We Are All Mothers
“Once I actually became a mom I truly realized how being a mom means being much more than just that. You become comfort, discipline, teacher, referee, cheerleader, nutritionist, and all around 24/7 365 your child's everything. Even now its intimidating to be someone’s everything. But I wouldn’t change anything in the world for it because he is my everything too. As long as I know in my heart that I am doing the best for him and doing everything in my power to provide and care for my son and making sure that he is loved I think that is all the identity in motherhood that I need.” - Chelsea R.
So often the mothers role is overlooked. Maybe it is because it is expected, maybe it is because it is such a common thing, or maybe it’s because it’s easier to just look at the beautiful blessing it is to raise children, rather than looking and appreciating the hard work, effort and emotional sacrifice it takes to be a mother.
Chelsea’s story is raw, honest and real. Chelsea has experienced prenatal anxiety, postpartum depression, breastfeeding troubles, relationship hardships and struggled to find her identity after having her son. Do these things define her? Absolutely not! However, they are part of her journey and story and it is so important to honour and talk about these issues to work through them, and to help normalize so many of these things that new mothers face, often in silence.
As you read what Chelsea has so bravely and rawly shared with us, you’ll often hear her talk about struggling with these issues quietly, or that not many people were aware of them. So many women are struggling right now, and doing so silently because of the stigmas that surround maternal mental health and wellness. It takes an immense amount of strength and bravery to reach out for help, and to share a story so personal and intimate. As you read Chelsea’s story be mindful of this, and recognize that it is so incredibly important to pause and really reflect on yourself and friends around you who may be struggling, without us even knowing. Reaching out can be the one thing that reminds a person they are loved and worthy.
Below are a set of responses that Chelsea has shared with me to a series of questions as part of this project.
Did you experience any anxiety or depression during pregnancy? If yes, did you feel comfortable sharing with your health care provider or close family/friends about these experiences?
Most of my pregnancy was quite smooth sailing, it was during my last few weeks that I found myself really struggling with anxiety. I didn’t share a lot of it with my family or my partner. My mother knew some of my anxieties towards the end of the pregnancy but she thought I was just impatient to have my baby. When in reality I was scared of not knowing what was going to happen or what to expect. My doctor was amazing when I expressed my concerns with her, the last week or so before I had my son my blood pressure was very high and I was really scared I was going to end up with pre-eclampsia like my mom did during her pregnancy with me and being a high risk pregnancy due to my size that I would have to be flown down to Vancouver to deliver on my own. My Dr. assured me that I wasn’t at risk for it I was probably just stressing myself out and gave me tips to relax and stop the anxiety attacks.
Did you struggle with breastfeeding or feel pressure to breastfeed or formula feed?
I struggled with breast feeding from the start my son was so sleepy for the first 24 hours after he was born I couldn’t get him to latch and even after he was more alert we had issues getting him to latch. Most of the nurses were amazing and helpful during my struggles, there was one who really wasn’t helpful and we even had her barred from my room. I took all the supplements, drank all the teas, made “jungle juice” which my dr reccomended to help increase my supply, drank a disgusting stout beer to try and help and had no luck, tried different nipple shields with no luck. When my son was about 3 weeks old our house flooded and was no longer safe to keep him there so we had to move as well, so being stressed out didn’t help my milk supply at all. My son was also a big wiggler, he wouldn’t latch or hold his attention long enough to get a good latch to breast feed. When he was 2 months old my supply ran dry and we switched to formula for his sensitive stomach, we were just happy he was eating and gaining weight finally.
Did you struggle with body image after the birth of your child(ren)?
Surprisingly no, I have struggled with body image my whole life but once I had my son I felt empowered and the most beautiful I have ever felt in my life. My body had managed to create a whole human being. A functioning little body and an amazing little person. I am proud of my stretch marks they are my “strength stripes” that allowed me to grow to carry my son.
Did you struggle with any postnatal mood disorders such as Postpartum Anxiety or Depression?
I had awful post partum depression after my son and for so long. Its hard to write about it even now just reflecting because I wish I was able to be more present and the mom I should have been for my son back when he was littler. Because of all the stresses we had with my son; having to find a new place to live, move into a new place, my son was colicy, being flown to Childrens hospital when he was 2 months old, having to return to work when we returned when he was 2 months old as well. Life was a crazy world wind after my son was born and it felt like we could never get on solid ground so I was stuck in a big slump for nearly the first year of his life. I had so many different medications to try and help me and they all just made me feel worse until I just gave up on them and just dug myself out of this self loathing ditch I had put myself in. I had to open myself up to my family and friends about how I was feeling and they all helped me find myself again and start being the mom I wanted to be.
