Don’t judge me


Last night, I asked my #PPDChat Mamas to chime in with suggestions for today’s chat. To the left is a suggestion I received this morning from Amber over at Beyond Postpartum. It got my wheels turning. Judgment, to me, is such a dirty dirty word. The following post is what spilled out as I thought more and more about her suggestion. Read. Share. Comment. Love one another, mamas. And daddies. Love. Don’t hate. Don’t judge. Love. It’s why we’re here.

Why do we judge one another, mamas?

Why?

Aren’t we all in this together?

Don’t we all have the same job when it comes down to it?

Do you know why that mama is giving a bottle?

Do you know why she’s chosen not to co-sleep?

Did you ask? Did you ask if she’s doing okay? Or did you glare? Did you judge? Did you sit on your throne and think better of yourself because you nurse your toddler, have your infant strapped to you 24/7, and only shop in the organic section of the grocery store never stepping foot in the formula or diaper aisle?

Shame on you. Shame on you for judging. For not stopping to ask if this mama is okay. If everything in her world is still right side up. Shame on you for tossing guilt onto her already full pile.

We are all parents. Most of us fight the same battles every day. A child who whines when it’s time to sleep. An infant who screams for hours on end because of digestive issues. A house in which laundry and dishes get laid and multiply more often than we do. We fight through this day in and day out through a fog of exhaustion. We make lifestyle choices based on what we can handle… based on what is best for our families.

Just because my infant isn’t super-glued to my boob doesn’t mean I’m less of a mother.

Just because my toddler stopped nursing before 2 doesn’t mean I love her any less. It doesn’t mean she loves me any less.

Two of my kids have had formula. I feared judgment. But I shouldn’t have been forced to worry about that. I fed my children. They thrived. I thrived. We all thrived. The end. The in between doesn’t matter.

My kids eat non-organic bananas too, by the way. And watch TV. Yes, they LOVE chocolate. And candy. And have eaten at McDonald’s.

I’ve ordered pizza because I didn’t want to cook. Popped open Chef Boyardee for the same reason.

Thank GOD.

Because frankly?

I’m not the kind of mom who can throw myself under the bus on purpose.

No, I’m the kind of mom who’s accidentally stepped in FRONT of the bus and been run over a couple of times.

There’s no full body cast for me but my brain’s a bit loopy still so excuse me if I’m not the Stepford parent I’m supposed to be at the moment. Excuse me if I look a bit more like Roseanne instead of June Cleaver. You see, I’ve been run over by Postpartum Mood Disorders and need to take care of myself in addition to my children because if I don’t, it can get fatal. Seriously. FATAL. As in I might lose my life FATAL. So excuse me while I indulge my child in some Enfamil and pop culture in order to maintain my sanity.

It’s OKAY.

My kids know they’re loved. They’re thriving. They’re using three and four syllable words by the time they hit three.

More importantly?

They already understand mental illness. They know it’s not anyone’s fault. That it just happens. And that it’s okay. Sure, right now they think tickling is an appropriate therapy (it really was in our house, by the way). My kids don’t jump to conclusions. They show compassion. They help. They offer support when someone is sad. They are empathic. They already know the importance of self-care. Our oldest is seven.

The next time you jump to conclusions about another parent in public, remember your children. They are watching you. They are learning from you. Before you even inhale sharply and bite that bottom lip because some mom whips out a bottle to feed her newborn, ask yourself why you’re judging. Ask yourself if it’s your place to judge. Instead of inhaling and glaring, go say hi. Ask that mom how she’s doing. Refrain from judging. Understand we’re all struggling on the same road but need different tools for our own journey.

If we could just show a bit more compassion to each other, the world would be a much better place. Don’t you want to be a part of that world? I know I do.

