeling strong and capable while getting some of that energy out!
  • Naughty Cat Cafe Any cat lovers in the room? Take a trip to Chattanooga’s first and only Cat Cafe! Enjoy a complimentary drink and snack while cuddling with kitties!
  • Chattanooga Lookouts You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a night with The Lookouts! Their season typically ranges from April to September.

Under $20 or Free:

  • Coolidge Park The next sunny day, be sure to stop by Coolidge Park for a great time with your daughter! From riding the carousel (only $1!) to having a picnic by the water.
  • Creative Discovery Museum (Second Thursday of Every Month) Family Night at The Creative Discovery Museum is fun for kids of all ages! Plus, it’s free!
  • International Towing & Recovery Museum Okay, this one might not sound as exciting, but it’s still a ton of fun! Explore a piece of Chattanooga history with your daughter while learning something new!
  • Chattanooga Market You don’t even have to buy anything (although popcorn is a plus!) to enjoy The Chattanooga Market. Typical season is from April through December.
  • Visit an animal shelter (McKamey or Humane Society) If you can have enough will-power to keep from adopting all the adorable dogs and cats, the animal shelter is a fun place for both you and your daughter!

Near Chattanooga:

  • Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater Although this movie theater only runs during the warm months of the year, she’ll never forget the experience she had! Plus, it’s only 20 minutes from downtown! Bring cash though, they don’t accept cards!
  • Lake Winepesaukah Also best during the summer months, this local amusement point is a great choice for a full day of fun! From roller coasters to water slides, Lake Winnie is one of Chattanooga’s best attractions!
  • See Rock City If you’ve ever driven on I-24, you’ve seen the signs, the barns, and the billboards. But have you seen Rock City? Your daughter will love a full day exploring the beauty of Lookout Mountain and beyond!
  • Raccoon Mountain Caverns Take an adventure like never before and explore the caverns of Raccoon Mountain together! This guided tour will teach your daughter all about caves, the creatures that live in them, and how she can help protect their beauty!
  • White Water Rafting on The Ocoee River This activity is not for the faint of heart! If your daughter loves daring adventures, she’ll love the experience of racing through the rapids!
  • Hidden Hills Farm & Saddle Club Take a trail ride on a horse together or enjoy one of the many events on the farm at one of Chattanooga’s hidden gems! Be sure to schedule your ride in advance (and wear your best cowgirl outfit!)

Outdoor Adventures:

  • Chester Frost Park Want a trip to the beach but don’t have time to hop over to Florida? This man-made beach on Dallas Bay has great playgrounds, picnic areas, and so much more!
  • Enterprise South Nature Park Not your average park! Follow these walking trails for an up-close look at part of Chattanooga history: the location of ammunition bunkers for World War II. Although they’re empty now, it’s still a neat sight to see!
  • Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center Book a guided canoe trip, do some birdwatching, or enjoy a peaceful walk on one of their many trails! You’ll both feel reenergized and reconnected with nature by the end of your trip!
  • TN Riverpark From the Chickamauga Dam, through Downtown, and on to Historic Saint Elmo, this 10-mile paved trail has plenty of opportunity for a bike ride, a picnic, or a fun time by the Tennessee River!
  • Sculpture Fields at Montague Park One of Chattanooga’s most recent additions, Sculpture Fields features 33 acres full of sculptures from around the world!
  • Warner Park Pool and Spray and Play For $2-$3 (depending on age), you and your daughter can enjoy a full day by the poolside! This public pool is close to downtown and open to the public for some summer fun!
  • Chickamauga Dam Recreation Area Featuring one of Chattanooga’s best playgrounds, this beautiful recreation area has enough for a full day of fun! Enjoy a splash in the water, grill some lunch, and explore the walking trails!

Want more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

Present vs. Perfect Makes For Unforgettable Moments

You can make the most memorable moments together.

