You are Doing It
Sometimes we mamas just need someone, anyone to say, “I see you. You’re doing it. Keep going. You know what you’re doing, even if you don’t feel it.”
I think social media communities reveal a lot about humans. I think sometimes we feel safer to ask the “TMI” questions, or even if we already know the answer to our question, reassurance from a community is so comforting. Sometimes it’s nice to feel a part of something, when seasons of the littles can be so isolating. To read abbreviations like “BFP” or “NBR” and know the language.
Here’s what I’ve noticed though. Ya’ll, we are so freaking scared. I’ve seen this tagline on lots of posted questions:
“FTM [first time mom for those who may not be familiar yet with the lingo] so extra anxious!”
“FTM freaking out!”
“FTM so I need to know which one is BEST”
Or any other similar language, and here’s the question I’ve landed on: Would you really like to keep that anxiety?
Let’s be beyond super clear.
Mamas at any stage need a safe space to ask questions, and no question is a stupid or unnecessary one. That’s one of the reasons I love well modified online groups. Here’s what I’m wondering though, what if we started looking at all the things we use to discount ourselves? It would seem that, from the first moment we see the 2 pink lines, we start disqualifying ourselves.
So this might seem a little “hippy dippy” to some, but hear me out. What if we started trusting our instincts. You know, that mom gut feeling. Here’s the thing though, we have to start deciphering between what anxiety sounds like, and what our gut mom instinct sounds like.
Here are some things your gut mom instinct might say:
“She really just needs to be held right now.”
“He needs to be burped, not actually fed again.”
“They need some alone playtime.”
“He just needs to go down 45 minutes early today.”
Here’s what anxiety might sound like:
“She’s crying because she has colic and gas and hates her car seat and hates everything except me and I’m going to never sleep again and I’ll have to hold her until she’s 35. Except maybe not maybe it’s an illness I can’t see and she’s in awful pain internally. Maybe she has a hair wrapped around her toe and it’s going to fall off. Maybe…[insert 30 other possibilities and huge overwhelmed feelings].”
“I just nursed for an hour and he’s still hungry…I must not be making enough milk. My milk must have zero nutrients. Did I drink/eat enough today? Did I walk too much? Is his latch bad? What if I [insert 45 other reasons why you’re the problem]”
“Why are they fighting AGAIN? I can’t get anyone to calm down. Everyone is yelling my house is a mess I’m never going to think again I don’t know what to do and they’re always going to hate each other. I can’t do this.”
“Is he hungry again?? Why is he so upset today? Why did he wake up early? What do I do now? I’m never going to get this sleep thing down. Everyone said it would be so easy but my baby is different. It’s me, I just can’t do it. I’m not a natural mom.”
Notice the running thoughts that don’t end? Notice the high intensity? Notice the inundations of nevers and always?
Let’s breathe for a second.
This too shall pass.
Not only, yes, will you figure this mama thing out: but you’re doing it. When I attend births, something I love to say to mamas when they hit the point that they feel like they can’t do it is:
“You are doing it. Not only can you do this, but you are doing it.” And the decisions they make after that don’t change the fact that they are doing it. Epidural, cesarean, all the things, or none of the things. They’re doing it, no matter what help they need.
Let’s be real loud and clear on that: asking for help does not disqualify you from the fact that you’re doing it. You’re doing it mama. Even when you need help, you’re doing it. And sometimes, you need some freakin’ help.
So how do we start learning which voice to listen to?
First, acknowledge the freak out. Tell it you see it, but you’re going to need it to step aside.
Then close your eyes, quiet yourself down (you can even physically say “Shhh” if you need to, totally not joking on this).
Next, recognize and send away all the articles, opinions, and any other voices that may have said you don’t know what you’re doing, or all the possibilities. Toss out that mental brain google.
Then, listen to the first peaceful thought that floats into your head. It might sound too simple. It might feel out of left field. Or it might seem real weird. But go with it, that’s your gut mom voice.
The more and more you practice this, the more and more it’ll become louder, and the voice of anxiety will become quieter.
Here’s a super important supplemental step-we have got to quit disqualifying ourselves from being the mom. Whether that means you start journaling, seeing a counselor, get in a small group, or write affirmations on your bathroom mirror-do what you gotta do mama. Not only do your kids deserve to have a peaceful mama free of anxiety, but you over anyone else do.
I’m not perfect at this. I have not mastered it. Here’s the thing-we’re not being asked to be the perfect quiet mama who’s voice never goes above a certain syllable. Who doesn’t have any stains on her couch, boo-boo less toddlers, and great hair. We’re being asked to love our babies in a way that is our best. As Daniel Tiger says, “Do your best, your best is the best for you!” Everyone’s best looks different, but it has to start with loving you. We’ll talk more about this in the coming few weeks, self love and self care, but for now I’ll leave you with our steps to peace and listening to the gut mom within us all.
First, quiet yourself down.
Second, shut down brain google for a minute.
Third, go with the first spontaneous thought that runs into your head.
Fourth, weigh it against this question: “Is this thought violent towards my baby or myself?” Almost anything else is fine to try at least once.
So it comes down to this mamas: Love ourselves, love our babies. Ask for help not if but when you need it. All your tools are within you. You were made to do this. You are doing it. Peace and blessings mamas, roll on.
A Last Note
I do want to say a quick note about postpartum mood disorders. It would be completely remiss of me to skip out on this, because it is a very real battle for many women. If this is you, these four steps to peaceful thinking might be sounding impossible to you. You may need some more help. You are not alone. Postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis are not biased in who they choose. There’s nothing you’ve done or haven’t done that has caused this. Let me repeat what I said before-help does not mean you are failing. It does not mean you are not doing it. And it does not mean you are not a good mother. It means you love your babies so much, that you’re willing to get help for yourself, to love them more. If you are showing any of these signs, whether you’re 3 weeks postpartum or 3 years postpartum or anything in between, please reach out to your care provider for some references to get help. This isn’t the end, this too shall pass, and there are answers.