Mastery of Motherhood: Is it possible? Take the Survey!

 

For the past several months I’ve been visiting with groups of incredible women and mothers all over the country, discussing “Mastery of Motherhood.”

I start each workshop with a question: “Is mastery of motherhood possible? Why or why not?”

The responses I’ve received have varied widely, from “no way!” to “absolutely,” and everything in between. These mothers have had a lot to say about the idea of “mastering” motherhood, including their reservations, hopes, fears, and their personal stories (my personal favorite).

Hearing the stories of these women has empowered me in this task I’ve set before myself–to write a book about the “Mastery of Motherhood.” I have felt their gut-wrenching emotions, I have experienced their doubts and questions, my heart has warmed at their hopes and dreams, and I have delighted in their motherhood successes. Yes, hearing from moms of all ages and stages and places and all walks of life has given ME hope that, together, we can figure this “mastery of motherhood” thing out.

 

I need you!

But I can’t do it without your help. That’s one thing that’s always been abundantly clear: I need your input! I need to hear your stories, to know your thoughts and feelings; I need to share your motherhood experiences, because the more I hear and know from you, the more I find myself on what I believe is the right track to crafting a book that will speak to you, a resource that will feel helpful and beneficial to you and moms like you.

And so, here I am, writing this post to implore you to join my “Mastery of Motherhood” cause by completing my Mastery of Motherhood online survey.

It’s easy. There are only a handful of mandatory questions and you decide how much of the rest you’d like to answer. I really hope you’ll take the 10-15 minutes to sit down and share your M.O.M. experiences with me, and then pass the survey on to all the moms you know.

 

 

Here’s what I need you to do:

 

1) Take the Survey: To get started, visit www.MasteryOfMotherhood.com, scroll down for the survey link, and follow the brief instructions. Or, you can go directly to the survey by clicking here.

 

2) Share the survey image above and the www.MasteryOfMotherhood.com website on social media with all your mom friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers! Without your help, I simply can’t reach all the moms I need to reach!

 

3) Email me your personal stories, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and whatever you think I should know as I prepare this M.O.M. book (support @drchristinahibbert.com). I hope to include as many personal experiences from moms like you as possible.

 

4) Stay tuned! For email updates on the M.O.M. progress and opportunities, please subscribe, above, and include your email on the survey!

 

 

That’s all for now!

 

I am grateful to each of you for taking the time to help me with this important and exciting project. I am doing it in honor of mothers everywhere, who continually astound me with their unending ability to show up every single day and love greatly.Mothers are simply amazing! Give yourselves a hug from me!

 

Questions? Leave a comment below or shoot me an email! support@drchristinahibbert.com

 

 

 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
“Choose to grow” with my bestselling, award-winning memoir, This is How We Grow!
Available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

 

 

 

My new book, available on Amazon.com!

 “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise“ is

“…Enlightening and empowering…” ~Publisher’s Weekly

Order online at Norton.com, AmazonBarnes & NobleTarget.com, or Walmart.com, or visit your local bookseller today!

 

"Who Am I Without You?" 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #book #selfesteem #breakup #divorce

Build true self-worth, confidence, and love with “Who Am I Without You.”
Available now at
TargetAmazonBarnes & NobleNew Harbinger, or your local bookseller!

 

 

Join my “This is How We Grow” 30-Day Personal Growth Plan! 

 

"This is How We Grow" FREE 30-Day Personal Growth Plan! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #personalgrowth #goals

 

 

 

Register, just below, for INSTANT ACCESS to my FREE, 4-part series on “Essential Oils for Emotional Health, Hormones, Family Sleep, & Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood!” And subscribe to my “Motherhood Essentials” newsletter for tips, recipes, and how-to’s on using essential oils for your family’s health and wellness!

 

 

 

Learn more about how you can be part of my NEW “Motherhood Essentials” Leadership Team and work directly with me! Join us as I mentor and teach you how to promote family health, happiness, and wellness through the incredible benefits of essential oils. For more details, click below!

 

Take my FREE Webinar, “Intro to Women’s Emotions,” or register for my 3-part Webinar Course on “Women’s Emotions: Caring for your Brain, Hormones, and Mental Health to Overcome, Become & Flourish!’

Introduction to Women's Emotions- What you were never taught about your brain, hormones, & mental health! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

 

 

 

Watch my “Postpartum Couples” DVD FREE, online!

Click here for details.

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  Let’s Connect! 

SUBSCRIBE, above, “Like” me on Facebook Dr. Christina HibbertThis Is How We Grow, & follow me on TwitterPinterest, & Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Sleep Better (part 2 of BONUS chapter)

 

Motherhood Reality Check: It’s Hard! and I’m Improving

It’s time for a reality check.

It seems with every transition (end of school, summer break, back to school, holidays), we moms have to reconfigure life and reevaluate where we are and where we hope to be. At least, that’s what I do, and I’ve found it helpful to stop for a moment and “get real” with myself during these times. It’s hard to reconfigure and reevaluate all the time, but it’s the process that ultimately leads us to the kind of motherhood “success” we each desire, after all.

As I’ve been on “tour” talking with moms across the US about my forthcoming book, “Mastery Of Motherhood,” I’ve been extra-aware of my own mom reality. Hearing other moms share their thoughts, stresses, worries, fears, and realities about their motherhood experiences has reminded me, once again, that we’re not so different, we moms. We share the same burdens and rejoice in the same joys.

Today, I thought I’d share a few of my “reality checks” in hopes you can relate. Perhaps it might show you some aspect of motherhood you haven’t considered before. Perhaps it might simply remind you you’re not alone. Hopefully, it will show you you’re doing better than you think.

Summer vacation in Oceanside, with a few of my kids. I love vacations!

 

Motherhood Reality: It’s hard! AND I’m Improving!

The following 5 truths are my current “mom reality.”

1) My kids/family/home are my greatest stressors.

I know. This shouldn’t be an epiphany to me. I should know this, should have always known this, right? But I haven’t! This epiphany came last year and was a true “aha!” moment: “My kids and husband and home responsibilities are my greatest stressor? What?! Hmm. Yeah. That makes sense!” I’m superb at helping others see clearly, but apparently not very quick with should-be-obvious realizations when they apply to myself.

I always told myself other things could account for my stress and burnout, but not my precious home and family. Why not? Because, I now admit, admitting this would make me feel like a “bad” mom/wife. So not true. I’d always thought it was my work responsibilities that made life stressful, like if I could just choose not to help others or do what I do for work I’d be without the tremendous stress I so often feel. Not so. And realizing the reality that my family is stressful doesn’t make me a bad mom. It makes me a normal mom!

Now I freely admit it, shouting from top of my computer monitor, “MY KIDS AND HOME AND HUSBAND ARE MY GREATEST STRESSORS!” And you know what else? I love them anyway. I accept this challenge of being a mom every day when I wake up and do it all over again, and I love that I get to choose over and over again to embrace the stress and mess and let it be, for that’s what motherhood is.

This is reality, and it’s hard, and never-ending, and messy, and makes me crazy and exhausted and burned out. And that is my “normal.” It’s the normal of every mom, isn’t it? AND it’s crazy, beautiful, full, overflowing, abundant life. This is life, and I am grateful.

The whole fam, at our 3rd son’s graduation, May 2017. “May-hem” (as I call it) is SO stressful, but it’s all worth it for memories like these!

2) Being “Mom” IS exhausting AND never-ending.

Every mom knows this, or will know this someday. I’ll say it again, “It’s HARD! It’s STRESSFUL!” Being a mother is the most exhausting work on the planet, I am sure, because it’s 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and then some! There may be fragmented breaks here and there, but most of the time moms are on call, go-go, busy, busy, and just plain worn-out.

The truth is we moms not only have the physical responsibilities for feeding and bathing and clothing our children; we have the emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual responsibility for them. Lately, there have been a lot of emotions running high in our home (with 5 adolescents and one that thinks she’s a teen, it’s easy to see why). It’s all I can do to collapse into bed at the end of a very long bedtime routine (because that’s when teens actually want to talk–at night, right before bed), having listened to each child’s problems and tried to offer the best advice and support and love, only to sleep a few hours and wake up at 5:30 or 6 to start it all over again. It’s exhausting! But again, it’s worth it, right? Otherwise, we wouldn’t do all we do.

If we can simply admit, “It’s exhausting and never-ending,” we won’t be fighting ourselves trying to pretend it’s something that it’s not. Doing so has helped me tremendously over the years–to feel less overwhelmed and to take more breaks, naps, and even to get away when I can, because I know it will replenish me, at least for a time, before I come back and wear myself out all over again.

Loving my baby, but exhausted. This is reality.

3) “Being mom” can be incredibly boring.

There, I said it. I feel bored “being mom,” more often than I should.

When they were little and I was a stay-at-home mom, it was hardest for sure. I did my best to do crafts and play toys or go to the park or Target—you know, all the things we moms do to entertain the kids (but really ourselves) when they’re young. But I’ve never been the best “play on the floor with my kids” mom, and it was a struggle.

Now, I’m usually just trying to keep up with my family, but in the summer especially, and even some school day afternoons when I’m home and my kids are busy doing what they’re doing, I feel bored. Allow me to rephrase that: I feel like I’m always waiting, and that, to me, is incredibly boring.

I’m waiting to know everyone’s schedules so I can fit myself in. I’m waiting for the older ones to get home so we can attempt a family dinner. I’m waiting for the youngest to come in begging for a friend to play, or for that friend to get picked up, or for my husband to get home, or etc, etc, etc. Waiting. Boring.

It’s the worst in the summer, when they’re all home and they’re bored, and I feel like I can’t start anything or do anything for myself because inevitably the moment I begin, someone will come in and “Mom, I’m bored,” or “Mom, I need a ride,” or “Mom, can I…?” or “Mom, what should I do?” So, I feel lazy and unproductive and like I’ve “given up” in the summer, because in a way I have so I don’t get frustrated being “interrupted” every 15 minutes.

But in a way, I’ve also reminded myself that I can use a little “bored” down time, just as my kids can. My go-to response for my kids’ “I’m bored-s” is, “Good! I’m glad you’re bored. It’s good for you. It means you have the opportunity to figure some things out for yourself!” The same applies to me.

I learned last year, coping with a very long concussion recovery, that I need more down time than I allow myself, and that it really is good to feel “bored” sometimes. I admit, I used to judge other moms and say, “That mom is bored? Must be nice! I don’t have time to be bored!” Now, I repent: “Forgive me, moms everywhere for my judgmental ways!”

