Welcome back! Here we go with chapter 2.
Thanks for all the feedback through comments and emails. It’s been a huge help. Looking forward to more!
This Is How We Grow©:
Part 1, Patience
“Live Strong. Love life. Don’t ever let the chance to say ‘I Love You’ pass you by…”
(from my song, Live Strong, In Memory of Rob)
What does that mean anyway—strong? If we’re going by outside appearances then it must mean muscles, might, and the ability to…oh, I don’t know…pull a train, on a rope, with your teeth? But we all know muscles fade. And, deep down, we all know that being strong really has nothing to do with might. Perhaps being truly strong simply means being vulnerable enough to allow our story to be written—to accept where we are, to learn the lessons we are taught, and to courageously live the story we are given, no matter how over- or under-whelming it may seem.
I do this for a living. I get to witness incredible strength as I hear some incredible stories. I get to see how the stories play out—the dramatic arc of the plot, the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement. Usually I get to offer a little help for the character development and how the story will end. One constant I’ve seen through each character’s plot is that the story always has twists and turns no one could have predicted, but in the end, it’s the twist that creates the hero and the turn that makes the story great.
We all have a story. But will it be a great one? Will we choose to allow ourselves to be created by the twists and strengthened by the turns? Will we slow down enough to participate in and be strengthened by the stories of the ones we love? Or, will we wait for tomorrow?
We mustn’t wait, for all stories must come to an end someday. And, sometimes that someday is much sooner than we could have known. My sister, Shannon, had a story—some chapters I knew like they were my own; others I will never know. Her husband, Rob, had a story too.
Sunday, July 29
The decision to even try for one more baby took so much time, faith, and courage, but hearing “It’s a girl,” at my OB appointment three days ago, made everything suddenly right. Two boys. Two girls. She’ll be the perfect piece to complete our family puzzle. We couldn’t wait to tell Rob when we drove down to visit that afternoon.
“We just found out we’re having a girl!” I exclaimed. “I hope you plan to stick around to meet your new niece.”
But reality set in quickly as I noticed Rob’s once-chiseled jawline, now thin and carved. He barely had the energy to smile and nod, and an urgency whispered I had no time to waste. No time for false hope. Better to say it like it is.
“Actually, you’ll probably get to meet her before we do,” I said with puddled eyes, patting him on the knee and taking his hand. “Tell her hello for us. And don’t teach her any of your old tricks.”
Today, it is sinking in: That was probably the last time we’ll see Rob in this life.
After the visit, Tre and Brody asked to come home with us to Flagstaff for a weekend of fun with their cousins; I sensed it was to take their minds away from their dad. This morning, I caught a glimpse of a little photo of Rob and Tre that Tre carries in his pocket, and was once again reminded of the complete difference in Rob then versus now. All weekend, we’d been playing the part of the “normal,” upbeat family. But, seeing that photo in Tre’s 10 year-old hands put an end to my part in the charade and filled me with memories and nostalgia.
I remembered the day OJ and I introduced Rob to Shannon—my college graduation day. He wore a suit and brought my pressed gown from the dry cleaners. Shannon told Mom, “He’s cute, but he’s too conservative. He’s wearing a suit!” I remembered Christmas Eve, our babies asleep, laughing ‘til our insides hurt, seeing this “conservative” brother-in-law of mine strut around in his two year-old’s Superman Underoos before shouting, “Dare me to jump in the pool naked?”! We didn’t even have time to object before his bare white bum plunged over the side.
I remembered Rob’s intensity—spouting passion or spitting fire, you certainly didn’t want to be caught in the middle of either. I remembered the humor that tempered him—his ever-changing business ideas (energy drinks!, mobile car detailing!, modeling!) and dead-on Jim Carey impressions (“All-righty then!” “It’s…The Claw!”)—always good for an honest laugh. I remembered sitting along Lake Mary Road cheering him on in one of his first triathlons, expecting him to appear over the hill in the lead, instead seeing him carry his flat-tire bike as he jogged uphill way behind the others, never giving up.
I remembered Shannon telling me they were considering divorce, Rob’s fieriness having clashed too many times with her own. The “manic-depressive couple,” OJ and I used to joke, so hot and cold they were. It certainly didn’t seem funny anymore. I remembered Shannon telling me they’d made their decision, how she thought it was the better way—the only way—and how she didn’t listen when I told her she was wrong. Even since their divorce, I loved having Rob around. Always the life of the party, every family event seemed more eventful with Rob and Shannon there. Rob told Mom he still considers us his family, and I know we will always love him as a forever part of ours.
But forever felt very real today as I remembered it was just last November when Rob broke the news that he had lumps everywhere but was waiting for his new insurance to kick in before seeing a doctor. It was just after OJ was handed all his diagnoses when we pleaded with him to forget the insurance and get immediate help. Then, as OJ and I spent Thanksgiving afternoon in Rob’s hospital room, he confirmed the news we already knew: his melanoma had returned. Did I pay attention to the knot in my stomach when I heard those words? Did I really believe then that it would come to this?
Today is Sunday—resurrection day. If only Rob could be resurrected to his former self today. Though I know he isn’t gone yet, I miss Rob as we have known him. Yet perhaps it is only now that I’m seeing the real Rob as he calmly accepts his life’s story. Strange how, the weaker his body has become, the stronger his spirit. This realization makes me miss him all the more, yet it is accompanied by peace. His body may be fading, but he is not. It inspires me to want to follow Rob. It inspires me to want to be strong in spirit too.
Tuesday, July 31
Shannon called and woke me first thing this morning sobbing. “He died in the night.” All I could do was cry with her—that’s really all anyone should ever do. And all I could tell her was, “I’m coming,” then load up my boys in the car, call work to cancel my day, and head down the mountain to the sweltering heat of the valley.
We arrived earlier than planned and had time to spare while Shannon and her boys were at the gym, so we went to Target. I wanted to bring something for my nephews, something to console them in any small way. They lost their dad today kept repeating in my mind, the saddest part of this shared grief. What do you buy for a child to tell them, “It will be alright”?
My boys, 10 ½ year-old Braxton and 8 year-old Colton, and I rummaged through toys and treats and finally settled on two musical animals. For 6 year-old Brody, a warthog-rapper with a gold chain that sang, “I like to move it, move it,” while apparently attempting to dance. For 10 year-old Tre, an ape-dancer that played AC/DC’s “You shook me all night long”.
Presenting them to the boys, Shannon and I burst out laughing. “I know it’s completely inappropriate for the occasion,” I acknowledged. “But I thought we could use a little humor today.” And we laughed some more to the tune of dancing warthogs and apes.
How do you help someone heal from losing the “one and only,” the one she didn’t even know was the “only” until after he was gone? We sat and shared memories; we laughed, we cried. I bought Rubio’s tacos and Paradise Bakery cookies for lunch. I let her nap. We planned a memorial service for Friday. And I brought Tre and Brody home to Flagstaff with me to give Shannon space for her grief and to hopefully set the boys free from theirs, if only for a little while.
Friday, August 3
“…Love your children. Be a friend. Keep ‘em laughing ‘til the end.
When we love, his legacy begins…so live strong.”
(from my song, Live Strong, in memory of Rob)
I fear we don’t recognize the good in others until after they are gone.
