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♥ Let’s End Toxic Positivity ♥

 

Pregnancy is amazing. It’s an incredible time in your life, and leads to the most precious gift of all: your baby. It’s also messy, painful, and at times downright miserable. These facts are not mutually exclusive. You can love your baby and be grateful for their existence without enjoying the aching hips, the inability to keep food down, and the mood swings that make you cry at how cute something is, then want to smack your partner for trying to give you a compliment because you’re absolutely certain they said it sarcastically and think you look like a beached whale that’s been tarred and feathered. Toxic positivity can make you feel ashamed for these valid feelings that are completely normal during such a tumultuous time in your life.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is a sugar-coated form of gaslighting. It is a way of invalidating a person’s genuine feelings and making them feel shamed for them. It is the belief that a person should maintain a positive mindset regardless of their circumstances, and that any voicing of negative emotion makes them responsible for those emotions’ very existence.

A Phenomenon on the Rise

Lately, I have been seeing an increase in the number of pregnant moms hurting because their family or friends have invalidated their feelings for the umpteenth time. One mom said that her grandmother told her that she had a miserable time when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter, then later that day, told her she needed to “stop complaining and just love her baby” when she tried to vent about how tired she was feeling on her own personal facebook timeline. Another told of her aunt who would tell her she needed to stop being ungrateful and “suck it up” every time she heard her mention anything not 100% positive about how she was feeling. I have heard the anguished cries of loss mamas, shamed into suffering in silence by toxic positivity, unable to seek support from their friends when they needed it most, as they went through their pregnancies with their rainbow babies.

Every Mama’s Feelings are Valid

This treatment is not okay. Just because she is having a hard time does not mean she doesn’t love her baby, and we as a society need to stop pretending it does. I love my girls with all of my heart and soul. They also drive me up the walls at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make me an ungrateful mother to wish they were able to see things from my perspective once in a while. I would never dream of telling another mama that she didn’t love her children just because she didn’t always love their behavior.

The Double Standards Need to Stop

Have you ever been so incredibly annoyed by something your partner did, but still loved them anyway? Unless you live in a fictional world or have never loved anyone, you probably have. Why can the same principle not be applied in parenthood as in relationships? Would you tell a woman she couldn’t possibly love her husband if she felt hurt that he chose to go out for an impromptu drink with his friends while she was at home puking her guts out after having to cancel plans with her friends because she felt so sick? Maybe you can see it from both sides, and think maybe he just thought she wanted to have some peace and be alone, but he should have asked her if that’s what she wanted instead of assuming. But you probably wouldn’t tell her “You should stop whining and be glad you have a husband!” or “It isn’t good for your marriage to get so stressed out over everything, you need to calm down!”

Trauma Is Not Healed By Positivity

A growing number of women suffer from trauma of one kind or another during pregnancy and birth. Many more have experienced it prior to pregnancy, and will experience it after. Some of us will even develop PTSD from our experiences. Being positive does not erase the trauma. The only way to heal from it is to process it. Yes, therapy is extremely important, especially in cases of PTSD. But support from your friends and family is, too. Shaming or shunning someone because they have unhealed trauma might make your ego feel better about your own trauma, or allow you to wrap yourself in a bubble to avoid facing it altogether, but it can be incredibly damaging to the other person, and can serve to deepen and reinforce their trauma. If the goal is to help them develop a positive mindset, this is entirely counterproductive, not to mention cruel.

A Positive Mindset Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Yes, during pregnancy and immediately postpartum, it is important to protect your emotional space and try to keep a positive mindset. It’s important for success in all areas of life. Having a positive mindset, however, doesn’t protect us from all possible negative feelings and experiences. The human brain needs to be able to process the things that happen in order to move forward. To do this, we need to talk about them. Holding it all inside can foster resentment, anger, fear, and a whole host of other negative feelings. Letting it out can help to release those feelings, allowing them to be replaced by more positive ones.