Motherhood inherently includes some “boredom,” and that’s just the way it is. It’s okay to feel bored. Especially if we can use it to rest, relax, nap, or get creative and actually turn our boredom into some new experience or memorable memory.

Motherhood is hard, but on the whole, oh how beautiful! A favorite moment recently, my son getting his mission call to FIJI!

4) It’s easy to get completely burned out “being mom,” and it’s up to us to prevent this by prioritizing self-care.

The past year or two, I’ve been feeling really burned out, mom-wise. My husband has been feeling the same. We’ve been at this parenting thing now for just about 21 years! I now have three who’ve graduated from high school, and it’s hard in a different way to send them off into their futures, but once they’re off I always realize, “Hey, wait. I’m not done. I still have 3 at home!”

Parenting and mothering is forever, and that’s a fact. It can feel easier in some seasons of motherhood than others, but it’s relentless on the whole. That’s why it’s crucial we watch out for signs of burnout so we can prevent or relieve ourselves from such a state.

Over the years, I’ve become progressively better at recognizing when I’m getting burned out and preventing it. I can tell, when I’m way too tired, always feeling overwhelmed, constantly thinking, “I can’t handle this,” and/or saying things like, “You kids are driving me crazy!” that I’m either on the road to burnout, or I’ve already arrived. I’ve had to practice and learn how to stop. How to check in with myself and answer honestly. How to fulfill my needs and practice self-care, for, I have learned, self-care is a form of self-love, and self-love is crucial to fully loving others.

How can you tell if you’re burned out? Some simple questions to start: “Am I getting a relatively “normal” night of sleep most nights?” “Am I feeling emotionally ‘well’? Or am I struggling emotionally?” “Am I practicing self-care?” “Am I regularly feeling overwhelmed, stressed to my limits, completely exhausted, like I desperately need a break, and/or feeling like I just don’t want to be here?” All of these questions can help you determine if you might be getting to the level of burnout. If you find you are close or already there, then it’s crucial to stop and practice self-care immediately, today, right now! Here are some simple ways to begin practicing self-care, today.

5) I’m way too hard on myself, and most moms are, too.

Over the years, as I’ve counseled and spoken to moms, and as I’ve been doing this “Mastery Of Motherhood” tour lately, the same issue keeps coming up, clearly: We moms are harder on ourselves than anyone could ever be on us, or on themselves.

Why? Because we care. A lot. We are doing the most important work of all, and we want to do it “right.” We want our children to grow up to succeed, to feel loved, to become all we see in them! But, in case you haven’t gotten this point yet, it’s hard being Mom! It’s truly the hardest work on the earth.

We are tireless in our efforts to guide, save, advise, teach, learn from, and love our children. It is endlessly demanding when they are little. We have so little control as they get older. Our hearts break for them over and over. We lose sleep, our minds race with worried thoughts.

And I’m no exception. It’s something I have to work on every single day. Forgiving my flaws. Letting go of the blame baggage and guilt trips. Reminding myself I’m truly working my hardest to do my very best; AND my best isn’t always going to be perfect, or sometimes even good enough, for my children, but that’s okay, because that’s just the way it is. Forgiveness—of them, of myself, from them, from myself, from God—is the only way to master motherhood, and ourselves, in the end.

You can do this, too. Forgive yourself for all you feel you haven’t done “right,” and commit to simply do your best–today, each day, moment by moment. Take time to discover your current “motherhood reality check,” and then go easy on yourself. See how far you have come, how much you have learned. You really are doing so much better than you think.

 

 

 

For more tips, skills, and tools, listen to Motherhood Radio here, on SoundCloudiTunes, or watch on YouTube!

New episodes weekly!

 

 

 

 

Be part of my NEW book, “Mastery of Motherhood” by inviting me to come to you!

In preparation for my newest book, I am heading on tour and taking my “Motherhood” radio/TV showwith me!

I’m looking for women’s and/or mom’s groups, conferences, gatherings, clubs–you name it–to invite me to speak, now through Jan 2018. In return, I ask that your group members talk with me about “Mastery of Motherhood”–about the stresses and successes of “being mom,” and what you most need from a Motherhood book, and that you record a radio episode with me, too! Everyone learns. Everyone has a great time. Everyone wins!

Learn more here, or click the icon above!

 

 

 

My new book, available on Amazon.com!

 “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise“ is

“…Enlightening and empowering…” ~Publisher’s Weekly

Order online at Norton.com, AmazonBarnes & NobleTarget.com, or Walmart.com, or visit your local bookseller today!

 

 

 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
“Choose to grow” with my bestselling, award-winning memoir, This is How We Grow!
Available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

 

 

 

 

"Who Am I Without You?" 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #book #selfesteem #breakup #divorce

Build true self-worth, confidence, and love with “Who Am I Without You.”
Available now at
TargetAmazonBarnes & NobleNew Harbinger, or your local bookseller!

 

 

 

 

 

Register, just below, for INSTANT ACCESS to my FREE, 4-part series on “Essential Oils for Emotional Health, Hormones, Family Sleep, & Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood!” And subscribe to my “Motherhood Essentials” newsletter for tips, recipes, and how-to’s on using essential oils for your family’s health and wellness!

 

 

 

Learn more about how you can be part of my NEW “Motherhood Essentials” Leadership Team and work directly with me! Join us as I mentor and teach you how to promote family health, happiness, and wellness through the incredible benefits of essential oils. For more details, click below!

 

Take my FREE Webinar, “Intro to Women’s Emotions,” or register for my 3-part Webinar Course on “Women’s Emotions: Caring for your Brain, Hormones, and Mental Health to Overcome, Become & Flourish!’

Introduction to Women's Emotions- What you were never taught about your brain, hormones, & mental health! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

 

 

Watch my “Postpartum Couples” DVD FREE, online!

Click here for access.

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Let’s Connect! 

SUBSCRIBE, above, “Like” me on Facebook Dr. Christina HibbertThis Is How We Grow, & follow me on TwitterPinterest, & Instagram

 

 

 

 

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Who Am I – in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood? Identity, Full Circle (#PSIBlog Hop 2016)

"Who Am I" in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood?- Identity, Full Circle. www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PSIBlog Hop 2016 #ppd #pregnancy #postpartum #motherhood #identity

“Who am I, now that you are here?” It’s the title of a song I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression, after my first son was born. For me, PPD was about so much more than feeling sad or anxious or depressed. It was about who I thought I’d been, who I was now, and who I would become.

Identity is at the core of becoming a mother. It’s an essential part of this experience, from pre-conception until the end, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that our identity—as individuals, women, and mothers—will ever evolve through our mothering journey.

 

 

Pre-Motherhood Identity
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. I envisioned my little "Who Am I?" Identity in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood #PSIBlog Hop 2016; www.DrchristinaHibbert.comfamily (“definitely not six kids,” I’d told my mom. Having been the oldest of 6 , I would never be up for that kind of responsibility. Never say never.). I believed I knew myself well, and I could see the kind of mother I would be. I would play with my children, making memories with smiles, showing them the world, staying home full-time and loving it. They would be my life, I would be theirs, and life would be good. How little I understood of what lay ahead–of how this vision would be tested, of how I would be tested, pushed, pulled and often shoved–pruned, uprooted, and planted again, and again.

 

Before that tiny being is laid in our arms, do we have any idea of what will be?

Loving my baby, but exhausted. This is reality.

Loving my baby, but exhausted. This is reality.

Can we comprehend how much love will flood our heart? Do we sense the tiniest hint of the pain and struggle we will endure—physically, yes, but emotionally, even more so? Are we in any way prepared for the journey for which we are unknowingly enlisting–a journey of self-doubt, self-discovery, and self-transformation like no other?

 

 

Pregnancy Identity

The joy and misery of pregnancy hint at what’s coming, but we don’t realize it, do we? All I knew was my body was changing, my sense of attractiveness lost; I had to pee far too often and slept propped on 5 strategically-placed pillows to avoid acid reflux.

With my first and second pregnancies, I had pains no doctor could explain.

When my first was born, I think I was in shock. You can see a glimpse of it by my mouth as I listen to him cry.

When my first was born, I think I was in shock. You can see a glimpse of it by my mouth as I listen to him cry.

They’d wipe me out for days. Two years later, they could finally tell me what it was–gallstones–and I finally found relief through surgery.

Near the end of my first pregnancy, I couldn’t wait for the baby to finally be out! All we can think of is how uncomfortable, exhausted, and “done” we are. Little do we know what’s just around the bend. A breach delivery should have tipped me off. He came out bottom first, and as I say, “He’s been giving me trouble ever since”—haha! But the trouble was just beginning. And so was the growth.

A growing body and soon-to-be growing family hopefully grow our mind and spirit, too. Pregnancy is the true beginning, the reality, the point of no return when we start to question who we once were, who we are becoming, and who we will be. As our baby grows inside, we hopefully grow internally, too, allowing questions as they naturally arise: “What will this baby be like?” “What will our family be like?” “What will I be like as a mother?” We hope for the best and expect it–at least, the first time. Perhaps in later pregnancies, we still hope for the best, yet we know all too well the challenges we may face once our little one is finally here.

 

 

Postpartum Identity

Identity in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood: Full Circle #PSIBlog Hop 2016 www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

With baby #2, I thought I was better, and I was. But I still ended up with postpartum depression. (My 2 year old is being a dinosaur here.)

I had four very different childbirth experiences; you’d think they’d yield four very different postpartum experiences. No such luck: postpartum depression every time.

Identity in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PSIBlog Hop 2016

Beautiful baby girl was so loved! I only wish the depression and anxiety could have stayed away.

The first time, I penned the words, “Who am I now that you are here?” and put them to music. I’d purposefully dream of my beautiful boy at night, like I used to when I was dating my husband. But I no longer felt like a “me;” instead, I was a perpetual “we.” He was colicky, and I was not sleeping. We moved in with my parents and lived for 3 months on their living room floor because I had no clue what else to do. The first time I left to the store for a pacifier, alone, I felt like I’d broken out of jail.

With my second beautiful boy, I convinced myself I was better. I knew what postpartum depression was. I had my plan and support team. I was ready. My journals betray me, however, with the words “I want to run away. Not forever. Just for a while, so I can feel like me again.”

With the third–a beautiful baby girl–postpartum anxiety was thrown in the mix, just for kicks. And the fourth? That’s a long story. I wrote an entire book about it, but the Cliff Notes version is that after inheriting our two nephews

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids, I posed us for a Christmas card pic. Can you see the fear in my eyes as I pulled myself together to be the mom everyone needed me to be?

