Reflections of a young mother…

I wake up to crying.

It’s 1:47AM.

My new baby is crying again, likely needing to eat. Never mind that the night before, she went 5 hours before eating after I last fed her. Tonight we’ll go three. Okay. Breathe. Open your eyes and move.

My eyes feel heavy and I struggle out of the covers and walk, blind in the darkness, to the closet where our little 4 week old baby girl was sleeping peacefully.

She nurses, I change yet another diaper; she nurses some more.

2:35AM. I can finally go back to sleep.

5:08AM. She’s crying again.

I nudge Danny on the shoulder, indicating sleepily that he can go try to pacify her, and if she doesn’t settle down, then I’d feed her. But honestly, every fiber of my being wants her to already be sleeping 8-10 hours at night.

My eyes close and I sleep lightly, jostled awake when Danny gets back into bed, but Tatum is quiet.

6:11AM. Cries come from the bassinet again. Time to feed, then some early morning snuggles, but just for a little bit cuz we’re waking up to the day in an hour or so…

7:47AM. Time to wake up. A little past time honestly.

My head is immediately spinning with all the things I feel like I need to do that day.

Laundry, meal plan, grocery shop, play with Joshua, get Joshua down for a nap, feed Tatum on time, every 3 hours minimum, fold diapers, pull out a freezer meal for dinner.

My list could probably go on.

Do you feel the monotony of my day? Writing it out like this, I sure can.

It’s no wonder it’s a struggle for me to want to get up in the morning right now. I’m obviously sleep deprived—what mother of a newborn isn’t right?

Ever since high school, I have been a type-A, checklist, to do list, get it done ASAP kinda girl.

I was always looking forward to the next big project, planning out in my color coded planners when I would complete which section of a paper due in 3 months; when I needed to do my math homework each week; when I could have time with friends; when I had swim practice; when I had a date.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that I have a hard time accepting each stage of life I’m in and just LIVING it.

But looking back to almost exactly six years ago, my senior year of high school, I can see where there was a shift. I’m not entirely sure if it was a shift for the better at the time, or if was just a little bit of an awakening to what I had going on in life.

Six years ago, I was a young, 18 year old senior in high school, planning on going into music education at Utah State University. I was working on my audition pieces, but my confidence was low.

It was low because at the time, I was in a relationship that was eating away at my spirit—both my passion for life and my actual spirit, in a religious sense. There’s no blame to be assigned to the boy or the relationship—I didn’t know, or didn’t believe at the time, that I deserved to have anything better. I was a stubborn teenager making decisions and choices that would continue to haunt me later as an adult. I made those choices, and I accept the responsibility for them.

Growing up, I was raised with strong morals and beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I often felt like I was thought of as a “molly Mormon” because I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in dressing immodestly (just wasn’t a temptation for me), in drinking or smoking; I was always raising my hand to answer questions, both in school and in church. I got straight A’s, I had a good number of friends from all kinds of social circles. All in all, I felt like a pretty well rounded person by the time I hit my senior year of high school.

Six years ago, however, midway through my senior year, I had what I remember being a pretty intense emotional breakdown after school.

I had come home and was feeling intensely upset with myself, ashamed even, because my straight A record was getting absolutely RUINED by my AP Calculus class that semester. Not even a full 2 months into the second semester and I had already had a C and D on major quizzes/tests.

Most of you are probably laughing a little inside. Honestly, I am too at the moment. Really? Freaking out over a C or a D on a quiz?

The problem though, wasn’t in the grade letter, or really even related to calculus itself.

The underlying issue was that I had such high expectations of myself academically, spiritually, morally. The fact that I thought I was failing miserably in all of those areas at the time was overwhelming to me.

I didn’t, and still don’t, deal with failure well. I’m not one to give up easily. Honestly, I probably take too much on my plate at times and then feel horrid when I can’t get it “all done.”

So back to this emotional breakdown I was having.

I came home from school on the verge of tears. My mom asked how I was doing and of course, the water works started. (I HATE crying. I don’t care if it’s in front of a group, in church, in an intimate setting with one person—I just don’t like the feeling of being so choked up you can’t talk.)