We had a beautiful memorial service for Rob at OJ’s parents’ house tonight. I know Lorri and Dave loved Rob too, and it meant a lot to everyone that they would offer their home when Rob’s parents said they wouldn’t be involved. Playing music Rob loved, seeing his life in photos, and sharing his stories—it felt as if he should have been there, and I wonder if he might have been.
Just as Rob would have wanted, this memorial was a party—a smile on every face, a laugh in every corner of the room, and a good time had by all as we remembered and celebrated Rob. “He was always interested in whomever he was talking to,” one person said. “He sure loved his boys. They would play steam-roller…,” said another. “He really loved Shannon, too, didn’t he?” I added, glancing at her across the room. “I remember when he threw a bowling ball into a toilet in college and shattered it!” was OJ’s contribution. As we shared tales, the lessons of Rob’s life seemed suddenly clear: “Take interest in others,” “Love your family,” “Love unconditionally,” “Live your life to the fullest.”
I wrote a song for Rob and sang it for everyone at the memorial. It seemed a crazy feat—to write a song in two short days and perform it in front of 75 people. But I decided I would write the song not for my benefit but for Rob’s, and only if I felt inspired. Last night, as I went to bed, I had just a few lines written with no real feel for the melody. But I prayed (again) for help and somehow awoke in the early hours this morning with the melody and lyrics floating in my head.
It was almost complete, but I knew I needed Dad to play the guitar for me if I had any shot at actually pulling it off. Luckily, Dad’s good at winging it too. About 15 minutes before I was to perform, as Dad and I practiced for the first time, I found the words for the final verse, and it was only as I sang it for everyone that I knew it was exactly right—perfect—exactly Rob. The title? Live Strong. Not only iwa it a nod to Rob’s hero Lance Armstrong’s cancer awareness campaign, but Rob was an example of living strong. He had “strength in spirit with the muscles to match. He r(an) through the obstacles and never look(ed) back” (Live Strong lyrics).
At the end of the night, after all the guests had gone home and as Shannon prepared to leave, we embraced. “Thank you,” she whispered. “He would have loved this.”
In my heart I willed her all the strength she and her boys would need for the journey ahead, and as her car pulled away, I committed to be there for and with them every step of the way.
We may have been celebrating Rob all evening long, but it was Shannon’s face I pictured as Rob’s song chased me to sleep. Live strong, Shannon, I felt deep within. Live strong.
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This is How We Grow: Related Posts
I specialize in working with mothers. I also happen to be a mother. But I’ve always held a deep respect for fathers. I am, of course, the daughter of a father, the daughter-in-law of a father-in-law (who died three years ago and I deeply loved), and the wife of a father—the father of my children. I’ve also worked with countless fathers—fathers supporting mothers, fathers doing it on their own, fathers who want the best for their children, who work tirelessly for their families, who nurture and love and inspire.
Fathers Are Important
We all know that kids need their dads—that we don’t want a society of fatherless children, that we don’t want kids to grow up feeling unloved, abandoned, and unwanted. But, most of us probably do not realize just how important a loving father is to a child’s development, choices, and overall life experience. Studies show that, without a father, children are:
- 5 times more likely to be poor
- At an increased risk for sexual abuse[i]
- 2 to 3 times more likely to use drugs
- Twice as likely to drop out of school
- 2 to 3 times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems
- More than twice as likely to be incarcerated[ii][iii]
Statistics like these remind us that fathers who are present and love their children make a noticeable difference in a child’s life.
10 Research-Based Ways Dads Impact Kids for the Better
We need strong fathers. And strong fathers deserve our attention, encouragement, and praise. The following ten facts will show you just what I mean. According to research:
1) A loving father is the best predictor of the level of compassion a child will develop.
It feels counterintuitive because mothers tend to teach compassion more directly than fathers. But, in fact, it’s dad who makes the difference. Kids who interact regularly with a loving father—a father who may seem “tough” on the outside yet is able to soften and show love and compassion to the child—show greater levels of compassion than children without a father.
2) Having a stable father is associated with greater confidence in children.
Mothers and fathers actually compliment each other in the characteristics they teach their children. Fathers are more likely to let children branch out on their own, while mothers are the stable place for children. Fathers encourage exploration of the world, trying new things, and “getting out there,” all of which lead to greater confidence in their children. It has been said “A mother gives her child roots; a father gives his child wings.”
3) Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes.
Kids with involved, nurturing fathers show better cognitive and linguistic skills and tend to have higher IQ’s too. They also seem to be more able to manage the stress of education than kids without a father.
Children with an involved father have half the rates of depression than those with no father. They’re more likely to feel secure exploring their surroundings, get in less trouble overall, and seem to be more socially skilled and comfortable.
5) A loving father is associated with lower levels of violence and greater respect for women, in boys.
Boys without a loving male role model show increasing levels of violence and tend to act with greater hostility toward females.
6) A loving father is associated with self-worth and virtue that leads to less sexualization of young girls.
Girls without a non-sexual male in the home tend toward early sexualization and promiscuity. Fathers who show true love to their daughters help protect them from seeking approval and love in sexual ways. In fact, kids with a loving father have 75% lower rates of teen pregnancy than those without.
7) Fathers are associated with increased relationship success levels in children as they mature into adulthood.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether or not the child’s mother and father are together, children who have invested fathers tend to have higher success rates in their own relationships as adults.
8) One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is the quality of their relationship with the child’s mother.
Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have: a) boys who understand how to treat women and are less likely to act aggressively toward females, and b) girls who see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.
9) Fathers are associated with greater success in children.
One study that spanned four decades found that, dads who developed an emotionally close relationship and encouraged their kids to excel had daughters who were more successful in college/careers and sons who achieved greater career status later in life.
10) Kids need healthy interaction with their fathers, and Mothers tend to determine how much interaction fathers have.
Mothers are the gatekeepers to how much interaction a father may have with his children. This means we mothers need to be aware of all incredible benefits of fathers and let them be fathers! It can be tough as a mother to watch dad let your little girl go out with tangled hair and mismatched clothes, to let your little boy ride his bigwheel down a steep incline and spin in a circle at the bottom or dangle precariously from the top of the slide before speeding down (all of which my husband has done on numerous occasions). But I can tell you moms from experience: When you stand back and let dads “do their thing” you can see your children learn in a whole new way, and you just might feel in your heart how good it is for them to be pushed in a way only a father can do.
In Praise of Fathers
The point is: We need wonderful fathers. And there are many wonderful fathers out there. There are fathers who, at this moment, are rocking a sick child, reading, playing, and teaching them. There are fathers who are doing homework, exercising patience, and coming home a little early just to be there. There are fathers wrestling, disciplining, and doing yardwork with their children.
We need all of these fathers. Our children need them. We mothers need them. And the men who are stepping up as fathers need their fathering role too. For, fatherhood doesn’t just create better children—it creates better men.
Thank you, Fathers. For everything you do. You truly deserve praise for who you are and what you do for our children, for we women, and for the world. Happy Father’s Day!
Have a father you’d like to praise? Share your thoughts on how dads impact kids (and you) for the better by leaving a comment, below!
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[i] Anderson, Lili, Ph.D. & Christian, Ph.D. Understanding the Impact of Gender Differences in Parenting. AMCAP Conference Address, October 1, 2010.
Summer is here. Again. And that means warmer weather, time at the pool or beach, visiting family and friends, and, for many, changing schedules, travel plans, and time off.
