My greatest fear in life has always been the thought of losing myself in the journey of becoming a mother. Perhaps this fear was internalized by watching my own mom and the personal sacrifice she went through after having my triplet siblings. Or perhaps it’s the messages that I’ve consciously and subconsciously digested from our society that mothers are supposed to be martyrs and give everything they have to their children. Yes, times are changing and we’ve come a long way but there is plenty of progress to be made.
Like so many women, my journey to motherhood wasn’t linear or simple. I went 8 years without menstruating which at the time, I thought was convenient seeing that I was an Olympic athlete spending 5 months a year on the road. Yet as retirement grew closer, my goals shifted from athletic accolades to starting a family. My husband and I worked closely with an infertility specialist, planning our lives around ovulation and cancelling plans for ultrasounds. I had two pregnancies which resulted in miscarriages and then consequently, DnCs. After a long wait, we were elated to learn we were pregnant with twins and even more ecstatic to discover we had a boy & a girl!
At our expecting multiples class, I raised my hand and asked how often (if ever) twins were born 1, vaginally and 2, via C-section. Everyone laughed nervously and then the instructors replied, “not very often.” The joke was on us when a couple months later this very thing happened. Our twins were born three hours apart and almost had different birthdays.
Having two babies and feeding two babies was tough but my thoughts always went to my mother who had more babies than she had breasts to feed them with. For the first year + I battled with shame-inducing intrusive thoughts which I told no one, especially (not) my husband. Thankfully new research is coming out revealing just how common intrusive thoughts and postnatal OCD actually is. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS) are so much more than postpartum depression and sharing and normalizing this message before women are in crisis is a big part of my inspiration behind Moms Matter Now.
Today I work as a licensed psychotherapist in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska specializing in athletes, high performers and mothers. I hold a certificate in perinatal mental health and in my practice and personal life, I see mothers flattened by mom-guilt, martyrdom, perfectionism, maternal gatekeeping, and more. Mothers were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate rates of emotional and mental labor were shouldered by mothers taking the lead on online schooling and child care gaps. This inequity sent my feminist-self into an existential crisis which, luckily, was exactly the motivation I needed to get this project up and off the ground.
I have no delusions that MMN can single-handedly change the way our society values mothers but I do hope to empower mothers to take control of the things that ARE in their control. These little things, the nuggets, and tools that we teach in Moms Matter Now are protective factors that will BENEFIT maternal mental health. Perhaps a little story to illustrate my point would help here? …. I was away for the weekend and my husband, kids, and MIL were at our cabin with another family. (I am very aware of the many privileges I have!) The dads got out for some early exercise and once they returned, my 74-year-old MIL turned to my mom-friend and asked, “what will you do for your turn?” My friend was flabbergasted. Her “turn” hadn’t even crossed her mind amidst caring for her three kids!! But the concept stuck. The stage was set to rethink what is or might be possible with parenting, with sharing domestic duties, or finding the courage to practice assertive communication and ask for what is needed.
My kids have been the biggest adventure and greatest joy of my life. But the transition to becoming a mother hasn’t always been easy. Calisa and I started Moms Matter Now because we are extremely passionate about maternal mental health.
My mantra when my kids were newborns was, “...taking care of yourself IS taking care of your babies” and I am here to spread that message loud and clear.