Being the wonderful mother she is, she helped me face some really difficult feelings I was having about myself:

Gremlins or dementors that were constantly whispering things to me, sitting on my shoulder; my little worry monsters would say things like, “You’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’ve made too many mistakes, why bother trying, no one cares about you…”

Over the previous winter break, I had made some choices I’m not proud of. In working to resolve those choices with the Lord, I unfortunately began to sink into a depression. At the time, I believed feeling so negatively toward myself was what I SHOULD be feeling. How wrong I was.

It was this emotional breakdown with my mom that helped me realize that I was not in a good place, and I was able to start seeing the positive a little better. I graduated, moved on, met my husband, was happily newly married, got pregnant with our first baby, and finished my degree.

But unfortunately, 4 years after high school, all those feelings, those nasty little gremlins, reemerged.

2 years ago, in March 2014, I had a 6 month old baby boy. Our little Joshua. I had carried him 41 weeks and delivered him at 10 pounds 2 oz. He was and is an absolutely JOY to have in our lives.

2 years ago, I was starting to sleep better. I was getting past the sleep deprived state I described earlier. But I wasn’t feeling better.

I didn’t like myself most days, I felt disappointed in my abilities as a mother all too often, I stared in the mirror and wished the baby weight away. I honestly felt like a shadow of my former self. My identity had changed, but now I didn’t know who I was, or how I was contributing to the bigger picture.

I’ve always been a social, get out and do stuff, easy to talk to kind of gal. But I felt out of place in social settings that I had once been totally at ease in. I felt excluded from life because I was still “trapped” at home with my baby a lot more than I wanted to be.

The feeling of being trapped as a new mom caused a lot of those old dementors to come out of my closet. Suddenly I was feeling guilty and ashamed all over again for the choices I had made and repented of back in high school.

Satan literally felt like he was standing heavily on my shoulder, whispering the worst of thoughts at me, only I didn’t realize they were his ideas; they felt like mine. I had thoughts that I wasn’t good enough to be Joshua’s mother, that I couldn’t ever have more kids, that I should have been able to lose more baby weight by now. Thoughts began to surface as the months past that no one would care if I was gone because I wasn’t worth much anyway.

When thoughts as serious as that began to taunt me, I immediately shoved them aside, hid them away and ignored them. And I most certainly never talked about them with anyone. But I was fearful they would come back. And the more I feared having those negative and depressing, and even suicidal thoughts, the more they would come.

I felt like I was going crazy in my own head. I couldn’t share with anyone because if I did, it would be admitting that I had something wrong with me, that I couldn’t just “handle” things on my own.

It took until May of 2014 for me to finally admit that something was wrong, that I needed help. My incredible husband, my circle of close friends and family, and an amazing counselor helped me see through those thoughts and clearly recognize them for what they were.

It took until September of 2014 for me to begin to consistently FEEL like myself, and for those who had been helping me on my journey through postpartum depression and anxiety to recognize that I seemed “better.”

Fast forward to today. I have a 4 week old beautiful little girl, and I have a LOT of fears that I’ll sink down into that same depression again with her. But I also have an inventory of tools to help me. A host of family and friends near and far who love and support me. And I am a much more open and vulnerable person than I used to be.

I am recognizing already things that are triggering my negative thought patterns, and I’m combatting them. I have positive affirmations written all over my kitchen (it’s my favorite room in my house…lol). Post its that say things like, “You are enough. You are a great mom. You are a positive person. You have incredible talents.” If I find myself avoiding looking at those little sticky notes, I know I’m not in the best place and I take a step back to figure out why. It helps, a LOT.

***

My story seems a little jumbled; mom brain is kinda taking over.

And honestly I can say I had lots of little nasty thoughts come into my head while working up the courage to just sit down and WRITE this post. “You’re not a writer, your story won’t help anyone” thoughts that I know for a FACT are false.

But I just want each of you reading to know that you’re NOT alone. No matter how alone you feel. Every one of us feels it at times and when you do, you’ve gotta look those feelings in the face and know that they’re not your thoughts. They’ve been placed there, carefully and sneakily, by the father of lies whose sole goal and purpose is to degrade our confidence in ourselves as women, as mothers, as men, fathers—whatever your role in life is at this time.

