Quilt and beautiful bee made by MommaStrong crafters!
The most common comment I get these days, by strangers or friends, is “You must be so ready to be done being pregnant!” And I know I look uncomfortable and I certainly know my belly appears to be an engineering feat (it is), but whenever I get asked that, my internal response is always "NOOOOOOOOOOO, I am not done!"
Don’t get me wrong, I am endlessly excited to meet this little person. Endlessly. We have already been through so much together and I’ve had the distinct benefit of enjoying a pain-free, anxiety-free pregnancy (thank you MommaStrong). And, because of that, I feel that I’ve been present enough for the last 9 months to really get to know her and to get to know myself as a mom more than ever before. I understand now why having kids in your late 30s is actually such a divine experience. I feel integrated and whole for the first time in my life, like I won’t have to grow up with her as I have with my other kids (don’t worry, we’ve already started saving for therapy). It’s going to be pure joy to meet her.
My life is all starting to find a really steady pace. I have the career of my dreams, against all odds. I work with incredible women who teach me, challenge me, guide me, and need me. My kids are just finding their land legs in this weird world, one going on to win awards galore in middle school and the other finding her wings (quite literally) as a freakishly skilled aerial artist. They go to bed without fussing. They do their homework *most of the time* without struggle. I get around 8 hours of sleep a night - a first in my ENTIRE adult life. I’ve started projects I’ve never thought would be in my grasp. I’ve found the love of my life and we get to share a couple of nights together without kids, being rather autonomous as we edge into forever together. And, most importantly, I am finally finally taking Good Care of Myself. Like, really good care of myself.
Sure, there are other extremely hard parts of my life right now, but those privately arduous things feel like parts my life that I can handle because of all of the above. And that makes it feel like my life is working. I get to do the hard stuff because I have reserves.
And, yes, you know where this going. Postpartum. I know a lot of folks for whom postpartum is just another hard part of life, for which an innate knowledge of it being temporary is known and appreciated. For me, though, my past experience is not that. And even though I loved my babies like we all do and mothered them well like we all do, the postpartum period broke me. And it broke me for nearly a decade.
It wasn’t just a few months or even just a few years. It broke me and then I forced myself to keep going, not even knowing how broken I was. That’s the kicker: I had NO idea that I was broken. I normalized it all, even the suicidal ideations, even the extreme depression, even the irrational fears, even the delusions and grandiosity, even the fear of other people, even my growing addictions, even my fatigue. I just said, welp, this is motherhood. I then capped that statement with: This is motherhood … and clearly I am failing at it.
So, yeah, I am desperately afraid of losing my grounding and slipping into a lost realm of depression again. I have so much to lose and so much grace to embrace. I fucking love my life. This is why, instead of acting like I’m not afraid, I’m gonna name my fear loud and proud. As I have said before, making motherhood visible is the only way to bring in solutions. I believe this to be especially true with the postpartum period.
This June, as I dive head first into birth and the fourth trimester, I will be doing my own (restful) version of a MommaStrong challenge. While I’ll be taking an appropriate and safe amount of time off of exercising in my normal ways, I will still be around in new ways. I didn’t opt for a typical maternity leave and that is 100% because MommaStrong is actually a partner in my maternity leave. Imagine that? A career in which motherhood is a not a liability. I believe that this will be one anchor, amongst other more personal ones, that will help create change in my postpartum experience, just as it has for pregnancy.
And, so, I will ask YOU to join me and everyone here at MommaStrong in a month long challenge all about postpartum. And we’re going to do it differently than you might think. We’re going to focus on the fact that postpartum is not a phase that ends. It begins when you give birth and then it continues until your last breath. Because when you birth a child - or accept a child into your life through adoption or otherwise - you are FOREVER changed. You are forever postpartum.
I’m not looking to go “back” to where I was before, because that “before” is neither something I want nor something that will work for me and who I am today. I think the more we stand in direct confrontation with the permanence of so much that has changed, the better off we will be. Because it is all beautiful and hideous, fulfilling and harrowing … all at once.
Sign up today for our June Challenge, where we will be doing something for our physical bodies each and every day and where we will be chatting about - IN DEPTH - the changes that happen postpartum and the solutions we have at our fingertips, along with the solutions we still need. We’ll talk to some experts, I’ll be sharing my personal experiences as they unfold in real time, and the MommaStrong team (truly my family) will be doing what all good villages do: Supporting me and this work of helping women find strength to show up in the world as they choose.
See you soon. Please share this post with anyone who needs a village.