 

How You Can Help

Don’t invalidate a mom’s feelings and experiences just because they are unpleasant. Empathize with her. Try to understand what she is going through and hold space for her to talk about it and process it. Allow her to speak on it and seek to better understand her through it. Let her know she is not alone. Make her feel heard and validated. Support her. If you see someone participating in toxic positivity against another (or even themselves), gently remind them that all feelings are valid and deserve the space they need to be processed. That is how we change lives and make the world a better place.

 

Are you searching for a safe place to talk about your troubles while being supported instead of invalidated? Would you like to join a community of moms coming together to educate and empower each other in healthy ways? Come join us and help us build the village we all need.

 

♥ What is Self Care? ♥

 

Everyone seems to be under so much more stress these days, or at least they believe they are. This has brought the concept of self care out into the spotlight and made it a major buzzword. There are entire communities built around it. It is a booming market for many retailers, with whole stores built upon the idea of self care. There are many voices extolling the virtues of selfcare, and a quick scroll through any social media can show you many examples of people doing various things in the name of self care. But what is it, really? Read on to learn more about it!

 

Why is it Important?

Self care is the concept of taking care of yourself, in order to have the strength, energy, and motivation to take care of others. Any flight attendant could tell you that it’s important to take care of yourself first before taking care of those that depend on you. If you burn out, how will you be able to take care of anyone else? As a Mother, it’s easy to overlook your own needs while attending to those of your family, but when you have tiny lives depending on you, you have to be sure you keep enough fuel in your tank to keep going. 

What is it NOT?

It is not finding excuses to avoid responsibility. It is not drinking a bottle of wine for breakfast because you’re overwhelmed by constantly being needed in today’s shut-in lifestyle world. It is not sleeping halfway through the day because you stayed up all night playing video games or binge-watching a new show. It is not spending everything in your savings account on bath and beauty products. These things are called excuses, rationalizations, laziness, and in some cases even addiction. Indulging yourself a little once in a while is fine. Finding a “reason” to do it every day is not. Engaging in unhealthy, unwise, and at times unsafe behavior is NOT taking care of yourself, and it does NOT fill up your tank.

How Can You Practice REAL Self Care?

Keep yourself healthy — inside and out. Eat well. Participate in healthy activities that keep your brain and body moving. Set up a routine that fits your needs and schedule. Take regular, short breaks from anything you do that takes a long time. Have someone to talk to when you need to vent. Don’t hold it all in.
Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes while also learning from them and using them to make better plans in the future. Don’t wallow in sadness or guilt for things that haven’t gone the way you had hoped. If you snap at your kids because you’re under so much pressure that the fifteenth “Mommy” you’ve heard in two minutes pushes you over the edge, remember that you’re only Human.
Hold yourself accountable. If you make a commitment, don’t allow yourself to make excuses for skipping out on it. Make plans with friends, family, and/or coworkers and keep them. Set goals for yourself and keep yourself on the path to achieving them. 
Set healthy boundaries. If there is someone in your life that is asking too much of you, it’s okay to tell them no. That includes your Partner and your Children. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure not to pour all of yours out into someone else’s.
Ask for help. If something is too much for you, or you’ve otherwise found yourself with a heavier metaphorical load than you can safely carry on your own, stop. Set it all down. Take a moment and think about the many things you are carrying. Do YOU need to be the one carrying all of them? Is there something that you can relinquish a little bit of control over in order to allow someone else to help you with it? Find ways that you can stop doing everything yourself and get help from others.
Seek professional advice. If you feel that you are struggling and nothing you’ve tried seems to be helping, don’t hesitate to hire a professional to help you. This could be a life coach, therapist, fitness guru, doctor, yoga instructor, naturopath, or even just a professional cuddler (yes, it’s a thing). You may even be lucky enough to know someone who could be your mentor without requiring payment. My first mentor was my school librarian in elementary school, whom I lived next door to for a time and spent many afternoons with. My second one was the leader of my local birth network; she took me under her wing and shared all kinds of life wisdom with me until she, sadly, moved across the country and we stopped connecting as often. My third, I hired; she runs a business empire based upon helping people get motivated to get doing. All of them have had a profound impact on my life and helped to shape who I am today as a person. I would not be where I am today without any of them. There is no shame in admitting you don’t know how to help yourself and asking someone else to guide you to find your own answers.