The best thing I’ve learned in struggling with my big and little worry monsters who like to perch on my shoulder is that the more I listen to and fret over something, the bigger he gets. The more I talk back to him and put him in his place, the smaller and more insignificant that worry monster becomes, until suddenly the gremlin is being drowned by the light of joy, happiness, peace, and love.

I am worthy of love. I am worthy of belonging. I am worthy of joy.

And you are too.

Negativity only has power when we give up the light. So don’t give up the light.

 

 

If you want to hear more from Danet here is her website. Tell her I said hi!

I’d love to hear your story and share here for next month. Email me at happywithimperfect@gmail.com

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Forgiveness

Last week’s topic of Empathy was setting up for this topic, Forgiveness. This isn’t going to be on you getting forgiveness, this is about giving forgiveness. I have a firm belief that when someone wrong’s you they are in a place of panic, loneliness, or anger. The best way to move on from that incident, especially when they don’t apologize, is to be in their pain as well. Do you see where empathy comes it? It’s a great skill. They also don’t actually need to be in pain for you to see and relate to what is happening to them. I’m sharing this as a person who knows this, not that I’ve perfected this for myself yet.

I still have people that I haven’t quite forgiven. I know I haven’t ‘let it go’ because it’s an incident that I think of periodically and I still curse that other person. I have unresolved feelings towards what happened. What makes me angrier is that even if I were to confront that person of his actions he wouldn’t see how much hurt he inflicted upon me. Therefore I don’t see a point in stirring up that issue but I have yet to put it to rest.

This is why I share that you need to find a way to forgive those people. It’s a complete waste of time for me when I randomly reflect those events, I feel the burden of those feelings and it’s not helpful.

This is a small instance in which I was successful (Hoorah!). When I was first married I asked my husband to close the shower curtain after using it ALL THE TIME. How frustrating, right? He still never did it. At first I was really upset, he didn’t care about what I said so therefore he must not care about me as much as I thought he did. This is what I insisted this is exactly what he was thinking. After several fights/discussions I realized after trial and error, that there was no deeper meaning than him just forgetting. There was no hidden message, I needed to take this incident at face value. Once I realized his intentions, where his heart was, him not closing the shower curtain was not that big of a deal. Now if I see it open I just close it.

Something I realized about 6 months ago is that my little three year old daughter needs empathy as well. I used to think she’s giving me such a hard time and I’d get so angry, really though she was having a hard time. Her tantrums of screaming and kicking walls greatly diminished once I sat down gave her a hug and we talked about how she felt. Whether she was angry with me and why. Once she felt I understood her, she forgave me all of my imperfections as a mother.

I hope that when you read this you understand that this lesson is something I’ve learned through my daily life and by no means any professional opinion. Although I’m not perfect at this, giving true forgiveness(not the kind where you ‘let it go’ and actually just bury it) lifts a burden, making your mind lighter. Lighter mind = greater chance of a mindset of happiness.

I’d love for you to share your personal story, write me at happywithimperfect@gmail.com

Next week is the end of the month where I’ll be featuring a guest writer, here is a little bit about her:

Hi! My name is Danet Peterson! (Pronounced duh-nay) I am a 24 year old wife to my husband Danny, and the mother of 2 littles, a 2.5 year old boy and a little 1 month old baby girl. I have been married nearly 5 years to the most incredible man, who loves me unconditionally. We have grown together so much as a couple and it’s still hard to believe it’s already been nearly 5 years. A few things about me: I love making delicious tasting treats and dinners, but mostly treats; I have a passion for helping other people; I play piano and sing in a small local choral group called Resonance Vocal Ensemble; I love decorating and redecorating; if I ever leave my house to go run an errand and feel like being lazy, I will do my hair and sacrifice the make-up; oh–and my kitchen is probably the cleanest room in my house, without fail.  I am addicted to chocolate, I love date nights, and I live for nap time some days. 😉

Danet has her own blog and if you want to preview it, check it out here!

P. S. I’ll be starting a mini series starting on April 6th on building your own personal toolbox. I’ll be updating mine and I’d love to have you make one/update yours with me!