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids, I posed us for a Christmas card pic. Can you see the fear in my eyes as I pulled myself together to be the mom everyone needed me to be?

when my sister and brother-in law died, giving birth three weeks later, and going from three to six kids, needless to say, this postpartum experience was so much more than depression or anxiety. It was grief and trauma and desperation to help my family heal–to be strong enough to bear it all and to do it well. This postpartum experience was giving it all I had so I could be there for my children ages 11, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 0, even though my world and identity had been ripped to shreds. I was re-building my family, but really, I was re-building myself. “I’ll never fulfill my dream of being an author or speaker. How could I? I have six children! I am not made to handle this like other mothers are.” The things I told myself! Talk about self-doubt; at times, it was more like self-loathing—a sure sign of depression, once more.

Our postpartum experiences are so varied between us, and they also vary within

On vacation, in the midst of PPD, after baby #3. I do love this pic, because I felt happy for a little while.

On vacation, in the midst of PPD, after baby #3. I do love this pic, because I felt happy for a little while.

us. Though the common denominator–a periantal mood or anxiety disorder–is there, the manifestation of that denominator is never exactly the same. As we struggle and overcome and heal and move forward, we change. We grow. We become. And we find it’s the challenges we’ve faced—like PPD—that have made us who we are becoming.

 

 

Mom of Young Children, Teens, Young Adults Identity

Currently, I’m in the midst of all three of these mothering phases. With two in

After visiting my sisters' & other family members' gravesites, at the funeral of OJ's grandfather, we tried to stay enthusiastic about life even in the midst of so much death.

After visiting my sisters’ & other family members’ gravesites, at the funeral of OJ’s grandfather, we tried to stay enthusiastic about life even in the midst of so much death.

college, two in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary, I feel like I’m just trying to keep up most of the time. The busyness, the activities, the emotional needs, the school projects! So much to do, so little time, and still, so many opportunities for personal growth.

I have faced non-postpartum depression and anxiety. I have overcome new traumas, losses, and grief. I have experienced so many trials and lows, and yet I have experienced so many joys, and so much love. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The very things that break us down ends up being the stimulus for unfathomable new growth.

As our little ones become not-so-little anymore, our identity changes again, especially as they begin to form their own identities as teenagers and young adults. It’s a new version of postpartum–watching them individuate and leave the nest, and it can pull at our heartstrings, especially when we see them flail or fail. It’s a time of wondering, “Who am I as a mother now—especially if they don’t seem to need me like they once did?”

Questioning brings answers, however, and if we are brave enough to face those answers, we will find our role as a mother isn’t so much fading as shifting once again. The opportunity for a new identity–one of the supporter, advisor, and simply lover of our children presents itself, and we begin to see ourselves evolve as our children do the same. In doing so, we just might find a new sense of freedom we haven’t had since our journey began—knowing our children are their own beings, and we are merely here to support and love them.

 

 

Mothering Identity is Ever-evolving

As mothers, our identity is ever-changing and, if we are willing to continually

Later years are an opportunity to develop new parts of our identity--especially our marriage and relationships.

Later years are an opportunity to develop new parts of our identity–especially our marriage and relationships.

examine ourselves, will be every evolving in positive, joyful ways. Our postpartum journey continues as we become grandmothers, as we nurture our own daughters and sons through their pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting journeys, as we share the wisdom we wish we’d known, and provide the support we wish we’d had. The gift of these new postpartum experiences is that we get to watch our grandchildren grow without the responsibility of being the parent, without the self-doubt that too often accompanies our own parenting journeys. We get to re-experience life through young, fresh eyes, and hopefully, find the joy we might have missed the first time around simply because we were too busy trying to figure it all out to stop and notice.

 

 

Full circle Back to “Me.”

And so we’ve come full circle. As we grow through motherhood, purposefully

Biking along the beach in Belize, with OJ. Gorgeous!

Biking along the beach in Belize, with OJ. Gorgeous!

seeking our truest self, pushing, learning, and taking our lessons in stride, we find we come back to the beginning, at the end. That’s what full circle means to me—coming back around to myself, and feeling more “me” than I ever have before.

 

 

What have your mothering identity changes been like? What’s been challenging for you? What lessons have you learned? How have you seen your experiences come “full circle?” Please leave a comment, below, and join the conversation!

 

 

  • If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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2016 PSI Blog Hop: Invitation: "Full Circle" www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

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Beyond Resolutions: Discover your New Year’s Vision

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Anxiety & Women: Hormones, Sleep & What You Can Do

Anxiety & Women-Hormones, Sleep & What You Can Do; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #anxiety #women #hormones #sleepIt’s 3:30 a.m. I was simply rolling over to fall back asleep, when my brain switched on like a 100-watt light bulb, and now I’m flooded with stress, worries, and thoughts of what I “need to get done” or about “my overwhelming life,” when I thought I’d put those thoughts to bed hours ago. I know I won’t fall back asleep. Still, I try. I try belly-breathing, then progressive muscle relaxation, then letting myself think for a while, to tire me out. Then, I pray. I pray for sleep. I pray that this knot of tension inside me will leave, that the fatigue my body is feeling will overpower the thoughts that hold me hostage. Finally, at 5 a.m., I get up and begin to type. It helps to get these thoughts out of me and maybe do some good for others in the process. Finally, I sneak down to the basement and exercise; I know it’s one of the best things I can do to not only distract my mind, but to provide much-needed energy for the day and hopefully later, the ability to finally rest.

 

This is anxiety, and trust me, it’s miserable. I don’t know why I haven’t written more about it before. That’s one thought that was spinning through my mind while I wasn’t sleeping this morning—Why haven’t I written about anxiety, when it’s the predominant symptom with which I struggle? When it’s one of the most common issues for all women, for all people? (Read “I am the FACE of DEPRESSION (& Anxiety): Overcoming the Stigma”)

 

 

Anxiety & Women

It’s not only my predominant symptom: “Anxiety disorders include phobias, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, and separation anxiety disorder, and are considered the most commonly occurring class of mental disorders (CDC 2015)” [2].”

 

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in women. Yes, more common than depression. Anxiety will affect one in three women throughout their lifetime [2], and often, depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Women are also twice as likely as men to develop an anxiety disorder, and symptoms tend to appear earlier in life for women [1].

 

 

What is Anxiety?

So, what, exactly, is anxiety? Clients have described it to me as, “I’m on edge all the time.” “My mind won’t shut off.” “I can’t stop thinking about everything I need to do” or “worrying about everything that could Anxiety & Women: Hormones, Sleep & What you Can Do; www.DrChristinaHibbert.comhappen.” “I can’t relax;” “I’m on edge all the time.” Or, I described it, above, “I can’t sleep even though I’m exhausted: My mind is holding me prisoner.”

 

Anxiety is, first and foremost, a feeling. We need anxiety to warn us of danger or to make us to take action when something needs to get done. If something is wrong and we feel worried, stressed, or afraid, anxiety helps set off the sympathetic nervous system, raising our heart rate and blood pressure and setting off stress hormones, like cortisol, in the brain, preparing us for action, telling us, “You need to do something about this!” When we take action, or when we are able to relieve the stressor or resolve the situation, our mind is supposed to shut off, our parasympathetic nervous system returning our body to a calmer state, heart rate slowing to normal, stress hormones subsiding.

 

What is an “Anxiety Disorder?”

Chronic anxiety, like an anxiety disorder, however, comes from an overactive stress response. Instead of resuming a calmer state once the threat has been overcome, the parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t kick in for those with an anxiety disorder. Instead, the mind stays on, keeping the body on high alert, even when there is no actual present threat. This keeps cortisol coursing through the body, blood pressure high, and heart rate working over time. This, understandably, makes it very difficult to relax, for the brain to shut off, to sleep. In turn, poor sleep and little relaxation contribute to anxiety and depression, among other things, and the cycle continues. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!

 

Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several forms of anxiety disorder, including: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (intense, pervasive anxiety), Panic Disorder (including panic attacks), Specific Phobias (or extreme fears), Social Phobia (or fear of social situations), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, consisting of obsessive, stress-filled thoughts and compulsions to alleviate the stress), and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, with a traumatic trigger, followed by re-experiencing the event, like in nightmares of flashbacks, numbing/avoidance of things associated with the event, and heightened state of arousal).

 

Additionally, as mentioned above, anxiety may co-occur with major depression or other mental illnesses.

 

Anxiety & Hormones

In women, anxiety is also a common component of hormonal shifts, like those in pregnancy, postpartum, with PMS, PMDD, or in perimenopause. In fact, many women experience the most anxiety during the years leading up to menopause; and many of these women have never experienced anxiety before!

 

In pregnancy and postpartum, anxiety is common, as well, with approximately 6% of pregnant and 10% of postpartum women experiencing a perinatal anxiety disorder. Approximately 10% will experience pregnancy or postpartum panic disorder (with associated panic attacks), 3-5% will experience pregnancy or postpartum OCD, and 9% will experience postpartum PTSD, usually following a traumatic childbirth.

 

Unfortunately, thanks to society’s “myths of motherhood,” many believe it’s “normal” for moms to feel anxious or worried, so too many mothers live with unnecessary anxiety that can make life miserable. The truth is constant anxiety is not normal, and it’s important for women to recognize their symptoms so they can seek and receive treatment to overcome the anxiety and to heal.

 

 

Anxiety, Hormones & Sleep

Anxiety is often associated with insomnia or other sleep issues. Again, this is a vicious cycle, as lack of sleep continues the cortisol and adrenaline in the body that only make anxiety worse, and vice Anxiety & Women: Hormones, Sleep & What You Can Do www.DrChristinaHibbert.comversa.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are much more likely report sleep issues than men, one reason being the many hormonal shifts women experience premenstrually, in pregnancy and postpartum, and during perimenopause. A few days or a week before a woman’s period starts, she may find she can’t fall asleep or, more commonly, can’t stay asleep, as I described above. As I’ve studied the link between sleep, anxiety, and hormones it’s become clear: women are much more vulnerable to sleep disturbance during times of shifting hormones, and each month those hormones shift twice! First, there’s a drop in Estrogen around day 14, or around ovulation, and then the bigger drop in Estrogen and Progesterone occurs a few days to a week before her period starts. This can make sleep feel impossible for women who are sensitive to these shifts, with terrible sleep one or more weeks every month. (For more on this, read myWomen’s Emotions blog series, parts 1, 2, and 3.)

 

What can You Do for Anxiety?

You don’t have to suffer, living with anxiety. Treatments are available and highly successful.

