Happy Mother’s Day!! I know that Mother’s Day is yet a week away, but I wanted to take a moment and wish each and every one of you a wonderful day! For some of you, this will be your first Mother’s Day; It doesn’t matter if you are still gestating or holding your precious darling in your arms, you are a mama! For others, this is an annual notch marking your progress as mama. Congratulations to you all! Where ever you happen to be on your motherhood journey, do take a moment to reflect and give yourself a rousing round of applause. You have earned it!!!
I have been thinking a lot about my motherhood journey lately. Perhaps it’s because my daughter has been chanting her mantra, “13 in 2015”!! since the beginning of the year, indicating that as of this October, I’m going to have a full fledged teenager in the house. But that’s not the only thing that has me pondering. A few weeks ago, my son, my 9 year old, asked if he could ride in the front seat. My knee-jerk response was to say “no”. But when I took a look at him, I mean, a really good look at him, I changed my mind. As I said, my son is 9 and he weighs upwards of 85 lbs and stands about 4ft 8inches. (My daughter was just measured in school and she tells me that she is 4 ft 11 in. I’m 5 ft.) He is as tall as my mother who sits in the front seat every time she visits. While she spots him a few pounds, I looked up the guidelines and he meets them all! So now he rides in the front seat when I take him to school and it’s a complete mind bender that the darling little bald-headed baby that I hugged and cuddled for so long is now ‘riding shotgun.’
Everything is changing. My relationship to my children is changing and my role as their mama is changing. I find myself not so needed anymore and I have to admit that I am a teenie bit sad about this. The infant and toddler stages are so intense, you can’t take your eyes off of the little ones alone for a second! In the blink of an eye they are wandering into the street, putting kitty kibble in their mouths or reaching towards something hot. When they want something there is no negotiation. They wail their discontent and you do your best to soothe them. A kiss can make the world spin right and let’s face it, when they are in that phase of only wanting you-yeah, it’s a bit constricting but at the same time, how good does it feel when your child is screaming, you can walk into the room, pick them up and instantly they calm down and nestle into your arms in utter contentment? Call me crazy, but it was like having sort or magical power and I will go on the carpet right now and say – I LIKED IT!!
But I like this stage, too. I like being able to say, “Hey, go get ready for bed,” and they go into their rooms, shower, change into their pajamas and come out ready to turn in. I like that on Saturday mornings my daughter sleeps in later than anyone and my son can now get himself some breakfast. I like that they have chores around the house and I am not the only person doing all the maintenance and upkeep. I like that they are great at putting items on the shopping list when things are running out. I like that I can talk to them about things that may have happened and that we can often come to an agreeable solution (This is a work in progress but we are doing well!). They are becoming more independent, exerting their own personalities and I find it fascinating to watch them grow and begin constructing their own thoughts and opinions.
Until they use those thoughts and opinions against me. One thing that is both a blessing and a curse is that I have 2 very intelligent children and when the going gets rough, it’s gang up on mom time! I have to admit that they have come up with some very plausible arguments against things that I have said. I have apologized to my son and praised him for holding his firm to his opinion when he and I disagreed, and I have had to admit to my daughter that I was wrong when we had “mixed it up”. While both my children are very clear that I have the final say on things that happen in our household, I have tried my best to allow my children to have a voice and an opinion about things as much as possible. Sometimes I cannot allow their opinions; as the responsible adult, I have to make decisions that are in the best interest of safety and security for the three of us. But when possible, we have “family meetings” and as a family make decisions.
Motherhood at times is really hard. It’s hard to tell your children “no” when they want something, or want to do something “everyone else is doing” and yet you just don’t feel is right. It’s hard to stand firm in the face of rolling eyes and heavy sighs. And some of my toughest decisions regarding my children came as I was navigating the divorce from their father. Sometimes life seems as clear as mud, yet you have to keep going because there simply isn’t any other choice. So you review whatever information is available and make the best decision possible; sometimes with success and sometimes with colossal failure. And just as I tell my children, at those times of failure, I have to push myself to get up, dust off, learn from the mistake and move on.