As a mom of two young girls, I struggle with the idea of being present vs. perfect. But I had this idea. A fun, whimsical baking sesh with my uber-helpful daughter, Jackie, baking a beautiful, homemade, delicious, vegan Frozen-themed cake for her 4th birthday party. I was determined to make it happen. I was going for “super mom” status as I prepared for a small family get together that became an elaborate Frozen-themed birthday extravaganza. I’d already sent out the FB event invite. This was Jackie’s “un-FOUR-gettable” birthday. It was too late. I had to make it unforgettable.

So the pressure was on. The ingredients splayed on the counter, complete with sifter and spatula. We went to work. Now, I have to admit, I’ve tried baking before. With okay results. Nothing too horrible. But when you’re a mom and you’re working with a limited time frame, and multiple kids running around, constantly needing something (water, milk, snack, attention!!) an easy recipe to follow suddenly becomes a daunting, time-consuming luxury you just don’t have. Or is that just me? 

Either way, I welcomed Jackie’s help in combining the cake ingredients.

She helped sift the flour, held the measuring cups and poured the contents in the mixing bowl. It was a slow, imperfect process, full of spills and extra time allowing a 3 (almost 4) year-old to “do it all by my own.” There were so many moments where I had to remind myself that the time we spent together baking this cake was more important than the mess we’d have to clean up or the extra time it took with more cooks in the kitchen. Present vs. perfect.

I even had to re-envision my idea of a “fun, whimsical baking sesh.” The truth is, life is MESSY. And kids require A LOT of patience. To think we could bake a cake together in 30 minutes was downright laughable… it took roughly an hour and a half to finally pop that pan into the oven. By then my patience proved tested over and over. I revised my idea of a mother-daughter bonding time multiple times. I modified my expectations of perfection greatly.

Perfection…

It’s this elusive idea that parents know is actually impossible, yet continually strive for and are sorely disappointed when any factor detracts from their path to it (i.e. a crying child who wanted to use the small spatula, NOT the big spatula). We snap photos of a perfect smile, hoping we can mask the reality of tears, emotion, frustration, and impatience with a clever #unfourgettablebakingsesh! But the truth is, it doesn’t matter if it took more time to bake the cake, and it doesn’t matter that the cake didn’t even… ahem… turn out good (more on that later*).

What matters is that I took the time to include my daughter in helping to make her own birthday cake. It was special mother-daughter time, even if it didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to go in my head. Even though it wasn’t perfect. I was present. She was present.

The time we spent together is what made it unforgettable. 

*I’ve come to accept that I’m clearly NOT a baker. I’ll gladly pay $45 for a delicious bakery cake. I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it. And I don’t have the time, or energy, or desire to improve my baking skills. Although I followed the directions to a T… somehow the cake didn’t bake evenly and the middle ended up being a sunken pile of goo, albeit tasty goo. 

Although I felt embarrassed and slightly ashamed to serve the cake at Jackie’s birthday party, I did it anyway. I warned people that the middle miiiight not have baked fully and that it wouldn’t offend me if they didn’t eat it. And while the adults all took some bites and shook their heads with a sympathetic “Mmmm hmmm” as they reached the goo-filled middle, I’m happy to report that all the kids loved it. 

Image from Pexels.com

It was 3 AM. Our two-week-old son, Strider, was crying for the third time that night. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We were full-blown zombies ready to eat each other alive.

“Why is he CRYING LIKE THIS when I’m trying to change his diaper?” my husband yelled.

“Because he is a HELPLESS INFANT WHO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING,” I yell back.

“WELL WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?” he yells again.

“BECAUSE YOU’RE YELLING AND HE’S YELLING AND I JUST WISH NONE OF US WERE YELLING!”

On and on this went. We were literally yelling about yelling.

I didn’t expect the birth of our child to birth so much tension in our marriage. 

To give you a little context, my husband and I are both pretty laid-back. It takes a lot to fluster us and make us mad, especially with each other. But somehow, after having a baby, the nursery became our war zone.

I thought that once Strider grew a little and started sleeping better, the feelings of frustration between us would subside.

Nope. In fact, the tension grew with him.

“Why did you put the same onesie on him again?”

Why are you holding him like that?”

He’s clearly upset, why are you still trying to play?”

“Can you do bathtime any faster? It’s already past his bedtime!”