In our home, summer also means summer goals—for the kids. Instead of them lying around, bored, all the time, we sit down at the beginning of summer and create a list of goals, together, that each of them may (or may not) accomplish over the summer. They select their own goals, how many they’ll do, and how difficult they’ll be, but I require they have at least one goal in each of six areas: 1) Education/Intellect; 2) Personality/Character; 3) Hobbies/Talents; 4) Family; 5) Spirituality/Church, and 6) Contribution/Service. They present me with their “summer goals” plan, and we go over it together, deciding how much each goal will be worth. Yes, that’s the other great part of summer goals—they get to earn money to then buy their own school clothes (a win-win for we parents)! (Watch this quick video for more on summer goals. Or, this one, for toddlers/preschoolers.)
But sometime, a few years ago, I started thinking, “Why don’t I set summer goals too?” After all, I want to be the example for my kids. And, much as I love summer reading, hammock swinging, travelling, and relaxation (or attempts at relaxation, at least), I also love self-improvement. What better time to work on myself than summer?
This summer, I’m hoping you will join me in my summer self-improvement movement. Below, are just a few suggestions to inspire you. Pick one or several. Then, get to work! After all, wouldn’t it be great, at the end of summer, to be able to look back and say, “Hey, I’m not just tan—I’m actually a better person!”
25 Inspirational Ideas for Summer Self-Improvement
1) Pick a virtue each month and focus on it. Maybe you need a little more patience. Or perhaps it’s courage you need. Pick one, write it and post it on your fridge or mirror, look up a quote or two to inspire you, and practice. Virtues aren’t simply born with us. We can and must work to develop into who we want to be!
2) Read. As much as you can. Read for pleasure, yes, but also, read to learn. Read many different varieties of books–self-help, history, culture, whatever you like. And read with your kids too.
3) Laugh. If you don’t laugh enough, look for ways to get laughing! Work on lightening up, having fun, and letting a little humor into your life. Deep belly laughs are a sure sign of health and vibrancy.
4) Unplug. How much time do you spend “connected” to technology, TV, and social media? Can you (or your family) use a little less time “plugged in?” If so, summer’s a great time to learn how to ditch the tech and reconnect.
5) Improve your physical space. Use summer as a time to prepare for fall. Pick one area of the house each week, then spend 15 minutes 5 days a week cleaning out, organizing, and beautifying.
6) Cut the mental clutter. Create internal space by making time for solitude. Teach your kids how to be alone sometimes too. Solitude is crucial to staying in tune with your spirit and what matters most.
7) Get still, ponder, meditate. If you’ve never tried meditation, summer’s a great time to give it a go. Meditation is one of the best habits you can form for mental, emotional, and spiritual health. (Watch this 30 second “basics of meditation” video to get you started. Or, check out Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Mindfulness for Beginners.”)
8) Eat as many colorful fruits and veggies as possible. Filling yourself up with the good things leaves less room for the not-so-good and gives you energy too.
9) Try 24 hours without criticizing anyone nor anything. That includes thinking criticisms. When you make a mistake, the 24 hours start over. It’s harder than you think; at least, it is for me.
10) Take a class. Ever wanted to try oil painting, Zumba, or horseback riding? Why wait? Summer’s a great time to try something new! It will keep your mind fresh and might even lead you to discover your life’s passion—who knows?
11) Spend quality time with your kids. Set aside 20-30 minutes (or more) each day to get down and do what they love to do. Really focusing on them helps you stay connected and reduces the “I’m bored” syndrome! (Check out this tip too)
12) Incorporate more play into your own life. Did you know play is actually a vital part of mental, physical, and emotional health? Set aside 20-30 minutes (or more) a day for you to play, run, laugh, joke. If you need to improve your play (and most adults do), there’s no time like summer!
13) Rest. If you’ve been sleep-deprived all year, it’s time to focus on getting more sleep, naps, and down time. Sleep is the core of health. And, we need “down time” to prevent stress and burn out too. Prioritize sleep, rest, and R&R this summer. And, if you’re a parent, set a “quiet” or “nap time” every afternoon to help your kids learn to prioritize rest and sleep too!
14) Get to know yourself. Start a journal and explore who you really are. Start by listing your strengths and weaknesses, adding to the list as summer goes on. When others criticize or praise you, look at it as feedback to help you in your search to better understand yourself.
15) Learn how your thinking affects your body, feelings, and behaviors. Start noticing the thoughts running through your mind all day. Try a thought record, to help you understand and change your thinking and improve your emotions and behavior. (This is one of the best things I’ve ever learned to do! A fabulous summer goal!)
16) Practice seeking joy. Remember, joy is in the moments. Look for the joyful moments each day. Write them in a journal so you’ll never forget.
18) Improve a relationship. Select one loved one and choose to really love them this summer. What is their love language? How can you show them your love and help them feel how much they mean to you? Make it your summer project.
19) Move your body! There’s no time like summer to improve your fitness. Go for a hike. Swim. Take a walk each day at sunset. Forget about how many calories you’re burning or how hard you’re working. Just get out and enjoy the green world around you every day. It will start a habit of motion and get you FITT!
20) Forgive someone. Lighten your own load by letting it go. Keep letting it go as often as you need.
21) Practice and freely share your talents. It can be scary to get up and share with others, but it makes you practice hard, and it’s one of the best way to improve!
22) Volunteer. Serve at a soup kitchen, make hygiene kits for those in need, pick up trash, or watch a friend’s kids so they can go on a date. Serving others is one of the greatest habits you can develop and will make a huge impact on your character. And, if you can serve as a family, it’s even better!
23) Overcome fear. When you want to try something new but feel frozen in your tracks, take a deep breath and do it anyway. Or, start small by signing up for something that will happen later this year or next: A course, a class, a job, a race you’ve always wanted to try. Look to the future and plant a seed today.
25) Appreciate where you are. Enjoy the “now.” Look around. See the beauty. Hear the peace. Smell the goodness. Feel the warmth. Taste the sweetness that is everywhere, if you will only look and see.
**26) Oh, and one more thing. No matter which self-improvement idea you decide to try, please make sure and follow this excellent advice: “Do your best, and be a little better than you are” (Gordon B. Hinckley). That’s all we have to be. Just a little bit better, each and every day.
Have some summer self-improvement suggestions? I’d love to hear them! I’d also love to know what you’re working on and how it’s going. Let’s help each other this summer! Leave a comment below.
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(see the links in this article too)
Suggested Reading:Read More
Thanks so much for joining me for my This is How We Grow© Summer Book Club! I hope you enjoyed the Prologue, and I’m grateful for the comments you’ve already provided. As I mentioned before, I appreciate your feedback tremendously. That’s one of the main reasons I’m doing this “Summer Book Club”–to gather your ideas, thoughts, questions, and concerns, allowing you, the reader, to help me, the author, make this memoir the best it can be.
Today, we dig in with Chapter 1! Since you don’t have a Table of Contents, I should mention This is How We Grow is written in four parts, each representing one season and one year, beginning with Part 1: Patience. Again, I welcome your thoughts and hope you will leave a comment, (below). I also encourage you to subscribe to my email list (below), for exclusive This Is How We Grow opportunities and updates.
Mostly, though, I want to thank you for taking the time to read these selections from This is How We Grow with me this summer. I know you have plenty you could be doing, and I deeply appreciate you choosing to do this. Happy reading! (I hope!)
