I’ve been a mom for almost seven years :: seven years and nine months or so if you count gestation. I’ve been a wife for almost eight. I’ve been a female for almost thirty-three years :: thirty-three years and nine or so months, if you count gestation. I wonder at what point in my life I started to think about being a mother. At what point did I start to think about what that meant for me? My primary identities now reside in being a wife and mother. These are fairly new identities considering the span of my life. However, these identities are so powerful that its difficult for me to remember what I was like before I was a wife and a mother. To some degree not much else matters anyway. I of course have other aspects of my life that greatly contribute to who I am but those are not so much of relevance here.
As you can gather, being a wife and a mother are very important roles to me. As I have grown in these roles so has my perspective of who I am because of and within the roles. I am in a place now in which I am very aware of how mothering has changed me, all for the good but some of those changes being quite painful, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I have decided quite recently that I am ready to transition to a place where motherhood consists primarily of gratitude, praise, adoration and love. It is possible that the trails and strains that I had been so aware of have brought me to this place. It is also possible and likely that it was from the subtle messages of loved ones that my mind was attuned to and have helped the most. Funny how things happen that way.
I was at a family event recently, my brother’s wedding to be specific, someone mentioned how my middle child seemed to be so “laid back”. I was quick to dispute that. Stating how my experience with him is not that and described him as difficult. A response to my dispute was further description of my child’s behaviors as being primarily enjoyable, mostly appropriate and overall very well behaved. It was right then that I decided that my perspective of him needed an adjustment. I was spending too much time thinking about how difficult he can be and not enough time focusing on his strengths, which far outweigh his difficulties. Don’t get me wrong, he is three and naturally engages in typical behavior for a three-year-old, he can be stubborn and down right rude. But he is good and he is deserving of my adoration and praise.
Another recent perspective changing event was through a conversation I was having with a friend. She shared with me about her pregnancy, birthing and newborn-raising experience. She told me about when she was at her first postpartum visit after the birth of her first daughter- the doctor was asking about how she was doing emotionally. The doctor asked if she was feeling sad and about symptoms of depression. Her response to him was “whatever the opposite of that is, that’s how I feel”. She shared that she was in such amazement of her newborn baby that being anything other then happy was impossible.
I was in such awe of her response and thought about how rarely women share about such beautiful associations with the period of time right after giving birth. For the most part that period of time seems to be dismissed all together and any difficulties are automatically attributed to postpartum depression issues but that’s awholenother subject for awholenother time. My friend’s association as a new mother, and again the next two times she had a baby, is nothing short of impressive.
I’ve thought about what my friend shared with me and how so many women do not have that experience. But why? I’m then reminded of another conversation I had recently during which I was asked if I thought a mom would struggle with postpartum depression even if she was supported, recovered reasonably well, had a healthy baby and few additional or no unnecessary stressors. My response then was that I was unsure but would lean towards that the mom would not struggle (very much) with postpartum issues since support and ease of recovery and/or self-care are the primary means to preventing or recuperating from postpartum depression/anxiety (as well as CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy). Then I had a conversation with a woman who shared that despite having an adequate support system, a healthy baby and a speedy recovery she developed symptoms of postpartum depression.
I’m again reminded of my friend’s words “whatever the opposite of that is, that’s how I feel” and I wonder how much her perspective influenced her ability to gracefully move through her postpartum period. Actually, I don’t wonder, I know that it made all the difference. What I do wonder is if its perspective that is so often missed. Actually, I don’t wonder that either, I know that’s what it is. We spend so much time as a society dismissing the postpartum period and then the other part of the time when we are paying attention we are attributing any fluctuation that isn’t blissful as postpartum depression (or anxiety).
I have thought a few times throughout my most recent postpartum period that I would like there to be a different rating scale for how a postpartum mom is doing. Its not just that she is either well adjusted or that she is depressed. It cannot be that she either handles the trials with ease or that she is a mess. There has to be a variation all the way from the wonderment and awe described by my friend to postpartum psychosis (yes, that’s a real thing). I felt like I experienced what I’d refer to as “postpartum shock”- realizing that its not all blissful and wondering why it isn’t. PPS is exasperated by a lack of support and ease of recovery which can (not always) evolve into postpartum depression. And that has to be ok. We have to develop into a society that embraces and supports the blissful mother as well as the mother who severely struggles daily. And that has to be ok.
I hope to be privileged enough to continue to have authentic conversations with beautiful and insightful women who knowingly and unknowingly are changing the face of postpartum and ultimately motherhood as it has been known. Being known requires connection and the desire to be seen. I desire to build and maintain my motherhood in a way that is well known as real, wonderful, vulnerable and present through the easy and the difficult. Don’t you?