 

  • The “gold standard” for anxiety treatment is a combination of anti-anxiety medication (including antidepressants, which also reduce anxiety) and psychotherapy. The medication works to correct the overactive brain chemistry while therapy teaches techniques and skills for how to manage daily symptoms. Either one of these treatments on their own will likely be beneficial, as well, research shows. (More on “Antidepressant or Not?” here.)

 

 

  • Learning relaxation skills, like mindfulness, deep breathing, and meditation are also beneficial in treating anxiety. Research shows these self-help techniques allow you to train your brain and body to let go and relax. Additionally, anything that helps relieve tension and stress can help–like massage, naps, quiet time, a hot bath, reading, watching a television program (not a scary one!), or time with friends and family.

 

  • Exercise is another helpful treatmenteither alone or as an addition to these other options. The benefits of exercise are proven and extensive, and for anxiety, exercise can not only work out the tension and give the mind a way to let go; it also helps the body become tired, so you’re more likely to sleep better. Though some who struggle with anxiety find cardiovascular exercise difficult, because it may mimic the feeling of anxiety (heart rate up, shortness of breath), lifting weights, doing yoga or Pilates, or very mild walking have shown incredible benefits in rAnxiety & Women: Hormones, Sleep & What You Can Do www.DrChristinaHibbert.comeducing symptoms of anxiety. (Read more about this, as well as strategies to make exercise work for you, in my new book, “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise!” [See Coupon to save 25%, below!])

 

  • Realize anxiety is not you! Then, FEEL the anxiety. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned over the years is that I am not the anxiety. It is a feeling in my body, not me. Too often, anxiety takes over like it’s running the show—the show being your life! And too often, we let it run the show. We feel like we are the anxiety. We fight feeling it because it’s so uncomfortable and we don’t know how to handle it. Or, at least, we think we don’t. One thing you can try is to sit and FEEL the anxiety. Notice where it is in your body. Breathe as you feel it and recognize it is not you. I find it helpful to imagine the anxiety is slightly in front of me as I lean my body away from it. It reminds me I am in charge of my life; my emotions are not. As we FEEL powerful emotions, like anxiety, they truly lose their power. (Read How to FEEL Powerful Emotions & watch the related 3-Minute Therapy video, here.)

 

  • Treat the sleep issues to treat the anxiety. If your sleep is severely affected by anxiety, it may be better to start by treating the sleep. Temporary sleep aids, including melatonin supplements, can help you finally get some rest, and just getting some sleep can help the anxiety begin to decrease. CBT can also help in treat the thoughts associated with sleep disturbances. Sometimes, there may be another sleep disorder, mental illness, or physical illness in play that’s causing your symptoms, so it’s always best to get a full physical evaluation first and talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. (Read Sleep Better, Cope Better: 6 Insomnia Causes & Cures, here.)

 

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is worth looking into for perimenopausal/ menopausal-related anxiety, and some women benefit from hormone therapies for perinatal anxiety disorders, PMS and PMDD. It can be tricky getting hormone therapies right, however, and many women are sensitive to hormone-based treatments, which may make symptoms worse, at least at first. It is therefore important that you work with a knowledgeable doctor about the best therapies for you. S/he can help monitor your mind and body’s response to hormone treatments as well as your progress. It may take some time to get it right, but when you find a treatment that works, it’s well worth it.

 

  • Avoid/limit caffeine and other stimulants. If it’s your routine to wake up with a heavy dose of caffeine and/or to keep it pumping throughout the day, you may need to tackle that habit first. Caffeine and other stimulants only exacerbate anxiety. If you want the anxiety to diminish, first the caffeine has to vanish.

 

 

 

You can beat Anxiety!

Bottom line: you don’t have to live with constant anxiety. Yes, it will take work. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it will take patience–with yourself, and with others. But anxiety is not a normal part of life—for women, for moms, for men, for dads, for kids, for anyone.

 

If you’re suffering from any form of anxiety, please seek help. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider and ask what treatments might be best for you. And if you’re not finding the right answers, keep searching and asking until you do.

 

Don’t let anxiety get the better of you. Start right now. Breathe. Deeply. In and out. And again–in and out. Then, repeat after me, “This anxiety is not me. If I seek help and let it in, I can, and will overcome this anxiety, one breath, one moment, one step at a time.”

 

 

Do you struggle with anxiety? What is most helpful for you in treating symptoms of anxiety? What lessons have you learned that you can share with others experiencing the same thing? Please leave a comment, below, and let us know.

My new book, available on Amazon.com!

My NEW book is almost here!  “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise
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Beyond Resolutions: Discover your New Year’s Vision

What I’ve Learned about Personal Growth from a Decade of New Year’s Themes

 

 

 

[1] Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2016). Anxiety and Women: Facts. 

[2] Hibbert, C. (2016). 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise. W.W. Norton Publishing: New York, NY.

“Mom Mental Health” through Exercise: Pregnancy, Postpartum & Beyond!

Mom Mental Health Through Exercise-Pregnancy, Postpartum, & Beyond! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

Childbearing Years Mental Health & Exercise

The years of childbearing and parenting young children can be some of the most challenging. For one, the hormonal shifts that accompany pregnancy and childbirth can throw many women into a struggle with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, like postpartum depression, and this can significantly impact her partner/spouse, children, and the entire family. Men also experience shifts in emotional functioning after a baby is born and can develop Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND).

Lack of sleep is another issue that’s common in the childbearing years, with most parents fighting off fatigue and exhaustion on a daily basis. Time is suddenly consumed with caregiving, providing for, and spending time with children and family, in addition to previous work and personal responsibilities. It’s a season of high stress and no sleep that can take its toll on a mother or father’s mental health.

 

Mom Mental Health: The Facts

To better understand the unique mental health needs of the childbearing years, let’s look at the facts:

  • Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are a particularly vulnerable time in a woman’s life. In fact, a woman is thirty times more likely to experience a psychotic episode in the days immediately following childbirth than any other time in her life. This shows just how stressful and challenging the childbearing years can be.
  • Postpartum mental health falls on a spectrum, with disorders ranging from mild to severe. On the mild end, up to 80% of women will experience some change in their emotional healthMother Holding Infant --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbisduring or after childbirth. This is most commonly referred to as “The Baby Blues,” and typically goes away without treatment. In the middle of the spectrum, we see depression and anxiety disorders. Up to 15% of women will have depression in pregnancy, and as many as one in five will experience Postpartum Depression. Approximately 6% of pregnant and 10% of postpartum women suffer from an anxiety disorder, while 3-5% experience pregnancy/postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and 1-6% experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (PSI, 2014). On the severe end of the spectrum, 1 in 1000 women will experience postpartum psychosis, a serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness that requires immediate treatment to protect both the mother and the baby.
  • If untreated, pregnancy/postpartum mental illness can become chronic. Maternal depression affects approximately 10% of mothers, after the postpartum period, each year. Only about half seek and receive treatment, and it is estimated that at least one in ten U.S. children has a depressed mother in any given year (Ertel at al, 2007). Maternal depression is one of the strongest predictors of future behavioral and cognitive problems in the developing child (Canadian Pediatric Society, 2004).
  • It’s estimated as many as 10% of fathers worldwide, and 14% in the U.S., experience Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) (Paulson, 2010), which can also become chronic if untreated. Some estimate these numbers to be even higher, considering many do not discuss their symptoms nor reach out for help.
  • About half of men who have depressed partners are also depressed. When both parents are depressed, it can have a significant impact on parenting, bonding, and the overall development and wellbeing of the baby and other children.

 

The Benefits & Challenges of Exercise in the Childbearing Years

As you can glean from the facts above, if we want healthy children, we need healthy mothers and fathers. Considering the high risk of mental illness during the childbearing years, it’s crucial for parents to be Mom Mental Health Through Exercise; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #pregnancy #postpartum #ppd #mentalhealthprepared. Receiving education, like the statistics above, is a first step, and understanding the treatment options is a second.

Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, are considered the go-to treatment for maternal and paternal mental illness. Psychotherapy, it’s now shown, should be considered a first-line treatment for postpartum depression (Stuart et al, 2003), which makes sense, since it can also teach skills and new coping strategies for the stressors of parenthood. Considering the drastic effects of untreated maternal depression on the child, antidepressants are often recommended for moderate to several maternal mental illness. Research has shown that antidepressants and some other psychotropic medications are considered relatively safe for use in pregnancy and while breastfeeding (Chad et al., 2013). Yet, medication use in the childbearing years can be a tough choice for a pregnant/postpartum mother and her partner; they may fear the risk to the infant, and some mothers who do take medications, knowing it’s the right thing, still harbor terrible guilt about it.

 

Exercise as Treatment!

Exercise is a valuable preventative and treatment method for mental health in pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.Mom Mental Health Through Exercise: Pregnancy, Postpartum, & Beyond! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

  • Research has shown exercise can significantly elevate mood in pregnant and postpartum women and should be considered a first-line treatment option, especially since so many mothers worry about the risks of antidepressants (Daly et al., 2007).
  • It’s not only safe for moms and dads; it’s safe for babies and children, too.
  • Exercise also promotes physical and mental health in pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting, and thus it’s truly a win-win.

 

Barriers to Exercise in Motherhood

Many parents do not exercise, however, and for many reasons. Becoming a parent shifts priorities from self-focus to child-focused. While this is no doubt a good thing, many parents give up their own physical and mental fitness as a result. Some feel, with such a full life, physical activity is no longer as important as it once was.

Of course, lack of sleep can also impact motivation and ability to exercise, as well as the heavy responsibilities new parents face. Finally, having a baby or young children can make it tough for many parents to find the time and space to exercise.

 

Tips for Exercise in the Childbearing Years

It is possible to maintain a regular exercise program with babies and young children at home. With six kids of my own, trust me, I know. And the good news is that developing an exercise program now will not only benefit your physical and mental health; it will benefit your children, as well. Here are a few suggestions for how to make exercise work for you:

  • Involve your child in your exercise program. Put the baby in the sling and do squats or lunges. Place him in the bouncer and do a yoga video, making faces and interacting with him while you do. Use a stroller or sling and go for a walk. Research shows that stroller, or pram, walking is an excellent way to improve mental health with your baby.
  • Exercise during naptime. Babies typically enjoy a ride in their stroller or sling while they sleep, and you can benefit by getting out in the sun and moving your body, too.
  • Create a home exercise “studio.” This can help you cut your exercise time. During naps, head to your exercise area do a home video, lift free weights, or stretch.
  • Join a gym with babysitting included. I taught aerobics for years using the free babysitting, and my kids loved it!
  • Exercise together, as a family. Put the kids in the stroller or sling and go for a family walk at the end of a busy day. Great bonding time, and you’re modeling self-care, too.
  • Trade off. Couples can take turns watching the kids while the other exercises. My husband and I used to do this: he’d watch the kids while I went for a jog or did a Pilates video, and then he’d head to the gym to play basketball, while I stayed with the kids.
  • Involve friends. Meet at the park and take turns watching the kids while the other goes for a jog, or start a babysitting co-op, where each person takes a turn watching all the children, and rotate.
  • Little kids can workout “with” you. When my kids were very young, they used to stretch and do yoga with me, or follow along with my exercise video, or they’d ride their Big Wheel up and down the street, while I ran alongside. It’s a great way to instill in kids a love of exercise, too.