Fall is the jumping in, the beginning of learning, the end of the ease of summer.
Fall is the slowing down, the turning of the sun, sky, wind, and trees.
Fall is the surprise—
the hint of something coming,
the twists and turns signaling that everything
is about to change.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
(Holy Bible, King James Version, Ecclesiastes 31:1)
(also an excellent song by The Byrds)
Change is about the only thing we can count on when it comes to life. Seasons change. Years come and go. And so do we. But, what good is all that change if it doesn’t change us?
Several years ago January 1st, I was struck by this question and knew I had to do something about it. Tired of too-often forgotten “New Year’s Resolutions” and desiring a more meaningful practice of personal development, I developed the idea of a “yearly theme.” This theme would serve as my one resolution for the entire year and give me focused, extended practice in mastering it. It would steer me in the direction of the person I longed to be.
My first year’s theme was “Carpe Diem”—a time in my life when I was ready to take on the world as a freshly licensed Clinical Psychologist, mother of three, and starter of a non-profit organization. I think I “Carpe’d” a little too much “Diem,” if you catch my drift, and ended up completely burned out by the end of the year. But it was okay; it was the exact lesson I needed at that time and paved the way for my next year’s theme, “Humility.”
2007 was my year of “Patience”; I could never have guessed how much patience I would actually require, but somehow I knew, just like I always know, that it was the direction to take. In true cyclical fashion, my need for patience in 2007 actually began in the fall of 2006, my year of “Charity.” It was our first trip to Hawaii and we were in for some, yep, you guessed it—change. Yes, to me, it is now clear: It all began with an earthquake….
Sunday October 15, 2006
Nature’s absolute power. That’s what we witnessed today.
I came to Hawaii to decide if we should try for another baby. OJ thought I was just tagging along while he attended his dental seminar, but I admit, I’ve had an ulterior motive. For the past three days, as he’s been sitting in air-conditioned boardrooms, sipping mini-Sprite and eating chocolate chip cookies, I’ve been sitting on a beach towel, digging my toes into the grainy sand, watching the waves slip in and away and wondering when I should bring up the subject. We already have 3 beautiful, healthy children, so why have I been contemplating having one more?
I finally, casually, brought it up before bed last night. And his reply? “We’re good, hon. Why shake things up?” He then kissed me, rolled over, and promptly fell asleep. So OJ. And so ironic.
“Stop shaking the bed,” I muttered this morning, irritated. The clock read 7:07 am. OJ has a way of becoming annoying in the early morning when I want to sleep in. I sat up, frustrated, and looked to my left where he lay in his own double bed. He was sound asleep, but those double beds were definitely shaking. “OJ, wake up! Is this an earthquake?” I asked in disbelief, then ran to the window and looked out from the 27th floor. The ocean and other lofty hotels lining Waikiki beach seemed undisturbed, but yes, we were moving. In fact, we were swaying. The entire tower leaned side to side as I helplessly gazed at the tiny cars, people, and trees below.
Are we going to die? We don’t have our will finished! Our kids! What would become of them? We’d never survive if this building should fall. Crushed. It would be quick. All these thoughts flashed through my brain in a dizzy moment.
I turned to OJ—sitting up, still in bed, stunned as I was. “Should we run to the door frame?” Somehow I knew that would be pointless being so high up, so we stayed where we were. There was nothing else to do. We remained frozen and rode the vibrations of that eerie sound, like a buzzing wave rolling through every cell of the body.
And then…surrender. I was staring out the floor-to-ceiling window, in the midst of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Our building was rocking and swaying. Yet I saw below me…calm. Intense quiet. Peace. Peace found me. I submitted. There was nothing else to do. A moment of beauty—surrendering to the power of nature—a moment experiencing nature’s fury and absolute domination in such a calm and humbling way.
The vibration slowed. The building swayed to a halt. We were still, though our bodies had yet to recognize it was over. I looked at the clock: 7:08. It had only been one minute. It had only been one minute yet something inside me knew, everything had changed.
Saturday, November 4, 2006
I keep thinking back to Hawaii. How different life feels now, compared to then.
OJ’s new Hawaiian habit of drinking endless pineapple juice and going to the bathroom umpteen times a night followed us home. He’s been waking me up every night, and we’re both exhausted. But he is more than exhausted. He seems unmotivated and maybe even depressed; for weeks now, he returns from work each night just to plop in front of the TV and fall asleep early on the couch. I was first annoyed, then offended, then downright furious with his newfound “laziness.” But I was put smack in my place tonight when, finally confronting him, I accused, “What is wrong with you? Do you have diabetes or something?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Probably.”
Having grown up the son of a diabetic father, he suspected this days ago. He even set up a doctor’s appointment for this Tuesday—the first time he’s called a doctor in 11 years of marriage. “I didn’t want to worry you,” he said. “At least not until I knew for sure.” But I am worried. And it’s clear he’s worried too. We’re in limbo until Tuesday. And then? We’re probably in for a life change. Sighing and holding my breath, I’m trying to be patient. But I hate this—the waiting, the not knowing.
I guess it’s a good thing we decided not to have another baby. I could not have handled a sick husband, three kids, and a nauseous pregnancy. Until now, I couldn’t explain why it felt wrong—why we’d both agreed we’re most likely done having children. This explains it. That’s one thing Hawaii has done for me—made things clear. It’s reminded me to enjoy what is right in front of me, for I never know when it might rumble or disappear.
Monday, November 13, 2006
It’s official. OJ has Diabetes. Type I, Insulin-Dependent, or Juvenile Diabetes. He’s also been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, and Celiac’s disease—an allergy to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, most processed foods, and a host of other products. I believe the doctors’ words were, “You’re such an unusual case,” meaning he has so many autoimmune diseases all at the same time, it’s fascinating to the doctors. Well, good for them, but not so good for us. We definitely don’t want to be called an “unusual case.” OJ started insulin the day he was diagnosed, narrowly avoiding hospitalization, and was put on medications to regulate his off-the-charts blood sugar and thyroid and, hopefully, bring back the man I married.
It’s slow going, however, and he’s been quite sick. This week he’s had a head flu on top of being weak from Diabetes and Celiac’s. We don’t fully understand what we’re supposed to be feeding him, and I’m doing my best to figure it out. For now, we’re just trying to get and keep him stable. We’re getting closer, I think. I hope.
Tonight, after a particularly long day at work, I came home, checked in with the kids, started making dinner, and found OJ lying on the couch, lethargic. I asked what I could do, and he sent me to the pharmacy to pick up his new medication. Standing in the never-ending line, it hit me: It’s all changing. You have to be the strong one now.
OJ’s always been “the strong one,” in my mind—the rock upon which I can roll in and out like the waves of the sea. But I knew in that moment that it is my turn now. Though exhausted from my own long days of helping others—clients, my children, OJ, parents and siblings struggling through crises of finances, mental health, and addictions—I can see that as I near the end of my year of “Charity,” of service and love of the purest kind, I have been given the opportunity to become that love.
Standing tonight in that pharmacy line—just like that moment 27 stories up in Hawaii as the world around me threatened to fall—I stood still, surrendered, and accepted what is before I even knew half of what will be. Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, my head and shoulders seemed to stand a little taller as I settled into the voice repeating in my mind: I am charity. I am love. I am the strong one now.