Where Can You Get More Inspiration on Ways to Practice Self Care?

You can search #selfcare on your favorite social media platform or just search the internet for self care ideas. Lately, I’ve been enjoying posts from:

Hamilton CAS

Power of Positivity

The Holistic Psychologist

The Unruly Woman

For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 
If you or someone you know show signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources. 

♥ Loss Never Leaves Us ♥

Trigger warning: Loss

 

 

I recently suffered something that a large number of childbearing-age women do every year. Something that is not talked about enough. Something that happens and then is swept under the rug. Something everyone tries to avoid talking about and pretend it never happened. Miscarriage. The loss of my unborn Child. It wasn’t my first, and it may not be my last, but it was a unique event all of its own, similar in generality, and yet entirely unique from any other experience. This particular one was what is known as a missed Miscarriage, where Baby has passed, but the body continues the Pregnancy for a few weeks, or longer, without the Mother realizing that Baby is no longer developing.

    At 11 weeks, I started bleeding, which is not unusual during pregnancy, but it lasted longer and was heavier than I had experienced in previous Pregnancies. I tried to remain optimistic, simply waiting for confirmation one way or the other. But 6 days after it began, it reached a point where I knew it was definitely over. It was a miscarriage. Instead of cramps, I began having contractions.

   I was in a training class for a promotion at work, and we were not permitted to miss any time of training under threat of losing the promotion and possibly the job entirely, and I knew that losing my job in addition to losing my Baby would just make things so much worse. So, for the last 2 hours of class that terrible Tuesday afternoon, I lied on a blanket on the floor in front of my computer (I work from home), listening to my trainer without really even hearing a word he said, and vocalizing through my contractions.

   I went to the hospital after my class ended, to confirm and ensure that nothing had been left behind, and that is where I delivered my tiny Baby into my own hand. The sac was still intact, and much, much bigger than Baby was. This was because Baby had not developed past 6 weeks, meaning that my body only thought it was still pregnant for half of my Pregnancy. My Husband was not permitted to be in the room while I had the ultrasound, so he was not with me when Baby came out in the bathroom in between tests. By this point, I had accepted that my Baby was gone, and shock had made me mostly numb. I had to endure another 10 minutes of testing before my Husband could come back in the room with me. I managed to hold it together until he had returned and the sonographer left the room, but just barely.
     The next few days, I spoke very little and I could not really focus at work. I made it through training, but not at the standards I normally hold myself to. During the week before, I told myself and those that knew what I was going through that I’d never be able to go through another pregnancy again if I lost this Baby; it was just too painful. But right after I opened the sac, held the baby on the tip of my finger, and said goodbye, I felt this immense emptiness inside. I’d spent the past 8 weeks believing that I had a life growing inside of me, and now, I did not, and yet I had no new Life to hold in my arms either. It felt like a cruel joke, and it just made me want to have another Baby even more. I told my Husband that I wanted to try to get pregnant again right away because I couldn’t wait. This was the spacing between children we wanted, and this was the time we had originally planned to try to have our next, and final Baby. And after all, immediately after miscarriage is a time when a Woman is at her most fertile.

   But it was not a good time to have a Baby. Pregnancy is very hard on me, and due to a deformity caused by a childhood injury, I break my tailbone in labor. Right after a promotion, in the middle of trying to buy a house and move, was most definitely not a good time to have a Baby, especially for me. And so now we wait. We will wait until next year. When things have settled, when I have healed, when our life is stable. Hopefully. And I’m okay with that.
     Mostly.
     I have accepted that this is not the time to bring a new Life into our Family. I have acknowledged that it is merely selfish desires that drive me to want to try to have a Baby again right away. And I need to think of the Children I already have first. They need me right now, more than ever. It would not be right to take my time and energy away from them. But it doesn’t stop my yearning to fill my womb to replace the Baby that is no longer there.
      I miss my Baby every day. Just as I miss the Baby that I was not given the chance to grow 11 years ago. One month has passed since the day I said goodbye to my little tadpole. No one asks about my Baby anymore. No one asks about me anymore. Life is moving on without my Baby. But I feel sometimes as though it is moving on without me, as well. I feel a tiny bit of my heart died along with my Baby. I have so many friends that are pregnant or have recently had Babies, and it hurts me so to see and hear about them. But, just as I did after losing my first Pregnancy in 2006, I will survive. I will be the best Mother I can be to the Children I have with me right now, and someday I may have more.
      I will survive, even though it doesn’t really feel like it right now.