With every new milestone Strider reached, there was something new for us to pick each other apart over.

Finally, we had an epiphany: we hadn’t been on a date in over 4 months, and after having a baby, sex and intimacy were nearly nonexistent in our marriage.

Yep. Somehow in the hustle and bustle of having a baby and trying to care for him, we genuinely lost sight of each other and stopped taking care of us.

This was a huge problem. How could we build a loving relationship with our son if our own relationship was falling apart? And how could we give him the strong loving home he deserves?

Looking back, there are 3 things I wish I had done differently after Strider was born:

Praise my husband for being the awesome dad he is. 

Maybe it’s maternal instinct, but I genuinely felt like I was the only one capable of taking care of our baby well. I had some real Mama Bear feelings over my little cub, and everyone else was a threat to his well-being, even his dad. I wish Id taken the time to enjoy seeing my husband become a parent with me and praise him for all the ways he took care of our son because he really is an awesome dad. Just because he doesn’t do certain things the exact same way as I do them doesn’t mean he’s wrong or a bad parent.

Schedule a date night 4-6 weeks after birth. 

We came home from the hospital in total SURVIVAL MODE. My husband and I were literally just trying to keep this tiny little human alive. We had zero time to think about ourselves, each other, or our marriage. Before we knew it, our little boy was over 4 months old, and we had spent 4 months living in the same house but not really connecting with each other.  Scheduling a date night would have helped us to relax, reconnect and recharge. Plus, it would help us to mentally keep our marriage as the utmost priority, even before our relationship with our son. After all, if we’re not healthy and thriving, how can we set a positive example and love him well?

Stop the resentment. 

Breastfeeding makes it difficult to take night shifts. I felt like my husband couldn’t get up in the middle of the night to take care of our screaming child because our child didn’t need him as much as he needed me. I had the goods that he couldn’t provide. Naturally, I started to resent him for sleeping through the loud wails and getting more than 2.5 hours of sleep at a time. The resentment grew when I saw the dishwasher needed to be unloaded, the bed needed to be made and someone needed to get groceries! How could I do it all with little to no sleep? Plus work full-time, mind you. 

The answer, I’ve now realized, is that I’m not supposed to do it all. I’m supposed to ask my dear sweet husband, love of my life, the father of my child, to help me out. I’m supposed to be open with him and tell him how I’m feeling. Once I finally did that, we worked out a great schedule where he would change diapers in the middle of the night, and I would feed our baby. This helped me to not feel so alone. We also created a list of needs around the house on a daily and weekly basis, and we assign tasks for those. I’ve learned he’s very visual and having a list with exactly what he needs to do is a great motivator.

After we took these steps in our marriage (and Strider started sleeping longer stretches at night) we were able to work together as a team and support each other when we needed it most. 

Late nights full of crying, tension, and maybe a little yelling are bound to happen during the transitional phase of bringing a baby home. Just remember to fight for your marriage, not against each other. Babies are the best. They really are. They’re so sweet and cuddly and they need you to survive. Just remember the best gift you can give them is a healthy, thriving marriage.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from AdobeStock.com

10 Tips to Build Confidence (For Ladies Only)

You can influence others along the way.

I remember when I was in the awkward teen stage of life. It was so difficult to navigate my way through high school. Unfortunately, the internal criticism didn’t stop when I turned 18; it followed me into adulthood.

Turns out, I’m not alone when it comes to building confidence. According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code for Girls:

  • 92% of teens want to change something about the way they look.
  • 9 out of 10 girls feel pressure to be skinny.
  • 53% of girls are unsatisfied with their bodies (that goes up to 78% by age 17).
  • 7 out of 10 girls will not speak out in a classroom or work environment because of the way they look.

Even today, there are times when I’ve talked myself out of something because my confidence told me I was incapable of handling a job or assignment. There have also been times when I’ve felt not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.

And, if you’re honest, you can probably relate to those same feelings. It’s totally normal! We all experience negative, confidence-breaking, and harsh moments within ourselves. We tend to be our biggest critics, and most of the time, we’re super rude to ourselves. I mean, would you walk up to someone and say, “Gosh, your hips are big,” or “You’re totally not smart enough to be a part of THAT conversation with THOSE people”?