**I’ll be posting new chapters every other week, so stay tuned, and subscribe, below, so you won’t miss a thing!**
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This is How We Grow: Related Posts
Yes, I’ve been writing a book. For quite some time now. 4 years, on and off, to be exact.
Most of my friends and family know this by now, as well as those I’m connected to on Social Media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter. I’ve had several inquiries about where to purchase the book (It’s not published yet, but will be by year’s end). And, many people have asked what it’s about. Those who know me as the “Postpartum expert” ask, “Is it about postpartum depression?” Those who know me from my website ask, “Is it a self-help book? Is it about grief?” Those who know me as a parent and parenting educator ask, “Is it a parenting or motherhood book?” And those who really know me ask, “Are you writing your story?”
The answer to all of these is, “Yes.”
This is How We Grow© is a memoir about the four years, or seasons, after my sister and brother-in-law died, we inherited our two nephews, and went from 3 to 6 kids. It has themes of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, yes. It’s definitely deals with grief and loss and how the entire family gets through. It’s about motherhood and parenting, and family relationships. But really it’s about choosing to grow through whatever life hands us. The best way I know how to sum up the book is this quote, from Part 1: “When life throws you in the mud, plant yourself and GROW.”
This is How We Grow© Summer Book Club
The good news is you no longer have to take my word for it. A few months ago, I started sharing portions of This is How We Grow with select book clubs, to receive feedback and editing suggestions. It’s been incredibly helpful. Now, I’m going to do the same with you.
This summer, I will be posting one chapter of the book every other week, as part of the “This is How We Grow Summer Book Club”. I admit, it’s scary putting this out there before it’s all finished. But, I value the wisdom of my readers. I know your ideas can make it even better. I, therefore, welcome your comments and suggestions to help me improve the book, as well as your impressions and questions.
Join the Club!
So, join my “This is How We Grow Summer Book Club.” Sign up for my email list, below, for special This is How We Grow opportunities, like a sneak peak of extra chapters, the book cover, and subtitle (still working on these), and for updates on publication and events.
Please tell your friends to join us too! Then, read away, leave comments, and check back every other week for a new chapter! Oh, and please “Like” my Facebook page for quotes, discussion, and This is How We Grow inspiration!
Let’s Get Started: Prologue
To kick us off, please enjoy this preview of the title page and prologue. It may be short, but hopefully it’s enough to keep you coming back for more!
Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D.
There is a great, cosmic ebb and flow—energy pouring calmly, powerfully through all—
prompting change, nudging growth. Telling us we cannot stay as we are.
Telling us we must become.
“She’s dead, isn’t she?” I asked, not feeling the words. My body was already erecting the wall that would hold back so many emotions for so many months. “Just tell me,” I pressed him, still holding the glimmer of hope that I was wrong.
Hesitation. Hesitation was a confirmation in itself. He is my OJ–my husband, my most steady supporter, my best friend. He didn’t want to drop this bomb. The moment before the truth comes out is so full of possibility; yet it was already determined.
“Yes,” he said. “She died.”
What do I say? When time stops and everything changes, what can possibly be said?
“Do you realize we just inherited two kids?” Half angry, half in shock, I laughed. My sister just died and I laughed.
OK. Let me have it. Just kidding. I would love your thoughts so far, though. So, share by leaving a comment, below. If you’re not ready to share yet, then keep joining us! I’ll be looking for your comments down the road!
Below are some of my posts inspired by the book–more snippets to get us to the first week of June, when I will be posting Chapter 1! Happy summer reading!
This is How We Grow: Related Posts
SUBSCRIBE, below, and please “Like” my Facebook page, for updates and inspiration on the topics that interest you most!Read More
Some time back in graduate school I realized that if I don’t ask for help when I need it, it might never come. Like so many women, I’d spent the first several years of my marriage expecting my husband, OJ (no, not Simpson), to just “see” what I needed, wanting him to “notice on his own,” feeling that if I had to actually tell him what was wrong then he obviously didn’t love me well enough. Sound familiar?
We’ve all seen this before, whether in a friend, on TV or in our own relationships. But friends, I hate to break it to you—if you don’t ask for what you need you can’t expect to receive it. It’s a lesson old as scripture, “Ask and ye shall receive” (John 16:24). Yet how often do we forget to ask, standing like fools waiting endlessly for a thing that will never come. Instead, try letting go of your expectations and pride and asking. Asking is, after all, the key to receiving.
How to Get Your Needs Met: 4 Tips
1) Before you can ask for what you need, you have to know what you need.
Often we don’t ask because we simply don’t know. Taking stock of our needs on a regular basis is a good idea for overall well-being in all realms: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. The sooner we recognize a need and fill it, the easier life becomes; we end up preventing the bigger problems that arise when needs pile up over time. Thus, examining your needs is an important tool, and the first step of asking for them to be met.
2) Once you know what you need to ask for, state it clearly.
Too often we know what we need but fail in our attempt to communicate it. We beat around the bush, mince words, or hint at what we need, again hoping the other person will just “get it” and take care of things. But people are not mind readers, and most of the time others just aren’t good at filling in the blanks. Stating clearly what you need is crucial to actually getting it. The more specific you are, the better. Don’t just say, “Honey, I need a nap sometime, maybe.” Say, “Honey, I need a nap, so if I go in my room now for an hour would you please watch the kids and actually play with them and guard the door so they won’t wake me up?” with a smile of course. (Obviously I have personal experience with this one). Be clear. Be direct. Be willing to ask for exactly what you need.
3) Ask the right person.
Not everyone is equipped to give you exactly what you need. If you need help with childcare, ask someone who loves your child; if you need help with housework, ask someone who knows how to make a bed. If you need someone to just listen, ask someone who can let you be the focus of the conversation for a while. Just because one person isn’t able to provide what you need doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be asking. Keep asking until you find the one willing and able to serve you best. Also, don’t be afraid of “putting them out” or “burdening them”. Just as it is your responsibility to take care of what you need, they are responsible for their needs and can say no if they choose. As one of my favorite wise men once said, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” Allowing others to meet our needs blesses them with the opportunity to serve and grow too. It’s a win-win situation.
4) And finally: Don’t forget to ask your Higher Power.
Connecting to the Source that knows and understands your needs better than anyone is the surest way to receive what you need. Sometimes it comes as a change in how you feel or in a whisper that lets you know you’re not alone and that you are loved. Sometimes it’s a sudden knowing–that light-bulb moment of what you must do, or the motivation, perhaps, to actually do it. It may come in the form of a dream, a song, or a piece of art that speaks to your soul. Or it may be a feeling of peace that sweeps over you, a quiet sense that everything will be ok. The act of asking is an act of faith, and, faith is the beginning of all things that come into being.
Ask and Receive
You’ll be amazed how easily your needs can be met if you simply ask. Get clear on what you need. Seek out the person to best help you fill that need. Seek the Divine. And ask. Then, stand, ready to receive.
 Hinkley, G. (1979). The Abundant Life. Tambuli, June, vol. 3.
Why does Mother’s Day always make me think of all I’m not doing right as a Mother? Every year I try to avoid it, but I can’t escape. The images of crafty, fulfilled, do-it-all moms who are (seemingly) perfect, fill the world, and at first, I love it. I love glorying in this role that I truly find life-altering, holy, and divine–being “Mom.”