 

~Exclusive, editor-deleted excerpt from my brand new book, “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise” Coming April 2016, and available for pre-order TODAY on Norton.com (COUPON: save 25% plus free shipping with code HIBBERT) on Amazon & Barnes & Noble! Watch for more sneak peak excerpts, coming soon!

 

My new book, available on Amazon.com!

My NEW book is almost here!  “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise
Pre-Order on Norton.com and SAVE 25% plus free shipping, with the code HIBBERT,
 or order on Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

 

 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out my bestselling, award-winning memoir, This is How We Grow!
Available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

 

"Who Am I Without You?" 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #book #selfesteem #breakup #divorce

 My latest book, “Who Am I Without You,” is available now at
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Join my “This is How We Grow” 30-Day Personal Growth Plan! 

 

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Listen to my episode of  “Motherhood” radio, “How to Overcome and Mom Mental Health Crisis and (Eventually) Use it for Good”.  Listen on demand/download the episode at WebTalkRadio.net, and/or visit iTunes to subscribe.

Listen to "Motherhood" with Dr. Christina Hibbert! Each week on WebTalkRadio.net & iTunes! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #radio

 

 

 

 

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Related Posts/Articles:

New Year, New You! Top 6 Strategies for Personal Growth & Change

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Be of Good Chee

 

Perinatal Loss & Grief: Coping, Hoping & Healing Together (in honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day)

Perinatal Loss & Grief-Coping, Hoping & Healing Together www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #perinatalloss #grief #loss #pregnancy #postpartum #miscarriage #stillbirth #infantdeathToday is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a day for families to remember the loss of their baby. Whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death, the loss of a baby is one of the most difficult experiences a mother, father, and family can go through, and today is a day when we can all reach out in support, and love, as we remember, too. Tonight, at 7 pm, millions will light a candle to remember the lost babies. Will you light a candle with us?

This post is for all remembering their babies today, and each day, for all who are grieving, healing, and finding hope again. May these words buoy you up as you seek to cope with and heal from perinatal loss. May you feel my love for you!

 

Coping with Perinatal Loss

One thing that makes perinatal loss especially difficult is the many associated losses that accompany the loss of a baby. Not only has your baby died, but you may also experience:

  • The loss of the future–dreams, hopes, and what “could have been.”
  • A loss of innocence–knowing now how painful life can really be.
  • Loss of support–from friends, family, and even partners who just don’t understand the grief you feel.
  • Loss of confidence–doubt about your body, your habits, and your ability to cope. Loss of confidence in life, in others, and even in God.

Perinatal loss often feels like a “silent” loss, like you’re grieving alone and wondering why no one is feeling this devastation, this hole in the world. You may feel you’re all alone, isolated, like no one understands your pain, like you’ll never be whole again.

 

Allow me to say the words you need to hear, and I pray you’ll believe them:

1. “You’re not alone.” Perinatal loss is, unfortunately, all too common. According to research, more than a million miscarriages occur each year in the United States alone.[1] In 2006, there were 25, 972 reported stillbirths, and 28,509 reported infant deaths.[2] This means millions of women, men, couples, and families are grieving the loss of a child each year. Though you feel isolated in your experience and your grief, reach out. There are many who understand. You’re not alone.

 

2. “You have a right to feel devastated, to feel cheated, angry, depressed, fearful, overwhelmed with The Skills of Overcoming…Depression, Anxiety, PPD, Grief, Hormones, Stress, etc., etc.; www.DrChristinaHibbert.comgrief.” You have a right to feel however you feel–it’s part of grief, and it means you loved your baby. Let yourself feel what you feel.

 

3. “Many people really don’t understand your pain, and that is a horrible truth. But, many people can, and will, understand, if you let them in.” You may feel like nobody “gets it,” like your loss is trivialized or forgotten. Unfortunately, this is common. Many people don’t understand perinatal loss, and few who haven’t been through it really “get” it.  Even couples going through it together experience perinatal loss in unique, and often completely opposite ways. This may make you feel like even your partner doesn’t understand how you feel, that even he or she isn’t grieving the loss of your child as you are. Help them understand by bringing them into your world. Talk about your grief. Explain how you feel. Keep searching until you find that someone who truly understands. (Visit MISSFoundation.org to find support groups for perinatal loss.)

 

4. “As a mother, you’re likely to experience this loss more profoundly than even your partner will, because this baby was carried by you.” You knew this baby best, and often it can feel like no one cares but you. But, they do care. It’s just that you were closest to the baby. It makes sense you would grieve the most deeply. Grief is a sign of love, and you loved your child.

 

5. Pregnancy and postpartum loss not only affects mothers; it can have a significant impact on the father/partner, the couple’s relationship, other children, and the entire family system. Loss and grief have long been considered an individual process, but couples and families who turn together in times of perinatal grief will not only heal as individuals, they will strengthen the family, too.

 

6. Each will experience the loss and grieve in his or her own unique way. Mothers can feel alone in their grief process—like they carry the weight of grief for the family. Fathers/partners may isolate into work or activities to cope with grief, making it difficult for couples to come together and work through grief as a team. Siblings or other children are often forgotten in the grief process because parents are so overcome by their own grief. Thus, families often bear the stress of grief symptoms, with family members feeling isolated or like the family is pulling apart. Yet, families who FEEL together HEAL together (This is How We Grow). (Read “Dealing with Grief,” “Siblings & Grief” and “Children & Grief”). 

Watch my episode of Motherhood Radio, “Coping, Healing & Carrying On After Perinatal Loss,” on YouTube, here

 

Grieving the Loss of a Baby

How can one find hope again after perinatal loss? The first step is to grieve your loss. Until you grieve sufficiently, it will be challenging to fully heal. And until you fully heal, it’s tough to feel the hope you desire.

Grief is part of pregnancy and postpartum loss, and can have a wide range of emotional, physical, and mental symptoms, including: sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, numbness, fatigue, tightness in chest/throat, sleep disturbance, changes in appetite, restlessness, confusion, inability to concentrate, poor memory, and even experiences like hearing or seeing the deceased.

In fact, experts estimate there are over 100 symptoms of grief. That’s why it can feel so hard. We become overwhelmed with a horde of emotions and symptoms that leave us wondering, “How do I deal with my grief?”

Perinatal grief, like that after miscarriage or stillbirth, can be even more complex and unique. It often involves a sense of biological failure and a loss of self. It can be tough to process because, as we discussed above, the loss is often minimized by others, leaving mothers, fathers, and families feeling vulnerable. Loss in pregnancy and postpartum can also be accompanied by a loss of innocence, a knowing that death and painful loss are real and do happen. This can increase anxiety, worry, and fear in mothers and their family members, and these fears often carry over into future pregnancies as well. (Read Sharon Martin, LCSW’s post, “Healing Perinatal Loss“).

 

What is a family to do in times of perinatal loss and grief, to restore hope and to heal?

1)   First, know that your loss is real. It matters. And it is real and matters for your family members, too. Even if they feel or express their sense of loss in a different way, know that it matters to each of you.

 

2)   Know that grief is the body and mind’s healthy response to perinatal loss, and grief work is necessary to move forward. You must grieve your losses, and your family members must as well. Help children, partners, and other family members understand their need to grieve and give permission for family members to talk about or work through grief openly. (Read “How do I grieve? Grief work & TEARS)

 

3)   Remember it is normal for each of us to experience and work through grief in our own way. Try to respect your family member’s methods of grieving, but also try to turn together and bridge the gaps. (Read Dealing with Grief Together, www.DrChristinaHIbbert.comGrief & the Family“)

 

4)   Grieve individually AND grieve together, when possible. Grieving individually is important to help you process and experience your own grief reactions. But turning together and grieving as a family is powerful and can protect and strengthen family relationships. Mark the loss with a memorial or creative project, talk about it, cry together, ask, “How are you feeling today” and listen. Families who can do these things will not only heal; they can and will grow stronger through perinatal loss and grief. (Read “The 5 Stages of Grief“)

 

A few more things to remember about coping with and grieving Perinatal Loss…

1)   There is no set time frame for how long grief “should” last. However, actively working on grief in the ways described above or through counseling or other methods can help grief resolve more quickly.

 

2)   Honor special anniversaries and occasions. It helps process your grief to remember the people and things you have lost. Involve family, friends, and your children. (Read “Grief & Children: What you can Do?“)

 

3) As much as possible, turn toward your partner in times of perinatal grief. As we turn toward one another, instead of away, we offer one another the opportunity to grow as a couple, to heal, and to move on, together.

 

4)   Involve other adults if you feel unable to cope with parenting while you treat your grief. It can be tough for parents to maintain their parenting role in times of grief. If it gets to be too much, ask a family member or friend to step into a “parent” role for a while. This will give you time to heal yourself while insuring your other children are not left to cope alone.

 

5)   Seek grief counseling and support. Working with a grief counselor or perinatal loss support group can be incredibly powerful. It helps to have someone to guide you through and to remember you are not alone. (Visit MISS Foundation for info on support and counseling.)

 

 

Healing from Perinatal Loss & Finding Hope Again

Through grief work, turning toward one another, and relying upon family, friends, and other supports in your time of need, you can, and will heal from this loss.

This doesn’t mean you “get over it.” You never “get over” the loss of a loved one, especially a child. But you do move on. You carry on. You heal. You grow. And you begin to feel that seed of hope sprouting once more in your soul. Hope for the future, hope for seeing your little one again in that bright day, hope for Join PSI's Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop! www.DrChristinaHibbert.comfamily growth and healing, and hope that everything we go through we can also choose to “grow” through (from my memoir, “This is How We Grow).

So, today and everyday, remember your child. Honor your child. Talk about your child. And for all who wish to support a family through perinatal loss, I say the same: Remember their child. Honor their child. Talk about their child. Use the child’s name (if s/he has one). Remembering is healing. It is keeping them alive. (Read Sharon Martin, LCSW’s post, and “How to Support a Friend Grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss“).