So, thinking into the future, what are young girls supposed to do if their adult role models do not set good examples of confidence? What does low self-esteem teach the next generation? I wonder how much those percentages would change if we spoke out more in favor of body positivity and took away the negative stigma around failures and the fear of being embarrassed.

I know it would take a while to accomplish a goal that big, but it isn’t impossible to build confidence.

There are already countless organizations and empowerment groups that promote confidence-building practices for the rising female generation, but even the best of intentions are pointless if we don’t listen to them.

As human beings, we’re more likely to take action if someone we know is also participating, so mothers, big sisters, cousins, aunts, family friends, ministers, youth leaders, community organization workers, etc., I have a challenge for you!

Below are 10 ways you can teach yourself how to love who you are, enjoy your process, and live in your moment while influencing the future generation of women around you.

  1. Perfection is impossible! Perfection does not equal success. Stop worrying about things being perfect. Settle with, “I know it was my best and that’s good enough.”
  2. Be your own cheerleader! Not everyone is going to support you, so sometimes you have to pat yourself on the back and say, “You did that, girlfriend!”
  3. Don’t look for approval from others. In the past (ok, I’m still working on this), everything I did circled around other people. I wondered if they would like it or if it made others uncomfortable. But now, I ask myself, “Would they do the same for me or are other people in charge of my life?”
  4. Appreciate the small and big things. There are studies that actually link happiness to gratitude! We tend to be more positive when we appreciate things in our life.
  5. Focus on the now! (In my opinion, this one is most important.) We are the happiest and most confident when we are living in the present, according to Kay and Shipman. Stop stressing over what happened because it already happened. And, please stop getting anxious over the future! Work hard, do what you need to do, and just do it! If the end result is bad, just remember, “I can’t change it, but at least I can say I did it.”
  6. Treat yourself with respect. Need I go any further? Stop the negative self-talk, doubts, and obsessive desire to be perfect.
  7. Make sure your goals are realistic. Can you really do it? Do you have time for it? Is it something that interests you? Do you want to do it? If no is the answer to any of these, please change the goal for the sake of your happiness and sanity
  8. Rewire your Brain. Yes, it’s possible! Did you know that we can reteach our brains to be more confident and positive? Cut out those negative comments and tell yourself how amazing you are every day!
  9. Say NO! Can all the people-pleasers raise their hands at this time? Yeah, start saying no, and be confident in your no! It’s a great feeling and it also teaches you to stand by your word and build—you guessed it—CONFIDENCE.
  10.  You will fail at some point… I know some of you all are like, “Nope, not me.” Let me be the bearer of bad news. You will fail many times, but that is one of the best parts of life. You get told no, you get told you are not good enough, you didn’t do it right, somebody else won instead of you… I mean I could go on with all the potential failures, but that’s not important. Failure creates your story. Failure makes you stronger. And, failure builds character. Just remember: A minor setback can lead to a major comeback!

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

We sat next to each other on the hotel bed, the awkward silence between us laden with guilt, fear, confusion and trepidation. Something had transpired on the drive to our weekend getaway with my husband’s family, who had come into town for our youngest daughter’s dedication. A celebration, a joyous occasion, marked by a colicky 4-month-old, a whiny three-nager, the stress of planning an event, having in-laws in town and my recent diagnosis of Postpartum Depression. My husband was trying to support me through postpartum depression.

I experienced a wave of rage like never before on the car ride to Gatlinburg. After an incredibly stressful morning (in which we had the baby’s dedication, a big celebratory lunch right after, and then packed up and left for the trip that afternoon), I became extremely irritable and snappy with the kids and my husband. The kids cried. And my husband immediately shut down and started stonewalling. I became so overwhelmed and upset by our tension-filled car ride that I couldn’t handle it anymore. Rage took over me and I started screaming and hitting the dashboard uncontrollably. I was dry heaving and sobbing and screaming bloody murder. It scared my children, it scared my husband. It scared me.

And my poor husband had no idea what to do… so he just kept driving.