But at some point I start comparing to those images. I see what I want (or wanted) to do and be, and feel I’m missing the mark. This week, for example, I had just returned from a days-long stay alone to work on my book and try to catch up on sleep. (It sounds heavenly, and it was–if you like writing for hours and hours). But one long drive, two kid-interrupted sleepless nights, four sick kids, and less than two days later, I was already burned out, and on the verge of losing it! “Really?” I chastised myself. “You can’t even handle your life after a major break? Weak.” Sometimes I’m not very nice.
The Irony of Mother’s Day
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the very images and words meant to lift mothers up this time of year can have the opposite effect? The worst, for me, was about 8 years ago, when I had 3 kids. Caught in a contract with a group psychology practice, I was working far more hours than I’d planned. Add in work for my newly-founded Postpartum Wellness Coalition, and I felt like I was “doing it all.” That is, until Mother’s Day.
Sitting in church, listening to a lovely man speak of his angelic mother moved me. It inspired me to be like that. Then, it moved me to tears. Because I wasn’t like that. It hit me–wham!–like a wrecking ball, “You’re not being the mom you wanted to be.” I was truly wrecked. I cried for literally 8 hours strait! I couldn’t stop, so I shut myself away in my room all day, humiliated, defeated. I was only saved through a “Say-Anything”-esque rescue by my dear husband, OJ–standing on the stairs playing Coldplay’s “Fix You,” in the dark until I finally let him show me the love I felt I did not deserve.
And I’m not the only one. In the past few weeks alone I’ve heard stories from numbers of friends who fear they may be “failing” at motherhood. I asked, on my Facebook Page, if anyone was willing to share some of their “mommy fails,” and got some pretty honest responses:
- “All 3 of my babies rolling off the bed onto wood floors. You’d think I’d learn the first time!”
- “Calling my kids by the wrong name. I hated when my mom did that to me.”
- “Letting my mood swings get in the way. I wish I could have been more ‘stable’.”
- “My kids are little, but I’ve already cut nails so short they bleed, and both my girls have pulled chairs on themselves in the kitchen, leaving bruises. But the worst is when my daughter screamed and cried when her Grandma gave her a dress because she didn’t think the dress was pretty enough. Spoiled, much?”
- “I could write a whole chapter on my mommy fails!”
- “I was shopping with my 3 kids and it was great. Until the checkout. My 4 year-old started screaming for candy, but I was taking a stand. And I did it. We got all the way to the car, him screaming the whole way. As I was putting them in, an older woman came up and said, ‘I just want to tell you that you are doing a great job at being a mom. My daughter only has 2 kids and she is a mess, so keep up the good work.’ I said, ‘Thanks.’ Then I got in the car, and yelled to my son, ‘Shut up! Not another word ’til we get home!’ It could’ve been such a good ‘mom moment, and I had to go and ruin it.”
- “Growing up, I was pretty afraid of my mom, so I try to make sure my kids don’t feel that from me. One day, a few years back, I’d gone off my medication (I suffer from anxiety) to try and get pregnant. My kids were not cleaning their playroom like I asked and I lost it. The angry voice came out. I was throwing things and saying who knows what, and my 3 year old daughter is crying by now and she says to me, ‘mommy stop it you are scaring me.’ I had to walk out of the room. It didn’t matter anymore if it got cleaned. I felt horrible. But I know I’m not the only mom who feels like this. I’m just grateful my daughter called me out on how I was making her feel.”
3 Things Every Mother Needs to Know This Mother’s Day
1) You’re Not Alone. She’s right. She’s not the only mom who feels this way. In fact, we can relate, can’t we, to at least one of the scenarios above? We all have “mommy fails.” We all feel less than adequate from time to time. I see it with every mother I meet, whether they openly acknowledge their “failures” or try to hide them. It’s no secret we all make mistakes. It’s part of being a mother, and it’s ok.
2) You’re better than you realize. You’re not a failure. We see what’s wrong because we care. If we didn’t care it wouldn’t bother us if we yell or if our kids get hurt. The fact that it bothers us proves we love our kids. And when we can see this and then choose to learn from our “fails,” it proves we’re actually better at this mom thing than we may have thought. In fact, one of my Facebook friends decided to ask her daughter what her “mommy fails” were. She says, “I expected a heart wrenching conversation. I have at times completely lost it with my kids. Yelling, tears, the works. But her response was, ‘Oh that’s easy. When I was sick and made toast I asked you to watch it and you burned it black!’ I asked her, ‘That’s it? What about me yelling you and making you cry a few weeks ago?’ ‘Mom,’ she said, ‘that is just real stuff. It doesn’t make you a ‘fail.’ I have done that to you too, and I kinda like knowing your not some super hero and that you cry too. Besides everyone’s mom freaks out on them sometimes.” See, chances are, you’re doing better in your kids’ eyes than you realize.
3) You are enough. This one is important, so I’m going to say it again, “You are enough.” Being Mom is a daunting task, but you have what you need to do the job only you can do. You have enough love. You have enough wisdom. You have enough of what it takes. You are enough. Happy Mother’s Day, Moms.
How do you handle your “mommy fails?” Feel brave enough to share one with us? Leave a comment, below. I did.
Don’t miss a thing! SUBSCRIBE, below, and please “Like” my Facebook page for inspiration on the topics that interest you most!
 Huge thank you to Elizabeth, Diann, Jesica, Jana, and Holly, for sharing your “Mommy Fails” with us! You just proved how incredible you are as moms, owning up to your mistakes like that. Big hugs to you!Read More
Today, as part of the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Blog Hop 2013, I am happy to host a guest post by colleague and friend, Laura DiVenti. Laura has an incredible story of postpartum recovery, one she shared many times at our Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition educational events. Let me just say that when Laura talked about what she’s experienced, the room went silent and each ear tuned in, every time. I am honored to get to share just a little of Laura with you here. You’ll see what I mean when you read her words….
Does time heal all wounds? What I can certainly say about time is that time heals some of the wounds, for sure. However, it is what one does with this time that is critical. This is what makes a difference in healing. It has been 7 years since I had postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter. What I have done with my time between my pregnancy, the birth of my daughter, my loss and my redemption, up to this very day, has shaped me and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Having a child didn’t come easy for me and I had a very difficult pregnancy. From my thirteenth week of pregnancy until the end, I was on strict bed rest. I had a body that was falling apart because of my pregnancy and a mind that was slowly joining it. The anxiety was constant. The fear was overwhelming. Bleeding, early contractions, my daughter dropping low in my pelvis early, medications, non-stress tests, ultrasounds, shots, threats of being put into the hospital, that I wouldn’t carry to term. It was so overwhelming. The icing on the cake, however, was having a non-supportive husband. He worked long hours, anywhere from 12-15 hour days. He was an emotional void. Instead of helping calming my fears, he exacerbated them. The loneliness I felt in my pregnancy, a time of usual celebration and anticipation, was crushing. I silently hoped that with the birth of my daughter, much of the guilt, fear and anxiety would disintegrate. Little did I know my struggle was just beginning.