Did you have a good support group during pregnancy or postpartum that you felt comfortable sharing your personal experiences in?
Pregnancy yes, I had a lot of friends and hung out with a lot of people during my pregnancy. Afterwards all of those friends fell away. A lot of my friend either had their own kids or didn’t have kids and didn’t understand the struggles I was going through having a colicy baby who threw up all day every day. Especially between working and my son I just had my partner and my parents. My mom and step dad were the biggest help after I had my son they babysat every day I had to work and kept him over night on the days or nights I was suffering and struggling with my son during his colic when I hadn’t slept for days.
Were you aware of the resources available within the community of Powell River and Regional District for new moms and pregnant mothers?
I was more aware of them after I had my son, I joined Bond for the first 6 months afterwards. I had a nurse come into my house a couple days after we brought my son home and that was about it. Didn’t know how many other things there were. Also hard to go to “mommy and me” groups with a work schedule.
Did you and your partner struggle relationship wise after the birth of your child(ren)?
Boy did we ever. We thought we had prepared ourselves but really nothing besides experiencing it first hand could have prepared us for all the strains it put on our relationship. While there were a lot of strains that came along with being young and first time parents we also had a lot of triumphs; sleep training, first laughs, smiles, crawling and walking etc. A lot of resentment grew between us, at least on my end at least. Having to go back to work and miss so many of those firsts with my son it made my relationship with my partner harder and isolating at times. Sometimes it isn’t all teamwork and trading off. Sometimes parenting can feel more like one taking on more slack than the other.
Did you find the adjustment into motherhood easy and natural or did you struggle with finding your identity?
I struggled so hard with finding my identity and I think I still struggle with it now as my son grows because some days he needs different parts of me more than other parts.. As my son has grown up so have I. As he’s changed and learned, I’ve had to learn right along with him. From the time I was small the only thing I could ever imagine being was a mom. My mom was a stay at home mom for most of my life and I thought I would flow as easily into motherhood as she did and she was even younger than I was when she had me. Once I actually became a mom I truly realized how being a mom means being much more than just that. You become comfort, discipline, teacher, referee, cheerleader, nutritionist, and all around 24/7 365 your child's everything. Even now its intimidating to be someone’s everything. But I wouldn’t change anything in the world for it because he is my everything too. As long as I know in my heart that I am doing the best for him and doing everything in my power to provide and care for my son and making sure that he is loved I think that is all the identity in motherhood that I need.
So much of what Chelsea has shared is so relatable. SO many of us experience maternal mood disorders whether in pregnancy or postpartum. So many of us experience relationship turmoil after the birth of a child, we experience body image issues, feeding stigmas, and identity crisis. It takes a lot to be able to sit back and reflect on all of these things and even more so to share them with the world.
One of the things that really stuck out to me in Chelsea’s story is how she describes being a mom as being the comforter, provider, teacher, referee, etc. This is so true. A mother’s work is never done and if we are experiencing any other issues ourselves, it can be so incredibly hard to focus on doing all of the tasks we often face and are required to do when we are mothers. It’s ok to take time to yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to struggle and be scared. None of us really know what we are getting ourselves into when we become mothers. Almost all of us will have unrealistic expectations about feeding, sleeping, and pretty much everything when it comes to having a baby. What is not ok, is struggling in silence.
As a very small community, it is imperative that we build and create more support groups for new mothers and fathers, grandparents, etc. Even more so for working parents. Being aware of the resources within our community such as BOND (Babies Open New Doors), Public Health, Breastfeeding Supports, Mental Health supports, financial supports, etc will make the transition into motherhood not only “easier” but less lonely. Because of the stigmas that surround maternal mental health so often we are afraid to speak up about the intrusive thoughts, anger, sadness we may experience as new mothers. As we continue to share stories like Chelsea has we will continue to break down the stigmas.
Chelsea, you have so bravely shared your story with us and for that I am forever grateful. You are beautiful, you are strong, you are loved, you are worthy, you are enough. You are an amazing mother. Your story is one that so many people can relate to and look up to. You will have touched so many other women by sharing your journey with us, and for that, I thank you.
I have linked some great resources in previous stories, but will link a few below as well. Remember, you aren’t alone in this journey. You are loved and you are worthy.