My road to motherhood was so dicey with 2 miscarriages, a surgery to be able to carry my children, 2 high risk pregnancies, 2 cesarean sections and a preterm birth with a low birth weight infant. At the time everything was so intense, so critical. I now look back at that 5 year span and it is but a blip on the continuum that is my life. Motherhood itself is so much more, so much juicier! Having kids really is a gift of a lifetime and I am so grateful that I have been blessed to have been given this gift twice.
To all you mamas out there, whether you spend the day in bed with your family fawning all over you, or cuddling a new little love, or spending the day having some great family adventure (which may simply be successfully getting everyone clean and out of the house off to dinner!!) I want to wish you the happiest of Mother’s Days from me and mine to you and yours!
There is still time to contribute to the Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond March for Babies campaign. We are hoping to raise $1000 to raise awareness of preterm births and prematurity. The Austin Walk is Saturday, May 9, 2015. A donation as small as $5 will help. Donate now!
Don’t know what to give mama for Mother’s Day? If you are in Austin, give her the gift of care! We offer in home care for mamas on bedrest. Click here for details and mention this blog to get 3 hours of in home care for the price of 2!
Today we finish up the series presented by Kathy Morelli, LPC on hormones and mood disorders. Once again I’d like to thank Kathy for such a well written and informative series. I am also very grateful that she allowed me to share the series with Mamas on Bedrest.
The final installment of the series is Post Partum: How Women’s Brain Biology, Hormones and Mood Relate!
“After giving birth, a woman’s hormone levels drastically plummet. The literature says within one to five days after birth, estrogen levels drop to the level of a normal menstrual cycle. A woman’s body needs time to adapt to all of the physical changes. Remember that estrogen precedes serotonin, the mood stabilizer, in the brain. And a steep drop in progesterone has a depressive effect as well. There’s a big chance for dysregulation in the brain-gland feedback loop (Sichel and Driscoll, 1999).”
“Other hormones that come into play postpartum and have an effect on the HPA and mood are prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is produced in the pituitary gland and is the milk-producing hormone. Prolactin levels rise during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Some studies indicate prolactin is protective of postpartum depression, but others indicate prolactin causes vigilance, appropriate to a protective mother, but this feeling can morph into anxiety and irritability. The presence of prolactin varies whether or not a woman chooses to breastfeed (Donaldson-Myers, 2012).”
“Oxytocin is another neuro-hormone with a big effect on mood and happiness. Oxytocin is synthesized in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin is secreted during breastfeeding. Research has shown that oxytocin induces feelings of calm and bonding (Donaldson-Myers, 2012). And the presence of oxytocin varies whether or not a woman chooses to breastfeed (Donaldson-Myers, 2012).”
Women’s hormonal levels go from such highs at the end of pregnancy and then plummet to such lows with labor and delivery it’s a wonder that not all women become depressed. Kathy shares that
“85% of women suffer from the baby blues and 20% suffer from a form of postpartum mood disorders”
so clearly these hormonal fluctuations are indeed significant. And let’s not forget that Mamas on Bedrest are at an even greater risk of perinatal mood disorders because of bed rest, so these numbers may not reflect the full scope of perinatal mood disorders.
So much more research is being done on hormones, mood disorders and the lifestages of women. When considering the mental health of post partum women, we also have to take into account their support system, their ability to take time to rest and recover from pregnancy (and bed rest!) labor and delivery, the family situation and interpersonal relationships. All these factors-along with the “pre-wiring” in a woman’s genetic make up will determine how well a woman fares emotionally after pregnancy. Mamas, Take this information, think it over and use it as a catalyst to take exquisite care of yourselves! A woman’s body is designed to do extraordinary things-not the least of which is create new life-but that feat is not without its consequences. In order to be able to successfully reproduce, mamas must take exceptional care of themselves-eat nurtritious meals, drink plenty of water, rest, regular exercise, safe secure home and financial security. Mamas, self care is not a luxury-IT IS A MUST if you want good health for yourself, your baby and your family!
Catchy title, huh? This title came to me after reading my dear friend Kate’s blog post, Sometimes I Don’t Want to be a Mother. I applaud her for her honesty and candor. Kate is the mama of a 5 year old, a 1 year old and is pregnant with her third child. Kate loves her children immensely and she is an awesome mama! I could just eat her little ones up! But the truth of the matter is, I visit with Kate, hang with her and her youngins for a few hours and then I leave. Then there she is doing the “mommy shuffle”; shuffling love and attention between her two little ones, managing her household, working her business, dealing with the fatigue and physical changes going on within her own body and trying to save some time and energy for her husband when he comes home. Sound familiar? It is a balancing act to say the least, and sometimes mamas simply want to say, “Stop the world I want to get off!”:
Now before you all go twisting your sheets in indignation, I want to pose this question to you. If you knew beforehand that you were going to have the problems that you are currently having, would have to be on bed rest and face all the stress and discomfort that you are experiencing, perhaps have a difficult labor and/or delivery, a child in the NICU and/or with special needs, would you have gotten get pregnant? Now I’m not going to ask you to reveal your answers. How you feel is between you and the One in the Great Beyond! But I want to take this moment and let you know, you are not judged nor are you a horrible person, awful mama or undeserving mama if your answer is “No, I would not get pregnant if I knew that all of this would happen.” Anyone of the aforementioned issues is a lot to take on. Many of you Mamas on Bedrest experience one or more simultaneously. And I am here to tell you, as I told Kate, it is perfectly normal to every now and then gaze to the heavens and say, “Stop the world, I want to get off!”
I am in no way dissing motherhood. As you know, I have two kiddos myself. Currently I am being ushered into (ready or not!) the teen years and let me tell you, it is no easy ride! But even before this point, I had a difficult pregnancy and delivery with my daughter, she had breathing problems and asthma that sometimes required that I be up with her round the clock. She has some significant food allergies (which prompted the upcoming free tele seminar Managing Meals with Food Sensitivities) and right now, truth be told, she is often a snarky pain in the &*^%! But I have to admit, I love her and her brother more than I have words to say. Yet the truth of the matter is that some days I would love to retreat to a quiet cave somewhere and just chuck it all.
Our society touts motherhood as the be all end all, the great pinnacle to which all women must aspire. But truth be told, our culture and society (at least here in the US) does very little to support mothers in their child bearing or child rearing. Motherhood is a very demanding job for which we get no pay and no vacation. We give our bodies-blood, sweat and tears-and hope that in the end we raise well adjusted, happy, healthy, children. While great kids that grow up into great adults are an awesome reward, I want to remind you that for all you do, very business people would do the same job without a six figure+ salary! (I once read an article that showed that for all “stay at home mothers do, if they were to be financially compensated according to employment standards, their salaries would be around $130,000/year! Just sayin’…I’ll try to find that citation.) Our legislators tout time and time again that American Families are the foundation of America, yet when things get tough, women’s health services, aid to families with children, paid family leave, early childhood education, and other “family centered services” get cut. Is it any wonder mamas, families feel the squeeze and want off of the carousel?
I love that Kate was bold and brave enough to post that motherhood is tough and sometimes she just doesn’t want to do it. I find her candor encouraging and hope that many of you will take in her words and her candor and know that what you are doing as a Mama on Bedrest is hard, it is not fun and some days you just don’t want to do it! I am here to tell you that you are in no way wrong, selfish, ungrateful or any other word of judgement your may hear or feel. And I want to give a special shout out to mamas who may have utilized the wonders of technology to conceive and are now wondering, “Was this trip really necessary??” You are not crazy! You are not ungrateful! And you have every right to feel upset, frustrated, angry, sad, depressed, short changed, jealous, or…..whatever! It’s all normal! I would be more concerned if you were all saying, “Oh, I’m just so thrilled to be pregnant, I’ll take it any way I can!” There will be some among you that will feel this way. But for those of you that don’t. It’s okay.
Do take the time to read Kate’s blog in its entirety. It’s beautifully written and has some great nuggets of truth. You may not agree with everything she said, you may not be able to relate. But for those of you who have been quietly suffering and flogging yourself in silence, I would like to absolve you of your guilt by simply saying, “I know it’s tough. We’re here for you and we (mamas of this community and beyond) acknowledge all the hard work you are going through and we support you!”
Have you ever wanted to “jump off the carousel called life?” What did you do to get through that difficult time? Please share your story and your tips in the comments section below. Your words may be just what another mama needs today. Please be generous!