My daughter was born on a warm and sunny April day. As soon as she was born, the anxiety crept in. I was so overwhelmed with panic that I had a hard time sleeping. My lonely pregnancy turned into an even lonelier postpartum experience. I tried breastfeeding my daughter thinking I was doing the best thing for her, but I failed at it. I gave up breastfeeding with the guilt that I couldn’t even feed my own daughter. I was terrified this would ruin her life. I became a task master in caring for my daughter. Feed, diapers, sleep, feed, diapers, sleep. While she could sleep, I ceased to. Days were filled with panic over whether everything I was doing was going to ruin her life. Days were filled with caring for an infant alone with very little support from anyone, especially my husband. My joy was depleted. My will to survive was dwindling. Basic life functioning up to 10 weeks postpartum was so painful that I didn’t understand what the point was in going on. My husband had pulled himself so far away from me that one day he said he would leave me and sue me for full custody. I was an emotional wreck, unable to do anything without fear or guilt. I felt like I had lost control of everything. My husband turned from me when I needed him the most. I felt like I had lost myself. I came to a place where I truly thought everyone would just be better without me. I acted on this feeling on a bright, sunny day in June; 10 weeks after I had my daughter. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital that was an hour and half from my home. The first day there I couldn’t stop crying. The rest of the days, I fluctuated between numbness and fear. Ten days after I got out of the hospital, my husband asked me for a divorce. It was at that very moment that I officially lost everything. I lost my daughter, I lost my husband, I lost my home and I nearly lost myself. In my time of sickness, my husband finagled my daughter from me. In my time of utter weakness, he used my postpartum depression to legally take my daughter from me and gain physical custody of her, even though I posed absolutely no harm to her. It was the ultimate act of betrayal.
In the 7 years since my daughter was taken from me, I have fought hard to get her back. I moved from Illinois to Arizona to heal and work on getting my life back. Time moved my life forward as it always does. My postpartum depression was thankfully temporary, as it always is. When the clouds of suffering and depression lifted, I fully realized the scope of my situation. This was when I started to fight. I have fought to get my daughter back into my life. I have fought to break the stigma of postpartum depression. I have fought the shame that surrounded me after what happened. I found my now husband, who is my champion and ultimate support, something that I realized is so critical for women to have that are suffering from postpartum depression. I have been to court numerous times trying to fight for time with my daughter. My daughter and I have a bond that no one could ever break. She is the light in my life, the truest part of who I am and I absolutely adore her to no end. However, my ex-husband, in his ruthlessness and anger, tries to fight me and take precious time away from us seeing each other. Time with my daughter is the best time in my life. Time has passed so quickly in the past 7 years. I have loved, I have lost and I have been on the road to healing and redemption. My ultimate happiness would be to have my daughter by my side every day. However, this has not happened and perhaps it never will.
What has helped me heal and cope with the pain has been focusing my time on helping and supporting other women suffering from postpartum depression. I give back to these mothers what was not given to me. My hope is that someday the stigma of postpartum depression will be no more and women can get the help and support they need without shame. My wound, the loss of my daughter, is my gift. I live by the mantra I created to help myself and other mothers survive and thrive through postpartum depression, “Knowledge and support is powerful. Shame and isolation can destroy.” This has kept me sane and strong and ready to fight another day. All I wanted when I was sick was to know someone in this world who had been through the muck and the dark and survived and thrived. That would have given me hope when I had none. This is the reason I speak up now. I am the voice to those women. The one’s we don’t hear about because they are too ashamed to talk and their stories do not have happy endings. The ones who have lost almost everything and they can’t see a silver lining. They are my reason for talking and sharing. I am giving a voice to those women.
Time has healed some of my wounds, and no doubt, time has made me stronger. I have used that time to find my voice and my cause in life and this has helped me heal. I am honored to have the chance to help other women and I always hold out hope that time will bring my daughter back in my life again, right by my side. Take the time to heal, find your support, arm yourself with knowledge and find your voice again in order to let go of the shame. These factors were critical to my healing and I want all mothers suffering with postpartum depression to always remember that you are not alone and that with time, you will heal. I am living proof of that.
~Written By: Laura DiVenti, RN, BSN. Contact: email@example.com
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month
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Read MoreIf you are looking for pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please call or email us:Postpartum Support International Warmline(English & Spanish)1-800-944-4PPD (4773)Don’t miss a thing! SUBSCRIBE, below, and please “Like” my Facebook page, for updates, inspiration, and discussion on the topics that interest you most!
It’s cliché, I know, but I certainly wasn’t expecting postpartum depression (PPD). Newly graduated from college and recently married, I couldn’t wait to start a family, to finally become a mother. It was something I’d wanted my entire life.
PPD Round 1
Fast-forward 9 months. I didn’t expect to be induced and deliver my first baby boy breach. He came out bottom first and had the most perfectly round, golden head. When I came home from the hospital, I didn’t expect sleep deprivation to make me feel so crazy, and I certainly didn’t expect a colicky newborn. I tried to turn to my doctor, but he was no help. My husband and I moved in and slept on the floor of my mom and dad’s living room for weeks while I just tried to figure out was wrong with me and what I could do to feel normal again. “Am I really the only one who feels like this?” I kept asking myself. It sure felt that way. I did feel normal again–thanks to lots more sleep and constant help from my parents and husband. Several months later, that is.
PPD Round 2
Fast forward 2 ½ years, and I didn’t expect to feel depressed again after the birth of my second boy. I loved my first so, and seeing him place a toy sword in his brother’s bassinet when we brought baby home made me love them both even more. Wasn’t that enough to keep me well? I had also prepared this time. I now knew that I’d had postpartum depression before, that sleep deprivation kicks my butt, so I created a postpartum plan: let others help me so I can sleep more and feel better. At first I thought I was better. But my dear husband kindly let me know that wasn’t the case, pointing out the words I’d written in my journal just two months in, “I wish I could run away. Not forever. Just long enough to feel like myself again.” I started graduate school when baby #2 was just 4 months old.
PPD Round 3
Fast forward four years and I had just graduated with my doctorate in psychology. Precisely 7 days after I graduated, in fact, I delivered our first baby girl. We moved 5 days later. Now I was a true “expert” on PPD. I’d done my dissertation on PPD and even produced a “Postpartum Couples” video. I was a volunteer for Postpartum Support International (PSI). I had resources, connections; I knew the leaders in the field, for goodness sake. But PPD doesn’t care about all that, and it hit me again, this time adding an extra dose of anxiety. Luckily, by now, I at least knew I wasn’t alone; I at least had support resources, and I used them wisely. I felt better much quicker this time.
PPD Round 4
But my fourth fast-forward was the hardest. Four years later and, just weeks before giving birth, my sister died suddenly and traumatically. I certainly didn’t expect that. My brother-in-law had died just 2 months prior of cancer, and we suddenly inherited our two nephews, our new sons. I gave birth to my second baby girl four weeks to the day that my sister died. I had three kids, and then I had six. Talk about postpartum depression! I can’t even say, to this day, exactly what I was even experiencing at that point, a bizarre and long-lasting mixture of shock, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, and grief that required months of therapy, massage, support, and, yes, medication, to finally get me through. It’s too complicated to even touch on here. You’ll have to read about it in my book, This is How We Grow (coming end of 2013).