Today, on this Day of Remembrance, remember. Remember all the children who have been lost. Remember all the parents who have survived and are carrying on. Tonight, at 7 pm, join families around the world in lighting a candle to remember the babies who’ve been lost (more info here). Remember, today. Love, today.

 

 

Please share your memories, feelings, and thoughts about this article in the comments, below. 

 

 

Listen to “Coping, Healing, & Carrying On After Perinatal Loss,” featuring Sharon Martin, LCSW, personal and professional expert on perinatal loss, on “Motherhood” radio. Listen on demand/download the episode at WebTalkRadio.net, or visit iTunes to subscribe to the show.

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Related Posts/Articles:

How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (guest post from Postpartum Progress blog)

Dealing with Grief

Siblings & Grief

How do I Grieve? Grief Work & Tears

Grief & the Family

Grief & Children: What You Should Know 

5 Skills of Overcoming…Grief, PPD, Stress, etc.

Understanding & Overcoming Anger

FEEL: How to cope with Powerful Emotions

Women & Depression: 12 Facts Everyone Should Know

Postpartum Depression Treatment: What Everyone Should Know

Postpartum Depression & Men

Women’s Emotions: Part 3, The Menstrual Cycle & Mood 

Relationship Rescue

15 Proven Ways to Stress Less

12 Facts on Depression & Medication 

References 

1 Ventura SJ, Curtin SC, Abma JC, Henshaw SK. Estimated pregnancy rates and rates of pregnancy outcomes for the United States, 1990-2008. National vital statistics reports; vol 60 no 7. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.

2 MacDorman MF, Kirmeyer SE, Wilson EC. Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 60 no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.

Depression & Motherhood: Facts, Help, & How to Overcome

Depression & Motherhood-Facts, Help, & How to Overcome, www.DrChristinaHibbert.comDepression affects one in five women throughout their lifetime and is especially prevalent during the childbearing years. Pregnancy, postpartum, hormone shifts, sleep depravation, and the pressure of parenting and raising children while also dealing with life changes and stress, all combine to make depression in motherhood common.

 

Motherhood & Depression

In fact, motherhood does make us more vulnerable to depression. While the lifetime rate for women and depression is about 20%, the majority of these episodes occur in the childbearing years. 10% of women experience depression in pregnancy, 15% experience postpartum depression, and if untreated, maternal depression can last for months or even years. It makes sense, doesn’t it, considering the extreme stress, lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, and life changes that occur in the mothering years?

There are various types of depression in motherhood, including major depression, which is a clinical disorder and includes symptoms like:

  • sadness, crying

    Singing & rocking my youngest, Sydney. Though I was able to breastfeed her, I introduced a bottle early on. I knew I needed it to help me survive PPD.

    Singing & rocking my youngest, Sydney. Though I was able to breastfeed her, I introduced a bottle early on. I knew I needed it to help me survive PPD.

  • fatigue
  • hopelessness
  • feeling worthless
  • changes in sleep or appetite
  • lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • guilt, frustration, and/or anxiety
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • possible suicidal thoughts

Dysthymia is a form of milder depression that persists most of every day for most days, for two years or more. Seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is also common in women of childbearing years, and is believed to be more common in women who are also vulnerable to PMS. Finally, situational depression may occur because of loss, change, or life stress. This type of depression may go away when the situation clears up, or it may persist, especially if it was never dealt with.

 

Hormones, Depression, & Motherhood

And then there are hormones. Hormone-related depression can come in the form of postpartum depression, perimenopause, and/or PMS (premenstrual syndrome). It’s estimated 85% of women experience at least one significant symptom of PMS each month, and PMS is most common and at its worst among women in their childbearing years.

Approximately 3-8% of women experience Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD. PMDD most commonly affects women who have at least one child, are in their late 20’s-early 40’s, and who have a family or personal history of depression or postpartum depression. [1] These facts just speak to the role our shifting hormones and compiling life experiences play in the development of mood changes, and especially in depression. (More on hormones and women’s emotions here.)

 

How do we know when we’re experiencing depression, versus just having a bad day or week or month or year?

People often say, “I’m depressed,” but what they really mean is that they’re sad, stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted. True depression lasts for two weeks or more, and includes symptoms like those above, like: sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings; feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt. It also significantly impacts your daily life, your relationships, and your functioning. Major depression isn’t something you just wake up and “get over.” It’s something you must work to overcome. But, remember that, with help and time and work, it IS something that can be overcome.

 

The Impact of Depression on Kids, Partners, Family

The hardest part of depression in motherhood is often the fact that we moms can’t afford to be Depression & Motherhood- Facts, Help & How to Overcome www.DrchristinaHibbert.comdepressed. We have to be “on,” 24/7; we don’t want to feel depressed, and we especially don’t want our children to suffer as a result. All this can add up to some pretty hefty guilt, and sometimes, even shame.

The truth is that untreated maternal depression does impact our children. In fact:

  • Untreated maternal depression is the number one predictor of future behavioral and cognitive problems in the child.
  • It is associated with less positive parenting practices, like smiling, reading to, and talking with children.
  • It can affect social development, since children of depressed mothers often take on the low self-esteem their mothers tend to exhibit.
  • And untreated depression can negatively impact marriage and relationships as well, often leading to depression in one’s husband or partner, or too often, to separation or divorce.

Yes, the stakes are too high, moms. We can’t afford to let ourselves remain depressed. We can no longer kid ourselves by saying, “It only affects me.” It doesn’t. And even if it did, is that what we really want? To feel miserable? To feel unworthy? To feel so low all the time?

I don’t say this to add more guilt. Trust me, as a mother who struggles with depression myself, that’s the last thing I would want to do. I say this because it’s true. Motherhood does not mean depression. We can, and will, overcome depression, if we take it seriously and seek help. We can be happy, full of hope, and joyful as we raise our children. But first, we need to be honest with ourselves and seek help. We need to take action, to let go of the guilt that holds us captive. We must trust that we can, and will, be well again.

 

Help: What can we do about Maternal Depression?

There are many ways we can treat depression, including self-help, social support, and professional help like therapy and medication. In order to know what will work best for you, it’s important to create a game plan.

In this week’s episode of my “Motherhood” radio show, I spoke with Jennifer Peterson, mom of 5, writer, and creator of the blog “The JoyFinders.”  Jen has struggled with depression and is very candid about the lessons she has learned, and I share some of my own struggles and lessons as well. Listen to the episode on demand, on WebTalkRadio.net or download it for later. Or, watch it on my YouTube channel. Then, read how to create your game plan, below.

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DaSQrCikl660 img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/aSQrCikl660/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

How to Overcome: Creating Your Game Plan

One thing Jen shared was how important it is for her to have a game plan, and I agree, it’s crucial. How do we create a “game plan” for dealing with depression? Here are a few ideas:

  • Be honest about where you are. Before you can be honest with others, you need to be
    I started the "I am the FACE of Depression" campaign to get people talking. It's okay to admit you struggle with depression. It doesn't define you.

    I started the “I am the FACE of Depression” campaign to get people talking. It’s okay to admit you struggle with depression. It doesn’t define you.

    honest with yourself. It’s okay to say “I’m struggling with depression.” In fact, you may find it freeing. Sort of like an exhale—it can be a relief to just be where you are. Sometimes, your body is screaming at you: “Hey! I’m not doing so well. We need to be depressed for a while and figure some things out!” Are you listening? (Read “Women & Depression” for a new view.)

 

  • Find what you need. What do you need to overcome depression? This will look a little bit different for each person, but pay attention and see what things help you feel better. Your list may include things like, “I need to talk with a friend each day, to go for a walk, and to get to bed early.” It may include, “I need to give myself a break, to say “no” more for now, and to go out with my husband at least once a week.” What do YOU need when you’re in the throes of depression? Some common items include: sleep, exercise, activity, social interaction, doing less, alone time, time to rest, serving others, quality time with kids/partner/friends, a support group, therapy, massage, medication, etc.

 

  • Seek support. We need each other, especially in times of discouragement, grief, heartache, and depression. Yet, depression can make us want to isolate. That’s one of the hardest things about it. But healing comes through seeking and finding support. Search out those people in your life who make you feel comfortable, who “get” you, who understand depression and will be there for you. Sometimes, it helps to have a friend or family member who will check up on you, who will push you out of the house or stop by to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Professional help is important, too. Therapy is a great place to start—to learn coping strategies and help solidify your game plan. If your depression is moderate to severe or if self-help and therapy don’t work, you may want to talk to your doctor about trying an antidepressant. (Read “Antidepressant? Or not? )

 

  • Schedule activity. Even one little activity each day that gets you dressed or interacting with people or out in the sunshine or out of the house can make a big difference on your mood. It’s one of the best things you can do to “treat” your depression. And getting in the sunshine is also excellent for lifting depressed mood.

 

  • Talk about it. Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. The more we talk about it, the more we see we are not alone. I wrote about my battles with depression in this article. Jen shares her struggles in our Motherhood interview. Be honest with your family, with your partner, with your close friends. No, you don’t have to tell everyone you meet. But, explaining to those who love you most that you’re having a hard time and are working on it is very helpful. I encourage you to talk with your kids about it, too, in words they can understand. Many moms fear that telling their kids will make them afraid or worried. The truth is, they probably already know something isn’t “right,” and talking honestly with them about it can be reassuring, if it’s done right. Same goes for husbands/partners. My close friend struggled to even tell her husband she was suffering from depression and anxiety. She tried to handle it all on her own, and she eventually took her own life. Again, the stakes are too high. We can’t afford to remain silent. Talk about it. It is healing.

 

  • Write it down. Once you know your game plan, write it down. Post it somewhere you will see it often so it can remind you of what you’re aiming to do.

 

  • Follow your plan and adjust as needed.  It will take time to figure out what you need to become depression-free, just like it will take time to heal from depression. It’s okay to let yourself be where you are, to take the time you need to do it right. Make changes as you learn new elements of your plan for wellness. For instance, if winter hits and you suddenly realize how much sunshine has to do with your mood, you may make sitting in the sun each morning a part of your routine, or exercising outside a “must do.”

 

Remember:

  • Depression isn’t you.Motherhood & Depression-Facts, Help & How to Overcome, www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #motherhood #depression #mentalhealth
  • It’s doesn’t make you weak, and it’s not a character flaw.
  • Depression isn’t something to feel ashamed of; it’s something to work on.
  • While it’s normal to feel guilt when you’re a mom who’s depressed, it’s also only helpful if you use that guilt to help you grow. Let it guide you toward the help and plan you need. Then, let the rest go.
  • With honesty, openness, and work, your family will not suffer as a result of your suffering. They are resilient, and so are you.
  • You are not alone. Seek support and love. Then, let it in.
  • With help, you will be well.