Eventually, I calmed down. He placed his hand on my thigh and a rush of relief spread through my body, accompanied by extreme guilt, shame, and so much regret. When we arrived at our hotel, we were able to sneak a few minutes to ourselves without the kids. But where do you even begin to talk about what just happened with something like that…?

He told me he had no clue how to handle my PPD symptoms, especially the rage. Should he be caring and understanding and let things slide? Hold me accountable and fight back? Should he ignore me and let me figure things out on my own? There was no easy way to navigate the minefield of my mental health. But talking about it was definitely the first step.  

As we continually communicated about the journey of recovery I was on, we figured out ways he could support me that made managing my PPD much easier.

How my husband helped support me through postpartum depression:

He acknowledged what I was up against. 

Having that validation was everything. He made it clear that he knew I was struggling. He also admitted not really understanding all I was dealing with. But he recognized that it was significant and difficult and that he was there for me no matter what.

He asked what I needed. 

It’s not always easy to voice your needs, so when he could tell I was getting agitated or feeling “off” and he had no earthly idea how to help (because I wasn’t offering up that knowledge), he would ask. “What can I do for you right now? What do you need?”

He reassured me that I was a good mom. 

In the pit of my despair, the resounding lie that I couldn’t shake was that I was a bad mom. No matter what I did or how many times I told myself it wasn’t true, hearing it from my husband made a world of difference. It was like an anesthetic for the constant pain of mommy guilt I had. And the more he said it, the better it felt.

He encouraged me to have “me” time. 

Speaking of mommy guilt, it prevented me from truly feeling okay about taking care of my own needs. So when my husband not only encouraged me to do things for myself but also reassured me that he was proud of me for doing so, it gave me the confidence to believe that taking “me” time was actually a good thing.

He made an extra effort to balance responsibilities. 

After excessively exclaiming, “I can’t do everything!!” my husband realized that in this season he needed to take on extra responsibilities to lighten my (over)load. He told me to write down ALL the things I needed to accomplish that were overwhelming me and then went through that list and took as many tasks off my plate as he could.

He didn’t try to “fix” it. 

I’m sure I was a broken record, saying the same things, experiencing the same negative intrusive thoughts. But regardless of whether he thought I should be over this by now or if he thought he knew exactly how to fix the issue, he always, always, always made time to listen to me. He let me cry on his shoulder, vent about frustrations and troubleshoot coping strategies. He let me feel what I felt, reassured me that he loved me and that it was going to be okay.

It definitely took time to figure out what helped and what didn’t, and to be honest, my husband didn’t always do those things that helped the most. But the more we were open and honest with each other, the easier it was to maneuver the intricacies of PPD together.

***For more resources on Postpartum Mental Health, check out: Postpartum Support International. You can also call the PSI Helpline at: 1-800-944-4773 (#1 En Español or #2 English) or TEXT: 503-894-9453 (English) or 971-420-0294 (Español)***

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

,

What They Don’t Tell You About Postpartum Depression

If you feel like something just isn’t right, know that you are not alone.

“Why are you crying?!? What do you need?!?” I pleaded with my baby to somehow answer me. But when she didn’t, my anger quickly morphed into full-on rage. I tried to calm her, every way I knew how, but with slightly more force than was necessary. I shushed her, I swaddled her, I held her on her side, I gave her a paci to suck, I swung her… all with a rigid, almost robotic motion. She screamed louder.

postpartum-depression
Source: sassyzeni via imgur

“I just checked your diaper!” I yelled. But I figured I’d check it again because we’d been at this “witching hour” for a while now. I was so beyond angry and overwhelmed that I could have thrown her across the room.

And then it hit me.

This isn’t how you treat a helpless newborn baby. This isn’t normal. A baby’s cries shouldn’t make you so angry, so full of rage. The guilt set in and after I finally got her calmed down, I collapsed into a pit of despair. I melted to the floor, a wave of intense darkness washed over me and the negative intrusive thoughts that followed marinated in my mind before I even understood what I was thinking.

