Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: My Story

I wanted so badly to be the mom that came home from the hospital ready to do this thing. I expected to get back into shape right away and feel like myself again. Have tons of energy to take my baby on walks. I thought I would like looking at myself in photos with my newborn.

But the first few months postpartum felt like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t know myself anymore.

I now know that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety, a variation of a condition that affects about 15% of all women. And that’s only counting the women who report it!

When people inevitably said things like, “enjoy these moments, they’ll be grown before you know it!’ I didn’t just brush it off. I cried. I also cried over any commercial with a baby in it or those stupid car commercials where the teen is going off to college. And it wasn’t a happy cry. I was truly overwhelmed, anxious and lost in general.

But this is the happiest time of my life, right? I was supposed to be fit and made up as I clean the house and care for baby with no sleep. I was supposed to have photos taken of baby and I looking flawless for each new month and holiday. I was supposed to invite friends and family over and be OK with bringing baby anywhere.

But people (mom included) are often so busy thinking of all the things a mom is “supposed” to be doing that they forget to check in with her about reality.

Postpartum conditions can manifest in different ways, so many women don’t even know they have them. Chrissy Teigen recently wrote a piece for Glamour detailing her experience. In the essay, she describes the physical pain in her wrists that she now knows was postpartum depression. She made sure to point out that even with access to the best doctors, she still struggled to discover what was going on and recover from it.

For me, it was anxiety with symptoms that ended up looking a lot like depression. But it was more the worry that was really hindering me. Constant worry.

I didn’t want to leave my baby with anyone. Therefore, I didn’t get out much. When I did leave I had BAD anxiety that she would need me and I wouldn’t be there.

I also worried about my physical appearance. Before pregnancy, I was rarely self-conscious about the way my body I looked. But even my face was different now. My hair began falling out on both sides of my forehead. I have dark eye circles genetically, but these were darker. My tummy certainly didn’t just “go right back down” like people insisted it would. And my hips? Yeah, those will never be the same.

Not only was I lost emotionally, but my physical state felt foreign, too. Not feeling like myself made all of my relationships harder. I tried to be as upfront as possible with loved ones, but I wasn’t in the right state of mind to properly communicate how much I was hurting inside. And I also couldn’t see any clear steps to feeling better (something highly out of character for me).

My daughter turns 10 months old today and I’ve come a long way. I use a daily planner that doubles as a short form journal so I can remember special moments with her. I started eating better and drinking more water. I began communicating to my husband when I need a break. I held my daughter in front of the mirror and looked into her eyes trying to visualize myself as she sees me. I prayed for peace and direction.

Being a mom has taught me so many things about myself. Perhaps the most important is that we must stop expecting instant perfection. Or perfection at all for that matter.

Today, I am not myself again. I am a stronger, less perfect version.

~Stephanie

What I hope my daughter knows by the time she’s on social media

I’m starting to believe Millennials will go down as one of the most stressed out American generations in history. Just think about it. ALL WE DO IS MULTI-TASK. It can’t be good. Researchers have already said it’s not good.

Wait… what were we talking about? See, NOT GOOD!

But one of the biggest challenges we face is social media. Studies consistently show that it can contribute to anxiety and depression in a major way. According to Facebook, in 2016 Millennials checked their phones about 157 times a day.

157 times! The average adult only checks around 30 times in case you were curious.

In behavioral anthropology, the Dunbar Number refers to an approximation of relationships the human brain can maintain. Most sources site it as around 150. Yet many Millennials collect thousands of Friends and Followers online.

It’s math that doesn’t add up to balanced, healthy individuals. We’ve had to learn to divide our time (as best as possible) so we don’t create distance between loved ones while facing pressure to be social 24/7.

Well what happens when Millennials reproduce? We barely made it out alive, and now we have to protect OTHER PEOPLE from the Internet? We at least started out normal. Our kids will grow up surrounded by screens!

So before I have a panic attack, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what I would like her to know before she makes her very first social media account. Feel free to share, or comment with additions! I’ll consider it a work in progress since I’ve got a few years. (;

The web is the world’s greatest resource AND its largest playground. 

So don’t believe everything you see. Images can be edited from one thing to ANYTHING else. Articles altered from truth. Never take anything you see or read too seriously without fact checking multiple credible sources. And when the facts do get too serious to stomach, don’t forget to breathe. There are more good people in the world than there are bad.

A beautiful outside is shiny, but a beautiful inside will make you glow.

I put a sign in your nursery that reads, “be your own kind of beautiful.” And I mean it. You have a story to tell. Don’t try to hide it to be like someone else. Anyone can cover their flaws and take a pretty picture. But no one can be YOU. God has a unique purpose for you and social media can be a way to positively influence others if you let it.

Nothing online is truly private, so keep a private journal.

Think of your social media accounts as a portfolio of your life. It’s completely public, and even with private settings content has a way of slipping away from its original owner. People can and will use things against you and it’s not always fair. I don’t know if you will like writing as much as I do, but I encourage you to keep any form of journal that works for you. This will help sort out your feelings before taking to any form of technology. Of course you will use emotion in your posts, but some inner workings are just meant to be private.

Bullying is Never OK.

Negative comments or taunting online can be extremely damaging to an individual’s self-esteem. But the truth is, when someone lashes out they are often the one with the problem. Do not underestimate the power words have on others (including yourself). We have no way of knowing how much bulling is affecting someone, so we must act quickly! If you are ever bullied online, come to me. If you see someone else being bullied online, come to me.

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

Never forget to live in the moment of whatever it is that you’re doing. Social media is a great thing, but at the end of the day it’s not tangible. You will have better relationships and be more productive toward your goals if you focus on real time for extended periods.