I Am Not Alone – Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

I wasn’t the first in my group of friends to have a baby.
I was the second.

I had someone to go just before me on that narrow road, clearing all of the branches and making a wider trail, footsteps just deep enough for me to see the way forward. But our feet aren’t the same size.

My little girl arrived a year and two days after my friend’s baby. For me, this situation was prime for comparison and I went to town. I compared EVERYTHING. Pregnancy, birth, feeding, baby, sleep … and here’s a shocker: I didn’t measure up.

My friend went into labor. 
I was induced.

My friend had a vaginal birth.
They cut me open.

My friend breastfed immediately. Like a champ. For over a year.
I cried through two weeks of hellish pain and no milk while my baby starved until I gave up.

My friend quit work to stay home with her baby.
I went back to work and applied for a promotion. My mom cared for my baby until she broke her wrist. We enrolled our precious girl in daycare. 

Her baby slept.
Mine didn’t.

She lost weight after baby.
I gained it.

With each comparison, I came out a failure. I didn’t feel good enough for self-pity. I deserved my pain and I punished myself for it. It was just that I should suffer, right that I should be ashamed. For everything. I failed at a game of life I thought I was playing, that I inferred from in-fashion parenting books and know-it-all blogs (not this one, obvs). 

My baby is now nine years old. Years on the other side of that postpartum spiral, I can see so clearly. Then, I was blinded to the fact that I was making it impossible for myself to be happy, to experience any real joy. 

Comparison truly is the thief of joy. I’ve lived it and have a review that will hopefully save you the trip. Awful experience. No stars. Two thumbs down. DO NOT TRY.

There’s a healthy amount of language out there now encouraging self-acceptance at any weight or height. There’s Girl Power all over the place! We are talking more and more about how detrimental it can be to compare ourselves to the models in the magazines or now on Instagram. There’s honesty out there about motherhood, too. There are relatable stories and lots to make us laugh at ourselves as parents but the honesty about the awfulness that some mothers experience after the baby comes  – isn’t as fun to read or share. Especially if you’re in the middle of it. Absolutely if you feel alone. DEFINITELY if you think it’s just all your fault.

The BlueDot Project‘s aim is to combat stigma and shame, and to empower mothers and families to advocate for support and care when needed.

I never asked for help at first because I didn’t know I needed it.
I let the comparison to an “ideal” I created set me up for “failure” at being me. I didn’t know I couldn’t fail at being me. I’m the BEST ME THERE IS. It took me a long time to believe that after my first baby was born. I initially started writing for this blog in an effort to let other women know they weren’t alone if they could relate in any way to my experience. If what I went through could help just one person…. it’s that logic that got me talking. 

The first post I wrote about this topic, A Word of Encouragement From the Other Side ended with the words, “You are not alone.” I titled this piece, “I Am Not Alone” because I still need to hear that sometimes. The resources I’m searching are different, but parenting now 9 and 6 year-olds calls for the same frame of mind I should have had in the beginning – get help if you need it. It’s there. 

Kristen is still in the middle of her love story. She and her best friend of four years gave in and finally decided to date. Two years later, she was engaged. Two years after that, she was married. She’ll celebrate her 17th wedding anniversary this May. Mom to Ellen (8) and James (5), she works full time in Human Resources outside of the home. Her children have taught her that motherhood is hard. And wonderful. And HARD. A proud alum of LSU and Johnson and Wales University, she also collects college degrees. (BS in Psychology, AS in Culinary Arts and BS in Culinary Nutrition). She’s lived in Baton Rouge a majority of her life, with sojourns in New Orleans, Charleston, SC and Providence, RI. The south is clearly home. Recovering from a nearly crippling case of adolescent insecurity, she is still the most likely to have the heel of her shoe caught in the hem of her pants.


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