You are a horrible mom. You’re not good enough. You can’t even figure out what your own child needs. You are a failure. I wanted to crawl into bed, escape everything with precious sleep. I wanted to pack my bags, get in my car and never look back. They’d be better off without you. They’d be happier. 

I was paralyzed. My body so heavy, so weighed down by the enormity of the invisible load of motherhood, by sleep deprivation, by the loss of control, by a state of utter exhaustion, rage, guilt and defeat.

No one really knew what was happening with me. I hid it pretty well. I only let my rage show in the middle of the night when I was up for midnight nursing session and everyone else was sound asleep. My husband thought my increased irritability during the day was a symptom of sleep deprivation, which I’m sure it was… but it was so much more.

I actually never knew rage could be a symptom of Postpartum Depression (PPD). But after having thoughts of legitimately longing to abandon my family, I did a quick google search and discovered, sure enough, it was. (Check out this resource on postpartum rage, too!)

What They Don’t Tell You About PPD

Postpartum Depression isn’t cookie-cutter. It doesn’t always happen right after you have a baby. For me, it presented about a week after my postpartum checkup where, per the norm, they had me take the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale questionnaire. I happily circled answers that made it seem like this parenting thing was a breeze. So I flew right under the radar. Maybe I was in denial, or maybe my symptoms hadn’t reared their ugly heads yet.

PPD also doesn’t always consume your every waking moment. I actually had good days. This threw me off so much. I thought PPD was supposed to consume your life 24/7. What I didn’t know is that it is totally normal to have a good week, then a bad week. Or a good two weeks and a bad weekend. Or a good day and a bad month. Symptoms fluctuate with your circumstances.

But here’s how I knew I needed help:

  • I didn’t feel connected. To my baby, to my spouse, to myself. But especially to my baby. Through the endless days and nights of constantly trying to calm a screaming child, I wasn’t able to just ENJOY her. I felt so disconnected and detached from her. Instead of feeling a bond, I just felt resentment.
  • I was easily irritated and angered. As I mentioned previously, my anger turned into rage as the days passed by. The littlest things would set me off like the sound of my dog’s toenails clip-clip-clipping against the hardwood floor. Or the sound of the dishwasher running while I tried to have a conversation.
  • So many mood swings. One minute I felt fine, and then out of the blue, I’d be drowning in anxiety or flying off the handle with rage or sobbing uncontrollably. It started getting to the point where it interfered with my ability to function.
  • I lost interest in everything. I didn’t want to do anything, with anyone, anywhere. I started feeling like nothing mattered and it would just be better to stay in, where I didn’t have to pretend to care.
  • I wanted to escape. I didn’t want to be a mom anymore. I wanted to drive in a car and never return. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to somehow leave my overwhelming life.
  • I thought my own children and husband would be better off without me. This was when I KNEW something was wrong. I could justify all the other symptoms, say they weren’t that bad, that maybe I was just exhausted and it was the sleep deprivation… but thinking your family would be better off without you… That is NOT a normal thought.

Admitting the reality of the severity of my symptoms was embarrassing.

I felt so much shame and regret for all the rage I had. But luckily my husband and family were supportive. I decided it was imperative to seek professional help. However, the thought of seeing a therapist was extremely intimidating. I felt scared that they’d laugh and say, “Hunny, welcome to parenthood. Suck it up!” But, I faced that fear and after attending therapy and starting medication, my world changed. Suddenly all the obstacles that looked like insurmountable mountains, dwindled into hills that were easily scalable. Through therapy, I learned coping strategies to combat intrusive thoughts and handle my triggers. And eventually I started feeling more like myself.

NOTE:

If you feel like something just isn’t right, know that you are not alone. In fact, 1 in 7 women experience Postpartum Depression. It can affect any woman, regardless of income, age, race, culture or education. And it is NOT your fault. Please, don’t try and face it alone. Reach out to a loved one, join an online support group or schedule an appointment with a medical professional.

***For more resources on Postpartum Mental Health, check out: Postpartum Support International. You can also call the PSI Helpline at: 1-800-944-4773 (#1 En Español or #2 English) or TEXT: 503-894-9453 (English) or 971-420-0294 (Español)***

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com