 

What is the hardest part of depression in motherhood for you? What helps you overcome? What does your game plan contain? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, below.

 

 

References:

[1] Premenstrual Syndrome Fact Sheet, http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.html.

[2] More facts on Postpartum Depression: http://www.postpartum.net

 

 

 

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For the first time ever, my internationally-sold DVD, Postpartum Couples, is available online for FREE!

 

I’ve seen Postpartum Couples probably a couple hundred times, and yet I still get choked up as I listen to the stories of these three couples–as they honestly share what it was like for them to go through postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and psychosis.

 

The men especially get me choked up as they openly express their feelings about their wives and the experience of PPD, getting emotional right off the bat as they describe the challenges and how they overcame them together.

 

Postpartum Couples was actually the first video to explore both the mothers and the father’s experience of postpartum mood/anxiety disorders. It’s also the only video to discuss the impact on the couple’s relationship.

 

I’ve used Postpartum Couples in therapy, support groups, and presentations. I’ve shown it to pregnant and postpartum women, men, and couples; to mental health providers; and to doctors, nurses, and anyone working with postpartum families–to educate, illuminate, and raise awareness of the truth of postpartum depression and the hope of treatment and healing.

 

If you or someone you know might benefit from better understanding:

1) The symptoms,

2) The treatment, and

3) The prevention of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders;

4) The mother’s experience,

5) The father’s experience,

6) and how PPD may impact a couple’s relationship…

and many other important truths about postpartum depression

then, please click on this link, or on the image above or below, for more information and for INSTANT ACCESS to my Postpartum Couples DVD! And don’t forget to share this post!

 

It is my hope that, in making this video available for free online, we can increase awareness, education, and support for families and providers dealing with perinatal mood/anxiety disorders.

 

May all pregnant and postpartum moms, dads, and families feel and know:

You truly are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help, you can (and will) be well! (PSI’s Universal Motto)

 

FREE Postpartum Couples DVD! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #postpartum #depression #anxiety #ppd #motherhood

 

For immediate postpartum support, help, or referrals in your area,

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Motherhood 101: 12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a seasoned Psychologist & Mom of 6

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The Baby Blues & You

Postpartum Survival Mode

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

In Praise of Fathers: 10 Research-Based Ways Dads Impact Kids for the Better

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

Womens’ Emotions & Hormones– Series

Achieving Balance–Why You’ve Got it Wrong, & How to Get it Right

Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (Part 2)

The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION (& Anxiety): Pregnancy & Postpartum–Caroline’s Story

The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION (& Anxiety): Pregnancy & Postpartum--Caroline's Story; #pregnancy, #postpartum, #ppd, www.DrChristinaHibbert.comWomen are particularly vulnerable to depression and anxiety in pregnancy and postpartum. In fact, 15% of pregnant and up to 20% of postpartum women experience depression, while 6% of pregnant and 10% of postpartum women experience anxiety in the form of extreme worry, panic, PTSD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. And it doesn’t just affect moms. An estimated 14% of dads in the U.S. experience Paternal Postnatal Depression, too!

 

I have had my share of postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety, and I know it’s a very hard thing to bear. I also know that I’m not alone in my experiences. Millions of other women (and men) have experienced PPD, too, and we must keep talking about it if we want others to know that they are not alone, if we want others to know help is available, and that, if they seek help and let it in, they will be well.

 

Caroline’s story is another example of the many faces of depression and anxiety. Hers is another face to add to this movement, and another voice to help raise awareness, reduce the stigma, and let all who suffer from (and overcome) depression and anxiety know: “You truly are not alone.”

 

Caroline’s Story…

“I am the face of anxiety and depression.

In November 2006, when I had my first child, a son, I had heard of Postnatal depression and was determined never to be struck by it, I was naive then, thinking I could control such a thing as PND.

‘Overall, my experience postpartum with my son was very positive. I made sure I kept busy and built up a good social network through going to mums and bubs sessions at the local library and joining the local breastfeeding support group and going to meetings. However, there were times when anxiety would kick in, I’d feel shaky and thoughts would rush through my head. I’d worry about dropping my precious baby down the stairs or stress about driving in the car with him. I thought about what I could do to help me feel calmer, I bought lavender and used the drops on tissues under my pillow and in my handbag and in an oil burner. I also started listening to guided meditations both before going to sleep and during the day"The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION"- #Pregnancy & #Postpartum Caroline and taking daily exercise – walking and swimming mainly. While these strategies helped, I really felt I needed to work with a counsellor, so I contacted the doctor (Dr Cate Howell) who narrated the mediation CD I was using and formed an ongoing therapeutic relationship with her and saw her as needed over the next three years.

‘When anxiety kicked in BIG time after the birth of my daughter in December 2009, I was so grateful that I already had a great doctor in Cate, I also knew that Cate didn’t reach for her prescription pad straight away as I had never taken medication for my anxiety before. My second episode of post-natal anxiety was much more intense than the first. I was having trouble sleeping (it’s torture when your baby and toddler are asleep and you can’t sleep!), I was pacing, felt shaky, had racing thoughts and couldn’t make simple decisions or complete simple tasks like packing a baby bag, something I had done hundreds of times before. I didn’t trust myself to be a safe driver as I was so shaky and sleep deprived so I gave my car keys to my husband.

‘I went to see Dr Cate as soon as I could and she was the most supportive doctor I could have wished for. Initially I was shocked, because I was much worse than last time. She said I would need to look at going on medication and she referred me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist did prescribe medication and also referred me to an in-patient mother-baby clinic. This experience was very scary as even though ultimately it was part of my recovery, it took me on a “medication roller coaster,” as I was determined to keep breastfeeding so could only try “breastfeeding friendly” medications first, some of which caused awful side effects. In the end, I gave up breastfeeding to go onto a medication which I have been on for nearly 5 years, except for a one year break.’

 

Depression, Anxiety, & Medication

‘I tried going off my medication at one point, because I figured I was no longer “postnatal,” so couldn’t experience severe anxiety or depression. I was wrong! My psychiatrist knew that I had reduced my medication, but not that I’d gone off it completely. I was fine for a year without medication, then became unwell again in 2013, very shaky, racy thoughts mainly around being not good enough, like a big bully in my brain was how I described it later to my son. I knew I’d need to go on medication again and didn’t want to risk the “medication rollercoaster” of side effects while being home caring for kids, so I checked myself into a private clinic for treatment both medication and group therapy.

 

 

Health & Healing

‘This most recent episode, while upsetting and disruptive, was also amazingly healing, as I was able to recognise the signs of what was happening to me and seek treatment first as an in-patient and then go on to do some courses as an outpatient. Of particular interest and use was an ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy)/mindfulness course. It also helped me to realise that medication is an essential part of my treatment plan.

‘Even though we don’t choose all of what makes up the rich tapestries of our lives, we can embrace all of life with gratitude and love and be open to the lessons that it holds. For example, I carry a lot of grief over the fact that, because of how severe my post-natal anxiety was and the medication I’m on, I probably won’t have a third, fourth, fifth or sixth child. I feel anger and frustration that I can’t raise the big family that I wanted to.

‘At the same time, however, I realise that the family I do have is such a gift! I have a healthy 8 year boy and a 5 year old girl who light up my life each day, and I have my health and a lifelong commitment to and passion for growth and healing.”

~Caroline

 

 

Help the Movement!

Read & Share Stories from ‘The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION” series:

Overcoming the Stigma of Depression & Anxiety: “I am the FACE of DEPRESSION (& Anxiety)”–My Story

Men, Illness, & Mental Health : Pernell’s Story

Motherhood, Postpartum, & Spirituality: Jami’s Story

 

 
 

Dr. Christina Hibbert www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

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Postpartum Support International’s 2015

Third Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

Blog Hop!

2015 PSI Blog Hop: You are not alone! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

2015 Theme:
You Are Not Alone: Focus on Support Groups and Resources

Read this post for rules, and then link up!

 

 

 
 
 

Join me & my incredible guests, each week, as we “Overcome, Become, & Flourish”
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Be sure to check out my bestselling, award-winning memoir, This is How We Grow!
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The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION (& Anxiety): Pregnancy & Postpartum--Caroline's Story; #pregnancy, #postpartum, #ppd, www.DrChristinaHibbert.com
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Motherhood 101: 12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasoned Psychologist & Mom of 6 (PSI Blog Hop 2015)

Motherhood 101: 12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasoned Psychologist & Mom of 6 (#PSIBlog Hop 2015)  www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #motherhood #mothersday #moms #ppd #postpartum #pregnancy #children #familyIt’s that time of year again–May, or as my friends and I call it, “May-hem!” The end of the school year, commitments galore, graduations, the summer-shift approaching, and all month long, what do we celebrate? Motherhood. How fitting! Between mother’s day, Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month (May) & day (May 7th), I’m in the mood to speak a little truth about good old motherhood!

 

I’ve been at it for over 18 years, and with six kids, now ages 7, 11, 14, 16, 18, and 18 1/2, well let’s just say, I know the reality and I’ve learned a few lessons. As a psychologist, I’ve learned some important lessons, too–the first being that we need to talk about the realities of motherhood, and that we need to open ourselves up to the lessons motherhood has to offer.

 

So, hold on tight and grab a notebook! It’s time for “Motherhood 101.”

 

(And be sure to join me for my new radio show, “Motherhood!” Starting May 18th on WebTalkRadio.net! And don’t miss my exclusive offer–FREE Postpartum Couples DVD!

 

 

MOTHERHOOD 101

Reality #1: It’s hard!

No matter what “season of motherhood” you’re in, it’s the hardest work in the world. It’s a 24/7, 365-day job, and a highly demanding one at that. Up early, no sleep, go-go-go all day long, keep going all night too, worrying yourself awake in the

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids! Talk about motherhood being hard! Some days, I didn't think I could do it. (Read about it in "This is How We Grow.")

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids! Talk about motherhood being hard! Some days, I didn’t think I could do it. (Read about it in “This is How We Grow.”)

early hours, exhausting yourself, giving your all. But we do it because we love our children, right? As I wrote in a song about motherhood a few years ago, “It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, but somehow, it’s the easiest to do.”