Please, if you have been a Presence in the life of someone that has experienced a miscarriage (and chances are that you have been), ask them how they are doing. Acknowledge the life of their Baby. Let them know that you have not forgotten about that tiny Being’s brief life. Show them that they are loved and that their Baby still has a presence in this world through the love of others. Not constantly. Just once in a while, to let them know that they are not alone, and not forgotten.

 

 

Miscarriage can make us feel helpless and alone. For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 

 

If you or someone you know show signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Miscarriage can take a huge toll on our mental health. Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources. 

♥ It’s Okay to Not Always Be Happy ♥

I’ve always felt born to be a Mom. I mothered all my friends. I mothered my own Mother from the age of 3. I mothered my Husband from the moment we moved in together. But becoming an actual Mother, a tiny Life depending on you for every single thing,  24/7, after two and a half decades of only being a Mother to my friends when they needed guidance, not wiping their butts or putting food in their mouths… that was a huge change!

I watched my Husband go to work every day, come home and play video games, eat all the unhealthy crap he wanted, snore his head off and sleep without waking. I watched my friends go about their daily lives, as if nothing had changed. Because for all of them, it hadn’t. But for me?

My entire life was completely upside down. I had this tiny thing attached to me. I was responsible for every aspect of its life. I had to focus all of my time and attention on it. I had to respond to its every noise and movement. I couldn’t play video games all day. I couldn’t go anywhere I wanted anytime I wanted. I couldn’t just slip on my shoes and go for a run. I couldn’t roll over and go back to sleep until 4 in the afternoon if I still felt tired when I woke up. I couldn’t binge on brownies and cake all day if I wanted to. My life was all about this little being that was and always will be a part of me. She was now my entire world. I couldn’t do anything without thinking about how it would affect her.

I was happy to do it, it was what I had wanted, longed for, ached for, for so many years. But being a Mom is hard. There were definitely times when I questioned if had made a mistake. If I was crazy for wanting this. If I was good enough. If I could handle it.

I still have those thoughts sometimes, nearly 4 years later and pregnant with our second. They’re normal. It doesn’t matter what it is, when you make a drastic change in your life, you’re going to have moments of doubt, of regret, of despair, especially when it gets hard. And even when it’s easy, you can still miss the way things were before at times. Being a Mom is hard, but when it comes down to it, I absolutely would not go back and not become a Mother if I had the chance. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments I question whether that’s true. We all fantasize about things being different than they are at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a Mother. It doesn’t make you wrong or crazy. It makes you Human.

So go ahead, cry. Cry and scream and make plans to run away. Think out the details. Think about the greasy diner you’ll work double shifts in, in some tiny,  backwater little town where no one knows you. Think about how you’ll go to night school and get a law degree and become a rich, successful lawyer, all on your own. Think about all of that and more.

Then, after you’ve had your fill of fantasy,  come back to reality. Think about getting through the day without having to change your spit-up covered shirt more than three times. Think about how, tomorrow, Baby might take her first step. Think about next weekend, when your Husband surprises you by changing a diaper without being asked. Think about 10 years from now, when your Child surprises you by doing something you didn’t think a 10 year old could do. Think about seeing your Child driving for the first time, getting married, having her own Children. Think about her calling you in the middle of the night, crying because she is having all of the same thoughts that you are having right now. Think about telling her that she’s okay. Think about telling her that it’s normal, that being a mom is hard.  Think about how you will tell her that you thought and felt it all yourself, and you got through it. Think about how you will tell her how much you love her,  and how you wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Being a Mom is hard, even when it’s easy. There is no job in this world that is more difficult or rewarding. So be happy when you can. And let yourself be miserable without feeling guilty about it when you need to. It’s okay. I promise.

For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 
If you or someone you know shows signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
 Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources.