Finding my Voice Through Motherhood

It’s not a secret that becoming a mom literally changes everything.

Your schedule is no longer about you, you have to think of a little persons needs before your own, you can’t just leave the house at a moments notice, and last minute plans just can’t happen anymore.

What may surprise you is how much you change inwardly once you become a mama

I remember saying to myself “I’m not gonna be one of those moms that let’s motherhood change them!” I’m pretty sure most, if not all of us, say this at some point. We all picture ourselves continuing on being who we were prior to motherhood, just with this little baby tagging along for the ride.

While I’m pleased to say I never fully lost myself, (although, like all moms I have certainly had my moments), I am definitely not who I was prior to becoming a mom.

I’m not so different that I’m unrecognizable. I’m not so different that if I were to hang out with my friends without kids they wouldn’t know what to do around me. However, deep down I am changed forever.

Yes I’ve changed in the normal ways you expect. I’m not out until 1 am with my friends anymore…. I honestly don’t even know what 1 am looks like anymore. I’m not getting my nails done every two weeks, or getting together every weekend with my girlfriends for a glass of wine. I’m genuinely happy to spend my weekends with my little family watching my toddler explore snd learn.

But there’s one way I’ve changed that I LOVE, and that’s truly surprised me.

I’ve found my voice, or at least I’m finding it!

My whole life I’ve been the girl who did as she was told (with a few rebellious spurts in my younger years). I’ve never really been one to say no when someone asked a favor, even when I really wanted to. I would never rock the boat if I disagreed, because I HATE confrontation.

Once I became a mother, that has slowly started t shift. Ask my husband… Almost instantly after becoming pregnant with my second I have pretty much no fear speaking my mind.

If someone asks me to do something now ,and I really don’t want to, or in my gut I feel like it’s a bad idea, the answer is no. No more people pleasing.

That doesn’t mean it’s anything personal against the person asking for the favor, or inviting me to something. Time just becomes a precious commodity once you have another human to care about. They tend to take up the majority of your time, especially when they’re so young. Adding more events, or favors to your plate can be stressful.

Personally, I know I am a better wife and mother when there’s a sliver of time in my day carved out for myself, and if that means saying no to a night out with friends so be it. I can’t pour from an empty cup, and sometimes the best way for me to fill my cup is an hour of alone time. For this reason, I am super comfortable saying no to plans. After all, once you’re a mama alone time is so hard to come by.

I’ve also experienced the fun of postnatal anxiety. So saying no to things involving my kid when in my gut they just don’t feel right has become second nature now. I know that if I follow my intuition I won’t regret it; but, saying yes when my my head is screaming no always results in anxiety.

I really found my voice recently at the pediatricians office. A doctor I don’t normally see, but have had to with limited staff, tried to pressure me into multiple vaccines at once. I delay and space them out as a matter of preference.

I found myself being lectured… no more like bullied, by the doctor about why I may have a point but she didn’t think it was correct. Now, normally when someone of authority talks to me like that, I cower and just agree so the argument ends. This time, mama bear snapped.

I nicely, but firmly, told her it was my preference, and that while I appreciate her opinion, I’m doing what I personally feel comfortable with. She huffed and puffed but eventually gave in. Ever since, she’s been kind and understanding when I say no to something she suggests.

When it comes to my own personal beliefs, and the beliefs of others, I’ve always wanted to remain respectful. I was raised to treat others as I would want to be treated. I personally don’t want someone shoving what they believe, or their ways of doing thing down my throat. Therefore, I try to do the same.

My personal code of ethics is to keep my beliefs to myself unless you seek me out. If you genuinely want my opinion I’m happy to give it. I’ll talk personal beliefs all day with anyone open to it.

At some point during your pregnancy, (pretty much as soon as you announce it to anyone), it’s almost like a sign is tattooed on your forehead. It reads: “unsolicited advice welcome here!” It’s not really welcome here, but it’s given to us anyway, and it doesn’t stop after the baby comes. It just gets worse.

This advice, and outspoken opinions, come from a well meaning place… usually anyway. A loving family member or friend gives you a piece of information they personally found helpful. They truly want to better your experience with their suggestions.

Sometimes this advice, suggestion, or the belief they are unknowingly pushing on you, just doesn’t align. Sometimes it may seem, or even BE critical of the way you do things, or what you believe. I used to smile and nod, again, trying to remain the peacekeeper.

These days, if it rubs me the wrong way, or feels too pushy, I shut it down. I don’t do this in a rude way. Instead, I politely say “thank you, but this is how I’m doing it”, or point out where my boundary is, and respectfully ask that it is followed.

I cannot tell you how freeing this is.

Motherhood is the most challenging, wild, experience of my life. It’s also been the most beautiful transformation I’ve ever experienced.

Yes, I’ve had my moments where I look in the mirror and don’t know who I’m looking at anymore. Yes, I’ve had days where I need a break and want to rip my hair out. More than anything though, I feel like I am more myself than ever before.

Motherhood has made me stronger in my convictions. It has made me realize that speaking my mind, and standing up for myself, and the family I’ve created is much more important than keeping the peace. It has been more freeing than anything.

When I birthed my little girl, I was born again too. I became a mom. Mothers are warriors. We love hard, and we fight hard for our families.

The greatest gift I’ve received as a mother is my little girl. The second greatest gift I received was my voice. I’m still finding it, and learning to use it, but I will forever be grateful for it.

So from one mama bear to another, don’t ever be afraid to let someone hear you roar. It is a gift, so never be ashamed to use it.

PPA: What Literally No One Warned Me About

I’m going to start this post by saying that I truly do not want any sympathy. I am merely sharing my experience so that I can spare a future mama from being hit with something they never expected.

Motherhood is amazing. Amazingly beautiful, amazingly trying, amazingly wonderful, and amazingly difficult. I’ve only been a mother for a whopping 3 months and I can already tell you this. I am beyond grateful for my little one, for my pregnancy, and my birth experience. I honestly would do everything all over again, even the 4th trimester (trust me it ain’t no piece of cake).

When I got pregnant I began reading many books on what to expect during pregnancy and what will happen after the baby arrived. My doctors discussed some of these expectations and possibilities at length with me. Towards the end of my pregnancy, and after giving birth to my baby girl, postpartum depression or PPD was constantly brought up. I was screened (although if you ask me a few vague questions don’t really seem like enough to me) and told I wasn’t suffering from any PPD. I knew that wasn’t the case, so this didn’t shock me.

What did worry me was the way I started feeling every night before going to bed since about a week after I gave birth. I would get the baby ready for bed, brush my teeth, say goodnight to my husband and hop in bed. All of a sudden my chest would tighten, my mind would race, and I would feel as tho I couldn’t catch my breath.

I had never dealt with anything like this, but coming from a family who deals with a lot of anxiety, I knew that this is what it felt like.

Why now?! I had literally never dealt with anxiety EVER.

I kept asking myself what I was anxious about. Was I failing already as a mother? Am I already unraveling? Is it the fact that I will have to return to work and leave my baby with someone else 3 days a week? Is it because my husband and my relationship will ultimately never be the way it was before children? Was it all of these things?

I honestly couldn’t pinpoint any reason for it. All I can tell you is that I had no clue where it was coming from or why.

Not a single doctor or person I had come in contact with said anything to me about feeling anxious after the baby. Not one. So I really didn’t know it had anything to do with it.

Many of my girlfriends, and my husband, and family had asked me how I was doing. They said if you have any feelings of depression please talk to them. No one said anything about anxiety. So for a while I said nothing about it.

My husband has been extremely supportive and helpful through my entire pregnancy, and my postpartum journey. He consistently would ask how I felt, and to please talk to him if I felt off in any way.

One night after getting the baby to sleep, I was very overwhelmed with my anxiety. I couldn’t keep this to myself any longer. I went out to my husband and told him how I had been feeling. I said no one said anything about anxiety, they just stressed the signs of depression.

He urged me to google it.

Lowe and behold, PPA popped up. Postpartum anxiety is a very real, very common occurrence. How did no one tell me about it?

From what I was reading online, many women in forums had no idea about it either. Some of these women didn’t even know that’s what they were going through until years later.

I was not alone. This immediately made me feel better, not completely, but better.

I found forums of women discussing their anxieties and what they were doing to treat them. I was encouraged to talk about everything on my mind, and to share it all with a loved one. I found links to get help and seek therapy if it was so severe I couldn’t get through it on my own.

Here is my question: why is this not talked about? Why are we only focusing on PPD when PPA is just as prevalent?

This is why I am talking about it. May is Maternity Mental Heath Awareness month, and I hope that by talking about my own experience I can help someone else in theirs.

If you are pregnant, or a new mama and you ever feel any symptoms that don’t quite fit into the PPD category but you know aren’t normal to you, talk to someone. You are not alone.

PPA is very real. You don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to a loved one, a fellow mama, a therapist, anyone. For me just talking about my feelings has helped tremendously, but that may not be the case for everyone.

Please never feel unworthy of asking for help, and getting it. You deserve it mamas. You give your all everyday for your family. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!

I hope in the future doctors will open the discussion for not just PPD but anxiety as well and any other postpartum mood disorders not discussed. Until then, it is our duty to help one another out and share our own experiences.

If I can help just one woman know that she isn’t alone, and there is help for her out there, then I am happy.

You are worthy of happiness, you are worthy of help. You are worthy mama. Don’t ever forget it.