PPD 16 Years Later
Fast forward to now. A mom of six kids, my first baby boy is 16 ½ and my last baby girl is 5 ½. I know so much more than I knew back then—it almost makes me wish I could have the babies now instead. But then I wouldn’t know what I know. So, instead, I look back and think about what I’d tell those younger, postpartum “me’s.” What might make a difference in helping those me’s heal? Here are just a few things I’d like my postpartum self to know (and any other postpartum selves out there too):
1) You really aren’t alone. Having helped countless postpartum moms and dads over the years, it’s so clear now just how similar we all are, how hard it can be, and how alone we all feel. It’s tragic, really, to feel so alone when we’re all feeling the same way. Couldn’t we just feel alone together instead?
3) Feel what you feel. It really is the only way to get through PPD (and by PPD, I mean depression, anxiety, PTSD–all of it!). Don’t pretend you’re “fine” if you’re not. If it’s hard, say, “It’s hard!” Only in identifying what’s really happening can you begin to understand and work through it.
4) Getting well is top priority. The sooner you seek support and treatment, the sooner you’re on your way to feeling better. And it’s ok that other things slide while you focus on getting well. I call it Postpartum Survival Mode, and say, “Be where you are and give yourself a break.”
5) You may be wondering who you are now, and that’s ok. It’s part of becoming a mother. There’s no rush to figure it out. In time, you will know. And then you won’t know again. A mother’s understanding of who she is an ever-evolving process.
6) Solitude is good. Isolation is not good. Reach out to others. Support groups are great for this, or spending time with friends who have babies too. I never felt like I had support, yet it wasn’t until my third baby that I realized how I’d isolated myself before. Time alone is one thing. Isolating is another. Instead, with my third, I attended playgroups and girls’ night out. I never realized how much I needed it. I see it in my support group now too. The women who’ve become friends outside of group have help and support now. We need each other.
7) The fact that you feel like a terrible mom because you have PPD means you’re a wonderful mom. Oh, the guilt of PPD! It’s one of the hardest parts, isn’t it? But you must let it go. If it didn’t bother you that you have PPD, it would mean you didn’t care. But it does, and you do. That’s what matters.
8) Love matters most. Not how much you read to your baby or whether your toddler watches TV or whether you breast or bottle feed or whether you keep a tidy house, make organic meals, or bake your own bread. You may or may not do these things. What matters is that you hold and love that baby. And if you’re not feeling as much love as you wish you were, good news. Love is a practice. Focus on the good in your baby. Hug him. Snuggle her. Take care of her. The love will grow. Love is much simpler than we think.
9) If you feel like your baby is a burden, you’re not alone. The first time I left on my own, just for 15 minutes, to buy a binky from the store, I felt like I’d broken out of jail! I hated feeling like it was a burden being a mother. But, 16 years later, I can tell you: It is. It’s a huge burden. Especially if you love your kids. You’ll always have more work than you have hours to do it. You’ll always feel their hurts more than your own. It’s a burden to love someone so much. But, like any good burden, it’s really more of a blessing. It just takes practice to see and feel it.
10) Grief is part of motherhood, especially when you have a perinatal mood disorder. The only way to deal with grief is to feel it. It’s ok to grieve what you’ve lost while still appreciating what you have. It feels paradoxical, I know, but it’s ok.
11) PPD can make you more compassionate. Among other things. It’s one of the best gifts of having so much struggle—it makes you understand others and want to help them too. It helps you be a more compassionate partner, friend, and mother. PPD can open you up if you let it.
12) Actively practice gratitude; it’s one of the best things you can do. I don’t mean “positive affirmations.” Affirmations don’t work because you don’t believe them. Instead, search for the true little blessings that are right in front of you. I started a “little wonders” journal and wrote down every little magical moment I noticed: baby’s first smile, an unexpected moment of solitude, a good, solid nap. It helps you appreciate what’s right in front of you, and that’s one of the best tools to increase happiness. Period.
13) They actually grow up. Faster than you realize. Every parent says it later, but it’s true, and it’s important to remember when you’re feeling like you can’t wait for them to grow up. Some day you’ll be wishing they were tiny enough to just hold in your arms again. My oldest sons are full-fledged teenagers now and several inches taller than I am, and while they’ll put up with a hug from mom, it’s not the same as when they were little. I miss being able to cuddle them and so easily make everything all right.
14) You really will feel better. It doesn’t feel like it when you’re in it, but you will.
15) You can not only feel “better,” you can feel “better than better.” Great things are in store for you, but one thing at a time. “To everything there is a season,” the scripture says. This is your season to be a mother. Seasons always change, so enjoy the one you’re in. And when the time is right, flourish!
16) Motherhood is quite wonderful. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. The “job” of mothering (cooking, cleaning, changing diapers) can feel like drudgery. But it’s an honor to be a mother, even if it’s hard. Just remind yourself, “I can do hard things.” Say it as many times as you need to. It’s certainly helped me.
And one final bonus. Give yourself a big hug from me. Because I really do understand just how hard it is to be where you are. And I also know just how wonderful you’ll feel 16 years down the road.
Speak Up When You’re Down:
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month
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Read this post for details, link up below, grab the badge code, and help us spread maternal mental health recovery and awareness!
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Powerful emotions can be scary. Grief, anger, sadness, pain, fear, can feel intense, overwhelming, and out of control. We fear feeling powerful emotions because we believe they will overtake us; we fear that once they are free, we may never be free of them again.
So, we ignore, distract ourselves from, and eventually box these emotions up and shove them deep down, like caged predators, in an effort to prevent the frightening consequences we envision if they were ever to escape. But, as a wise woman once said, “Just because your feelings are buried alive doesn’t mean that they die.”(1) In fact, the longer feelings are buried, the more they fester and grow, until they control us, stronger than ever.
Emotions are Simply Emotions
What are we really afraid of? Sure, they feel immense, but all emotions, however powerful as they may appear, are simply that—emotions. Like the clouds that float across the sky may appear threatening, the most they can do is rain or hail or snow for a little while. Emotions are the same. And in raining, hailing, snowing, the clouds lose their power. They literally dissipate. So it is with emotions. We fear their threatening appearance and run from the rain of feelings, but it is only through allowing the rains to fall that the darkness and threat eventually drains away and disappears. Feelings, once felt, don’t stay for long.
Instead of running from, ignoring, burying, or fearing emotions, we need to FEEL them. And by FEEL, I mean: Freely Experience Emotion with Love. It’s not easy, especially if you’re used to ignoring feelings, but this 3-Minute Therapy YouTube video, “How to Cope with Overwhelming Emotions” shows you how, so check it out. It’s well worth 3 minutes of your time.
FEEL to Heal
You don’t have to force it. Simply let yourself feel what is there. When anger comes, feel angry. If fear has you in its grips, really focus on feeling that fear. When sadness weighs like a boulder on your heart, feel sad. Cry. Scream. Hear yourself say you may never get up again. Feel it. Then, love yourself. Be kind. Compassionate. Take care of yourself. And the pressure will loosen, just a bit. The chest will inhale just a little easier.
Only after you FEEL will you begin to heal. As you sit with your emotions, feel them, and love yourself through, you take the control back. The emotions no longer remain stuck and festering, but begin to unfasten themselves from being a part of you. And it is only then that you will see, they never really were.
How do you cope with powerful emotions? Have you tried to FEEL them? Leave a comment, below, and let us know!
Don’t miss a thing! Please SUBSCRIBE, below, and “Like” my Facebook Page, for updates, inspiration, and discussion on the topics that interest you most!
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(1) Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah’s Lifeclass.Read More