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Postpartum Voice of the Week: 02.03.11: Searching for Hope


The following piece is an original story which was submitted for consideration. The author takes you from one of the darkest places she has ever been in to a place in which she offers hope to others. She’s still struggling in the midst of it all but thankfully has hope on her team these days. Without further ado, I give you this week’s Postpartum Voice of the Week:

 

I didn’t have a “mom” growing up. I had no one to teach me right from wrong, no one to talk to, no one to look up to. My mom was physically there, just enough to scrape by with the title of “mom.” When I needed her to get through some of the darkest times of my life, she wasn’t around. I was so miserable having someone who was supposed to be there, but who wasn’t. I had promised myself that I would be the mother to my kids that I never had.

The time came for me to be mom when my first child was born in 2008. I was overjoyed, ecstatic, blessed to have such a title and to give everything I had to this little baby. We welcomed his younger sister into our family in early 2010, and with that, our family was complete. I was ready to raise these children in a family full of love and be the best mom I could possibly be. I was meant to be a mom, it was the only aspiration I ever had.

Having had a difficult childhood myself, I knew the face of depression. I understood feelings of being worthless, hopeless, and simply not good enough. What I didn’t know was that these feelings could accompany the birth of a child. After my daughter was born, things gradually started getting worse. I would become irritable with every cry, angry every time a bottle wouldn’t soothe my crying little one, and just hostile when things weren’t going the way I had planned. Six months had gone by; I had brushed the feelings off my shoulder as if they were “normal.” I had 2 kids under 2, things were supposed to be hectic, right? Running on very little sleep, being needed by two kids simultaneously with only 2 hands was enough to make any mom a little discouraged when things were rough and there was no help in sight.

Six months postpartum, I had noticed I wasn’t getting better. The irritability was at its worst, I had those same feelings of worthlessness that I had once experienced, I had no desire to take care of my kids, I had no desire to even take care of myself at this point. I let all the housework go, I cried at the drop of a hat even when I had no logical reason for crying, I started spending more time in bed, and nothing seemed worth it anymore. I had awful thoughts of leaving my children, my family, and never looking back. I just didn’t want anything. I felt like a failure; I wasn’t even good at what I wanted to be for so long…a mom. My children didn’t deserve me anymore. I kept thinking of my mom, and how there were times I wished she weren’t around-that she weren’t my mom. I didn’t want my kids to grow up wishing I wasn’t their mom or that I wasn’t around because I was a spitting image of my own mother. I thought taking myself out of the equation was the best decision for my family. I whole-heartedly believed someone could do my job better.

No matter how much I wanted to in that moment, I couldn’t ever leave my children. Ever. I knew something was wrong, and I needed help immediately before such irrational thoughts became my reality. I asked my husband to drive me to the hospital, that it was an emergency. He really had no idea what was going on, my feelings were kept to myself because I didn’t want anyone to think bad of me or that I was a bad mom for having such thoughts. After being evaluated for an hour, I wanted to walk right back out the doors I walked in. I was scared; there was no way I belonged there. Seeing other patients walk the halls with their head down, the screams that came from rooms down the hall that warranted a handful of doctors to hurry off, I knew this was a mistake. My anxiety was too much for me to handle at this point. The evaluating nurse asked me many questions that left me with feelings of shame. How could I have such deep, dark feelings when I have two beautiful children at home needing me? Needless to say, I was admitted. There was no turning back, I was there and there was no way out. Although I knew this wasn’t the right place for me, I made the decision to get everything I possibly could out of this hospital stay. I told the numerous psychiatrists and therapists I saw on a daily basis exactly how I felt, why I was there, and let them in on my life (which is something I don’t do until I have full trust in a person). Against medication from the beginning, I openly tried whatever meds they wanted to put me on because I was desperate to get better. I was diagnosed with PPD/PPA/PPOCD. What was that? I had no clue there was such a diagnosis. I was never talked to about this. After nearly a week of being there, I was released…sent on my way. I had the number to a psychiatrist and a therapist whom I was instructed to follow up with. I did just that. The psychiatrist changed my meds completely, and it was only weeks before I started to really see an improvement in my behavior. I’m still working on finding the right combination of meds to keep me stable, and we’ll go from there.

What I can tell you is that I now have hope that things will get better. If someone would have told me something, anything, about PPD ten months ago, I wouldn’t have hit rock bottom before reaching out for help. I wouldn’t have gone through four months of absolute misery thinking of how bad a parent I was and how guilty I felt that I couldn’t take care of my own children. I saw multiple healthcare professionals during my months postpartum- the OBGYN, my family doctor, my children’s doctor, nurses at hospitals when my kids were sick, yet no one ever asked me how I felt emotionally. I was too afraid to bring up my feelings, fearing they would tell me it was all normal and I was worrying too much. I almost took my life because I thought I had ruined not only myself, but my children. I almost walked out on the two most important people in my life because I thought I was crazy. The fear of admitting the awful thoughts I had was bizarre. I believed people would immediately think I was “crazy” or “undeserving” of my children. But I reached out. I took control of my own behavior. I waited too long hoping that someone would help me. I waited too long thinking I would eventually get better on my own. I waited too long to take this illness by the horns and control my own destiny. I wanted to get better so bad for my children, for my family. However, it took me wanting to get better for MYSELF before I had the courage to do so, to reach out and put myself and my feelings out there into the hands of people who have the control and the knowledge to help me. My biggest motivation was the thought of having to live the next day as miserable as the day before. Things needed to change.

These postpartum mood disorders have me in check. Every time a thought passes through my head that I have conquered this beast, I am made aware that I am still on my journey to recovery. I am, by no means, fully recovered from PPD/PPA/PPOCD, but it no longer controls me. I control it.

As awful as this journey has been, I have become a better person because of it. I have learned to cherish every moment with my children, from the sleepless nights to the temper tantrums. I have learned to appreciate things for what they are, rather than what I want them to be. Most importantly, I have learned that even in the late hours of the night, or on my darkest days, I am stronger than I think I am. I can get through the bad things, and things will get better. There is hope, and that’s what keeps me going…

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Whatever Wednesday: Prayers for a bully


"Praying Girl" photo taken By t.na~★ @flickr.com, text added by Lauren Hale

Over the past few weeks, our oldest daughter, who is quite normally a happily yet distracted little girl, suddenly changed.

Distant, prone to outbursts, inexplicably rude, snapping at all of us, quick to tears, frustrated, very hard on herself.

Flags went up.

So I started to reach out to her. I asked if there was anything bothering her. I told her to let me know. Mommy would listen. So would Daddy if she preferred talking with him.

She continued to insist nothing was wrong.

Her outbursts continued. She became even more introverted. Dragged her feet as she got ready for school in the morning.

Then we got an email from her teacher.

Our daughter was doing the same thing at school. Frustrated easily, crying, pouting, only doing work when prodded to do so.

SOMETHING was going on at school.

Finally, after a particularly difficult afternoon, I had to discipline her for intentionally throwing something across the living room. As we talked afterward, she broke down.

Tears streaming down her face, she finally shared with me what had her so frustrated and down.

As I suspected, my daughter was being bullied. Not by one but by two boys on her bus on the way home from school.

She shared with me that they were teasing her about something which happened last year. Calling her names like “baby” and telling anyone who would listen on the bus about her mishaps from the previous year.

I gathered her in my arms and rubbed her back as she wept and poured out her frustrations. My oldest daughter turns seven this year.

We had a long talk about the best way to handle bullies.

It’s helped that for a couple of years already, we have encouraged the girls to develop a strong sense of self. We’ve both worked hard to instill in them that the only opinion of self that matters is their own. That they are amazing girls and can be anything if they put their mind to it. We have already worked to share with them that God will love them no matter what. That WE will love them no matter what.

We strive to impress upon them the right way to go about dealing with negative people in their lives.

I quietly shared with my daughter a story of epic embarrassing proportions from my own elementary school. She looked at me with understanding eyes and said, “I bet that was very embarrassing.” It was epically embarrassing.

Then we talked about what she could do the next time these boys teased her.

I suggested that she just look at them and say, “I forgive you and I know God does too.” Or she could simply turn away and ignore their words as she prayed for God to change their hearts. I suggested that maybe this was happening because God wanted to use her to create a change in the lives of these boys.

We also discussed what to do if it kept on happening. How she needed to approach the bus driver and let her know what these boys were doing. She shared with me that she had and so far, nothing the bus driver had done had been successful in keeping the boys from teasing her. I promised her I would make some phone calls on Monday.

We lay there in her bed, snuggled together as we talked about all of this. Then we got up and went about the rest of the afternoon.

As I put her to bed and we said our prayers, I reminded both girls to pray for at least one other person beside themselves.

My oldest daughter prayed this:

“Dear Jesus, Please change the heart of the boy being mean to me. I know you can.”

And I?

Totally melted.

My daughter is already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I was her age.

I think she’s gonna be just fine.

On Monday, I called the Director of Transportation to talk with him about the incidents on the bus with my daughter. He went to the school, to her bus, talked with the boys before they even got on, and informed them that if they didn’t stop their negative behavior, they would be riding with their parents because public school transportation would no longer be an option. My daughter had a great bus ride home and felt safe for the first time in weeks.

Nobody deserves to be bullied. Nobody.

Sure, some may argue that bullying builds character. I was bullied in elementary school. All it did for me was deflate my self-esteem. Later in life, it has become a mark I use to measure my progress against. It shouldn’t be that way. Bottom line, it is my responsibility to raise children who won’t bully. It’s our responsibility to protect our children from harm, whether it be psychological or physical. Yes, there are learning experiences that must be had but I do not feel that bullying is one of those experiences.

I am grateful to live in a school district which clearly takes bullying seriously and will not hesitate to protect it’s students from the negative effects of such behavior. My children should not have to be the victim of someone else’s poor parenting. When I send my children to school, I am entrusting their safety and well-being to them. I fully expect them to fulfill that obligation on a daily basis. You should too.

Rest assured that if any of my children were caught bullying, there would be serious consequences. Bullying is not a skill any child should be taught. Children learn by watching, by imitating, etc. It is OUR responsibility to raise them in such a way that they don’t learn how to bully. It is also important we teach them how to positively deal with a bully even if it involves going to an adult and requesting help.

I have no doubt that my daughter has grown from this experience. I am glad it is over (for now) and know we will have many more issues down the road.

She’s already got a very powerful tool on her side though – her faith in God.

For that, I am grateful, amazed, and reassured.

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Just Talkin’ Tuesday 01.25.11: Buried under Mama Guilt


 

Original Graphic by Lauren Hale, Author, MPV

Mama Guilt.

What does this mean to you?

In your life, right now, what invokes this emotion within you?

Is it when you work? Is it because you don’t work outside the home?

When you do something just for YOU?

When something goes wrong? When you lose control? Fail at perfection? Compare yourself to another mom who is perfectly wrapped and coiffed?

Yelling at your kids instead of gently guiding them toward the desired behavior?

Sleeping when you should be up at the crack of dawn because it’s just not motherhood unless you throw yourself under the bus every second of every day?

Wondering if your child is missing milestones because of something you did or didn’t do?

Are you enrolling them in enough extracurricular activities? Engaging them?

Or are you sitting on your computer chatting on Twitter, reading blogs, commenting at blogs? Judging other moms?

Chiding your husband? Wishing you could stay home with the kids instead of going to work?

Doing ANYTHING without your kids?

Loving bedtime?

Loving naptime?

Mama Guilt.

Dangerous ground, this emotion.

This week’s Just Talking Tuesday isn’t really a conversation starter. Perhaps it is – but I want to issue a challenge along with it.

This week? Pick ONE thing which causes you the most Mama Guilt. Write it down on a piece of paper. BURN THE PIECE OF PAPER. TEAR IT UP. DESTROY IT. LET.IT.GO.

Then Post here. Tell us what you destroyed, how you destroyed it, and why. Let us know how we can help you keep moving away from your guilt. Alone, we are powerless. But together? Unstoppable.

Let’s do this.

Happy Father’s Day!!!!


Father and son in field

 

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty. 

~Author Unknown~