When you have a child, Mother’s Day is one of those holiday milestones you look forward to. Or you hope to, anyway. Many of us envision sleeping in, being served breakfast in bed by the kids and handed flowers by our doting husband or partner. Everyone is all smiles and ready for a perfect day..….except, when it isn’t.
My first Mother’s Day left much to be desired. It was May 8, 2005, which was also my son’s 6-month birthday. And it was also one of those unwritten deadlines that I gave myself to “feel better.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was suffering from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, more specifically postpartum OCD. I had it in my head that all the intrusive thoughts would just go away. This deadline made all the sense in the world to me.
After all, it was my first Mother’s Day and Corey’s 6-month birthday, right? I was to wake up that morning with my breakfast in bed, flowers, smiles, etc… and all will be dandy.
Except it wasn’t.
Being that it was 15 years ago, the memories are a little fuzzy. What I do remember clearly is NOT feeling better. Crap. “It” didn’t go away.
Now, my husband did go out early with my son to buy me the obligatory large coffee from the deli and a breakfast sandwich. But shortly after, we were heading to lunch with my parents, aunt, uncle and cousins at a diner about 45 minutes away. As we were driving there, I felt a little queasy, but figured that it would pass. We walked into the diner and members of my family were in the waiting area. So many people. It was hot. I was sweating. And crowded and I didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t be there. I had to step outside for air. They’re calling me in now – the table is ready. I can’t do this. And we left. I never even made it to the table and I don’t think I even saw my whole family.
When we arrived home, I crawled into bed. I asked my husband to keep my son away from me, as I didn’t want to spread any germs in the case that I was really sick. A little while passed by and my husband asked if he could take my son and spend the rest of Mother’s Day with his mother. He’d let me rest and relax. And it was fine….go. I just wanted to be alone and to sleep, which I did for the rest of the day on and off.
It was my first Mother’s Day. My beautiful son’s 6-month birthday. Two milestones. Gone. I’ll never get that back. This was supposed to be a good day.
Fast forward 1 year to Mother’s Day 2006 – May 14th. My son just turned 18 months old. It had been about 4 months since I was officially diagnosed with a PMAD, started therapy and began to take meds. I was starting to feel like myself again! We held the Mother’s Day celebration in our apartment, with my side of the family and my husband’s side of the family all in attendance. It was truly a time to celebrate!
Fast forward another year to Mother’s Day 2007 – May 13th. I had found out that week that I was expecting again – all fully planned. We spent the morning at the playground with my parents and watching my son playing. We shared the news that day with my parents that Corey would be a big brother later on that year.
What a world of difference – in the span of two short years! On that first Mother’s Day, no one could have convinced me that this day would ever be a day that I’d look forward to. I’d always be sucked back into how I felt on that first Mother’s Day. The day would forever be officially ruined. I’m happy to say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That said, I will never forget how low I felt on that first Mother’s Day. It makes me quite thankful and grateful for my eventual diagnosis and subsequent recovery. It’s a time for me to reflect and celebrate how far I’ve come in this motherhood gig!
Holidays can be tough and might not live up to your expectations. And with the hype around Mother’s Day and the way it’s portrayed on television and in the movies, or your observations of friends and family, it’s inevitable that you’ll want to make comparisons to your life. All I can say is please do your best not to.
If you’re in throes of a PMAD, don’t question yourself if you’re not feeling festive. You have all the permission on the world to feel what you feel. Take it from someone who has had that rock bottom feeling – it’ll come in time. It might not feel like it, but it will. If you’re ready to celebrate, please do and don’t feel guilty. Look how far you’ve come – you’ve worked hard for it.
To my sweet boys,
You are too little to truly understand this, but you are my entire heart. You hold it, carry it, and bring it with you wherever you go. I hope you can feel it even if I’m not there – whether it’s on a Monday when I’m at work and you’re with Daddy, or when you’re at nursery school playing with your friends. My love is there always. It’s a cloud of love surrounding, protecting, and guiding you.
The moment I found out I was carrying you inside of me, my heart grew and my heart helped shape yours. I instantly fell in love with both of you even before I knew who you were, but yet I felt like I already did, somehow. I rubbed my swollen belly with awe and tenderness, sang you “our” songs, read you countless books, and told you endlessly how much I loved you. Nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how much I would adore you. Each of you are exactly who you’re meant to be. Perfect in your own ways, beautiful in mind and soul.
Although I was not at all prepared for how enormous and intense my love would be for both of you, I was also not ready for the fear and anxiety that overtook my mind. The panic, terror, and sheer fright that something awful would happen to you clouded my life. Suddenly I was afraid of everything and everyone. I wanted to protect you and keep you within my bubble of fierce love. As time went on, I learned that I could not live like that for myself, but more importantly, I could not go on like that for you. Just know that it was my love that created this discourse, but it was also my love that pulled me out of those dark, stormy clouds. You’re both the rainbows at the end of the my storm. My love for you will always be your constant, your light in the fog, your sunshine radiating through the clouds.
You’ve both given me so much to be grateful for. You’ve taught me a lot- unconditional love, continuous patience, and true, pure joy. This Mother’s Day, I honor both of your beautiful souls, for without you, I would not be a mommy, your mommy.
All my love always & forever,
“It took me a while to learn the true meaning of patience and surrender, but I have finally accepted that healing doesn’t happen on our schedule. It doesn’t have a clock or a calendar.” Yolanda Hadid
Tonight’s theme is yoga class was surrender. This notion has always been a hard pill for me to swallow because I love having control & planning ahead for everything, but as we talk about #maternalmentalhealthday I realized that I haven’t truly surrendered. I haven’t surrendered to fully forgiving myself for my postpartum anxiety because I still mourn those early moments. I haven’t truly surrendered to the change in my life not just being a mom in the emotional sense, but the physical sense, too.