When I ran a postpartum support group a few years ago, the moms struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety would desperately ask, “It gets easier, doesn’t it?” To which, I’d reply, “Yes… And then, it doesn’t. And then, it does…” We are happy to leave behind the sleepless nights of having an infant only to find our house is destroyed by an energetic toddler. We finally leave behind “the terrible twos” only to find the “threes” might be even more terrible as they develop greater independence. Not to mention the teen years! (I have 4 teenaged sons right now! Aye-yi-yi!). But, it’s all worth it. They grow, and hopefully, so do we.

 

Lesson #1: Recognize that it’s hard.

Even if it looks easy on TV or on a friend’s Facebook page, trust me, it’s not. You’re not alone in this crazy thing called motherhood–it’s hard for all of us, and some times are harder than others. Discover which phases and seasons of mothering are easiest and most rewarding for you and which are not, and then, give yourself a break in the harder times and recognize your strengths and put them to good use in the easier times. Oh, and hang in there! It does get easier. And then it doesn’t…

 

 

 

Reality #2: Hormones, brain chemistry, and life experiences can make it even harder.

Women’s mental health is made up of a unique blend of our hormones, brain chemistry, and life experiences. Monthly hormonal shifts, pregnancy,

Me, during my most recent hormonal quarantine, watching Project Runway and eating chocolate with the door bolted shut! Thank you, hormones!

Me, during my most recent hormonal quarantine, watching Project Runway and eating chocolate with the door bolted shut! Thank you, hormones!

postpartum, and perimenoupause can all significantly affect our coping abilities. Hormones also directly impact the neurotransmitters that make our brain feel well, and life experiences do the same. Trauma and loss change our brain chemistry and, over time, can leave us feeling depressed, anxious, or worse.

 

Lesson #2: Understand all you can about your emotional health and take care of yourself.

Learn about Women’s Emotional Health and what it means for you. Then, take care of your body and brain through good nutrition, sleep, exercise, regular health exams, emotional processing and support, and spiritual self-care.

 

 

 

Reality #3: You won’t love every moment, and you won’t feel happy all the time.

As I wrote in This is How We Grow, “I love every moment of being a mother. I even love the moments I don’t love.” Yes, if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that we won’t love every moment. But, joy in motherhood is found in the small moments, and joyful moments are everywhere in motherhood, if you’ll open your heart and seek them out.

 

Lesson #3: Look for joy in the moments.

Happiness in motherhood is found in the small moments—in the laugh, the love, the play, the hug. As we seek out these moments we see them more clearly, we’re more present, and we soak them up. As we connect these moments we find that motherhood really is joy-filled, or it can be if we look for the joy in the moments.

 

 

 

Reality #4: During some seasons of motherhood, it may a struggle to feel happy at all.

Pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis together affect one in five moms and can make it rough to feel happiness or joy; it can also crush your sense of self-worth. Maternal depression is also common and can last for years if untreated.

 

Lesson #4: It’s not “normal” or “okay” to live with depression, anxiety, or even with no self-worth, and it’s definitely not good for our families either, so SEEK HELP.

With help, you can and will be well, which is not only good for you; it’s good for your children, spouse/partner, and family, too. And if you keep working, you can be even “better than better!” Acknowledge your needs and seek help. Then, let that help in. There are fabulous support groups, counselors, doctors, and resources for pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. Postpartum Support International is a wonderful resource, with support coordinators in every state and around the world. Your church or faith community, friends, and family are another good place to start for help, support, and referrals.

 

 

 

Reality #5: We can’t do motherhood alone.

We need each other in motherhood more than perhaps any other time. Support is crucial in motherhood—support for us, support for our children, support for our husbands/partners—we cannot survive without it. We may feel like we don’t know where to turn, or like

My family with my friend's family, sending balloons to her in heaven to remember her one year death anniversary. We need each other.

My family with my friend’s family, sending balloons to her in heaven to remember her one year death anniversary. We need each other.

we don’t have anyone to rely upon, but we must prioritize building our support system.

 

Lesson #5: Build your support system.

Make a list of everyone who supports you and what they can do. Include your family, including family, friends, faith/community members/resources, support groups, online support, professional support like counselors, doctors, etc. One person might be great at helping with childcare, while another is the one you can talk to when times are tough. If you feel your support system is lacking, then start building a better one. It takes time, but support is out there if you’re patient and willing to work.

 

 

 

Reality #6: Loss is a big part of motherhood.

Whether struggles with postpartum depression or anxiety, relationship changes and challenges, wayward children, death, job/career loss, or sending them off to preschool, kindergarten, college, or beyond, motherhood carries with it a lot of loss. These losses, if not dealt with, can build up and create more trouble for our emotional and physical health over time.

 

Lesson #6: Recognize your losses, then grieve them.

Here’s how.

 

 

 

Reality #7: Motherhood is not just a “job”; it’s a calling.

I’ve long reminded myself that though I don’t really love the “job” of mothering—the late nights, early mornings,

Motherhood isn't just a "job;" it's a calling. My forever family, April 2015.

Motherhood isn’t just a “job;” it’s a calling. My forever family, April 2015.

cooking, cleaning, diaper-changing, problem-solving constant-ness of it all—I do love being a mother. Motherhood is a high and holy calling: I believe that, 100%, though it doesn’t always feel that way. It’s a forever kind of deal, so it’s important to work it out, to believe in that calling, to find our gratitude for our role as a mother.

 

Lesson #7: Motherhood really isn’t about the “job” at all; it’s about love.

The house, dinner, bathtime—that can all come or go. What matters is how we love.  What matters is how we value our role as a mother. Do we recognize the gift it truly is? Do we remind ourselves in the hardest times how grateful we really are to be called, “Mom?”

 

 

 

Reality #8: Motherhood isn’t about how our kids turn out.

So many moms I know focus on the choices their kids make as a measure of how well they’re doing as moms. I’ve been there before, too, and trust me, it’s not pleasant! The truth is, we have no real control over our children’s lives when they get to a certain point. That’s not the way it works, and really it’s what we’re striving for as we parent them over the year—independence and self-reliance.

 

Lesson #8: The “fruit” of motherhood is how we turn out. It’s about how motherhood changes us. It’s about how motherhood transforms us.

 

 

 

Reality #9: It really does fly by.

As I was dropping my oldest son off at college last fall, I hugged him, got in the car and forced myself to drive away, watching him excitedly return to his dorm in my review mirror. All I could think was, “They were right. It really does fly by. We have them for such a short time and then, they’re gone.” I bawled the entire four hour drive home! When I called my husband, he thought I was crazy, and to be truthful, so did I. But it really hit me—it goes so, so fast.

 

Lesson #9: Pay attention and be grateful now.

Years ago, when I’d have those stressed-out, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted mothering days (and there have been plenty!), my older friends who were missing their little ones would say, “Enjoy it while you can; it goes so fast.” I knew they were right, but I couldn’t feel it in those moments when I just wanted to get through the day and crash to sleep. Then one day, I really did get it. I decided I didn’t want to miss those precious years when they were young because I was stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, or tired. And so, I made a goal to stop and stand still in the chaos. I’d briefly close my eyes and imagine my kids grown and gone and my house quiet and still. Though a luxury in the busy mothering days, I’d let myself feel how a quiet house may feel lonely when it’s permanent. I’d say a little prayer, ask for help to be grateful for this very moment, and take a snapshot of it. Then, I’d breathe deeply, smile or sometimes even chuckle to myself and just say it like it is, “Motherhood is a crazy ride!” And back to business. Truthfully, years later, the chaotic moments are some of the most memorable.

 

 

 

Reality #10: We mothers need to be a little (or a lot) kinder, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more loving toward ourselves.

We’re harder on ourselves than any other group on the planet! It’s such a shame, because I’m convinced no one works or loves harder than mothers.

 

Lesson #10: Practice self-love.

Self-love involves: 1) Self-care—take care of your physical, emotional, mental/intellectual, social and spiritual needs. It’s not selfish Motherhood 101-12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasons Psychologist & Mom of 6 www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #motherhood #ppd #postpartum #ThisIsHowWeGrow #books to practice self-care. In fact, it’s the only real way to be healthy and strong as a mom, and it teaches your kids to do the same. 2) Self-compassion—forgive yourself, accept your weaknesses, be gentle when you make a mistake. 3) Self-kindness—do nice things for yourself. Time alone or with friends, a bath, a nap, a walk, a “girls’ night”—whatever feeds your soul, do that. 4) Let others love you. Let your children’s love in. Let your husband’s/partner’s love in. Let your support system’s love in. Let God’s love in. Open your heart and let it receive love. Then, give and open again and again and again. (more on Self-Love here or in my new book, Who Am I Without You?)

 

 

 

Reality #11: At its core, motherhood is really about love.

That’s what it’s really all about–growing in love. Receiving love. Giving great love. Motherhood is truly all about a beautiful cycle of giving and receiving love.

 

Lesson #11: Love greatly.

When hard times hit, love. When great times are rolling, love. When you’re fearful, worried, overwhelmed, at your limit, love greatly. It is love that overcomes the pain and stress of motherhood. It’s really all about love. Again, love greatly.

 

 

 

Reality #12: Motherhood is a crazy ride.

Trust me, I know! In fact, if you google, “My Kids are Driving Me Crazy,” my blog posts come up on page 1, so it’s really no secret. But oh how exhilarating! It’s the up, and down, and spinning around, upside-down ride of your life! And it doesn’t end there. Motherhood is forever. So, learn your lessons, buckle up, and hold tight!

 

Lesson #12: Enjoy it while it’s here.

Don’t take motherhood for granted. Don’t wish away your moments or your days. Identify your challenges. Seek help. Let help in. Choose to grow through motherhood. Then, sit back, buckle up, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride. It’s the greatest ride of your life!

 

 

What are some of your motherhood “realities” and “lessons?”

Leave a comment, below, and join the conversation!

 

 

 

 

An Invitation to YOU!

Join us for

Postpartum Support International’s 2015

Third Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

Blog Hop!

2015 PSI Blog Hop: You are not alone! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

2015 Theme:
You Are Not Alone: Focus on Support Groups and Resources

 

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#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on Amazon.com!

 

 

 

"Who Am I Without You?" 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #book #selfesteem #breakup #divorce

Available now at TargetAmazonBarnes & NobleNew Harbinger, or your local bookseller!

 “Who Am I Without You is the light at the end of the tunnel!”

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Dr. Christina Hibbert www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

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Motherhood 101: 12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasoned Psychologist & Mom of 6 (#PSIBlog Hop 2015)  www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #motherhood #mothersday #moms #ppd #postpartum #pregnancy #children #family

 

 

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