My mental health changed and went through a major shift. I’m lucky to be on the opposite end now. I’m lucky that I didn’t struggle with anxiety before my boys, but I’m super lucky that I know how to cope with it now. Momming ain’t for the faint hearted, that’s for sure. But aside from not recognizing my emotional state, I also see my physical self as a stranger. My body is a totally different one and the things it once did are so much harder for me now. Two c-sections in two years is no joke, people. It’s not the easy way out of delivering a baby. My core is shot. My ab muscles are so shifted and separated. For awhile, I hated my body, but then somehow something magical happened, I surrendered. This body that I don’t recognize created life- two beautiful, healthy, amazing little baby boys. Does my body look the same? Not even a little. Does my body feel the same? Nope, but here’s the thing, I’m surrendering to that pain and fueling it into a new strength, a new love for myself.
Yoga has been my most cherished form of self love and self care. I take my practice very seriously and sometimes I let my ego speak rather than my soul. I get mad at myself if I can’t get into a pose that I was able to do prior to my boys. But then it seemed to shift tonight, I surrendered and this happened…My very first head stand since having my babies. I let go of my fear of not being able to do it, fear of falling, or fear of failing and I breathed in love. The love for my family, the love for my yoga practice, and the love for me.
Surrender and see where it can lead you.
I experienced life through Frosted Glass. Out of reach, just going through the motions. I made it through many of days that I thought I couldn’t. I wanted to give up the Rage, OCD, Anxiety, Obtrusive Thoughts. I would cry – but you would never know. I was losing my mind. I had no idea who I was anymore.
I had 2 under 2. I packed and moved into a new house at 7 months pregnant with no help. Returned to work earlier than I should have. Nobody knew what I was going through.
Because I didn’t want my kids taken from me.
I was embarrassed that I wasn’t living in a perfect world with a newborn baby. The perfect world you see people always posting about. Families always smiling. Life is so wonderful if you saw me, you’d never see beyond my Poker Face.
Motherhood IS tough. And you need a strong core of friends who understand what you are going through.
It took me 10 months to find the RIGHT help. 10 months to walk into a hospital and find my tribe. The struggle of ‘Me Against Myself’ was real.
I share only a part of my story with you to let you know that we have to end the stigma surrounding Maternal Mental Health.
We have to feel comfortable sharing our stories because this is what is helping others. I do not want anyone to suffer the way I did. And if someone can relate to some or all of my story, then I have saved a life.
I volunteer my time with The Bloom Foundation as a peer to peer group facilitator for moms in recovery – Embracing Your Motherhood.
If you or anyone you may know is suffering, reach out to me. Any state. Nationwide. The women behind The Bloom Foundation are angels – no judgement – our mission is to #saveallthemamas
I have a 3yr old and 4yr old; together we are stronger and I no longer live my life through Frosted Glass
You. Are. Not. Alone.
Elena Juliano originally posted this on Facebook on May 1st for Maternal Mental Health Day.
Within minutes she received this private message
I have to say I’m completely blown away by how open you are with the struggles you had. I deal with high anxiety on a regular basis and it was very much exacerbated by the adoption of each of the children. I love my kids and would do anything for them and my anxiety is most about them. I would love to hear your story.
This woman is now attending Elena’s Support Group – Embracing Your Motherhood.
Share your story, someone is waiting to hear.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” — C.S. Lewis
I came across this quote today and it stood out to me so bright like the gleaming sun reflecting off of the ocean during a sunset. As a thirty-something year old woman, I’ve had many friends throughout the different stages in my life – childhood friends, high school gal pals, college partners in crime, and a lot of those friends are still a major part of my life, but nothing, and I mean nothing could prepare me for the friendships I made during my struggle with my postpartum anxiety.
I walked into a center for maternal wellness when Jake was 2 months old without realizing that I would meet fellow warrior mamas who were struggling with the same issues that were suffocating me. I surveyed the ladies I met with a closed heart and mind for fear of judgment. I didn’t want to share my story or admit to the things that were weighing me down. Momming should be easy, right? Rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns with a splash of glitter for everyone!! Well, not so much. I always wanted to be a mom, so how could I admit that my anxiety was literally taking over my life? What kind of a mother would that make me? So I kept my distance, casting judgments in my mind like “They looked normal,” or “Why are they even here?” It wasn’t until I decided to go to a peer group therapy session that I saw beyond their masks. It was such an “aha moment” when I heard how there were all feeling similar emotions, tangled up in the same worry, paralyzed by the same fears, and triggered by the same situations. I quickly realized, “I’m home and these are my people.” I started to open up more, slowly letting my guard down, no longer afraid of the judgment or criticism. These women are my go-to’s, my life-lines, my cheerleader. I can remember clear as day when I walked out of that group in the middle of a panic attack because my baby was crying (one of my biggest triggers), and one of those angel moms followed me out with her beautiful baby girl. She gave me the space to be, to cry, to find calmness. We found out that our babies were exactly 2 weeks apart, we both had older sons, and lived a couple blocks from each other. The stars had aligned with this one. I found my person. My warrior mom bestie. I am so thankful for her friendship and all of the women who contributed to my story.
We come from all walks of life and parent with contrasting styles, but the constant is this, we have a bond so deep, so real because we came out on the other side together. In a world full of so much discourse, it’s easy to get swept up in negativity, but these women filled me with love and positivity. So here’s to the moments that we all said, “Me too” and realized we weren’t alone in this crazy thing called motherhood. They are part of my story, a hand in my healing, and a piece of my heart.
“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”