Empathy

Yesterday I came home from a counseling session with my husband. We’ve been working on building an emotional connection to one another because we have never had a model for such a connection so we’re learning on how to create that with one another. My biggest weakness with this process is giving empathy to my husband. Taking a few minutes to myself just now, I can say that I struggle with that in other relationships in my life.

Part of it is that is I feel like if you truly understood me, you would see the depth of my pain and stop inflicting pain on me; I’m sure that’s what the other person is thinking as well. Another part of me is just so hurt and in pain, it makes it difficult to recenter and listen to the other person share their feelings without being biased. I’m writing this with difficulty because I have a negative core belief about not being good enough to give empathy especially to the one person who deserves it most, my husband. Please know that as I share what little knowledge I have on this, I’m definitely in the trenches working on this.

I first want to share this video with you, it’s Brene Brown(surprise, surprise) talking about the difference between sympathy and empathy. I think everyone confuses this, I know I definitely did. Most everyone is really looking for empathy when they are in pain. When I say pain, I mean in some sort of emotional struggle.

This is where I’m worried that some of you may get turned off, as if struggling emotionally refers to only those who recognize that they deal with anxiety and depression. This is for everyone who has feelings. When to recognize this is when there is a fight between you and another person, it’s that simple. There wouldn’t be a fight unless someone got triggered, started being defensive and then attacked. I’ll even try to write a script portraying this:

 

Person A: When are you going to do the dishes? We don’t have anything to eat on.

Person B: (Upon hearing this is triggered, feeling shameful for letting everything to get dirty and now feels reprimanded and attacks) Well if you don’t like it then maybe you should stop being so lazy and help.

Person A:(Is triggered because they were told they were lazy and that what they were doing to help wasn’t enough) I’m not lazy, I do everything around here!

^This is a silly fight. I hope you can see though that even in such a little spat we can be hurt emotionally.

 

Now I bet you’re thinking then what can I do differently? This is what I’ve been taught should happen although like I’ve said my negative habits have been ingrained in me for 28 years now so this journey has been difficult for me.

Say I made a comment to my husband and suddenly he snaps/makes a defensive comment. Noting my husband’s reaction I can ask, “I can see that something upset you just now, could you tell me more about it?” I’d listen and find a situation in which I would relate, then with remembering those feelings I would respond, ” You must feel so disappointed right now.” I’m connecting and focusing on what he’s going through. This is the simplified version, life is usually a little more complicated than this, hence why we have chosen to do counseling as a couple.

I feel like we typically talk about empathy with starving children and abused animals; both of which I’ve seen videos for a certain organization and cried. I’m hoping this takes it to a deeper level, to your personal family. When your spouse or children act negatively I hope we can start thinking to ourselves, ‘Okay, they’re upset, what is this about? How can I show up for this person who I love?’

This is a talk I came upon by Elaine Walton called, Empathy and the Pure Love of Christ. She shares why having empathy is important and the role it can play in your life.

I struggle with this daily. I’m here though, in the trenches, taking the risk to learn how to do this. I still fear rejection and hurt but I’m not going to let that stop me from moving forward.

I encourage you to find the support you need and get to work.

 

Do you want to share? E-mail me at happywithimperfect@gmail.com

Shame vs. Guilt

When I was first introduced to this topic, my first thought was, ‘Aren’t they the same thing?’ I’m curious, how many of you thought something similar?

I feel like many of us don’t know the difference; the only people I’ve talked to that do know the difference have a past of counseling or education in development. Knowing that most people I’ve met don’t have this distinction I wanted to share my experience with this; I think this will help with making happiness a mindset.

Two weeks ago with sharing my toolbox, I spoke about negative self-talk. I went on about what I did to change that for myself. Part of what helped is understanding that my negative talk was me shaming myself constantly. Something else I realized about myself when learning about shame was that I was really good at giving it out, especially to my husband. He even said that I made this face that he nicknamed the ‘shame face’. I thought he was making it up until I saw my daughter make the face at two years old, how shameful! (haha see what I did there?) In recognizing what shame was I changed the way I spoke to myself and started to change how I spoke to those around me.

Shame is a focus on yourself and guilt is focused on behavior.

Shame says:            vs.            Guilt says:

I am bad                                    I made a bad choice

I am a mistake                         I made a mistake

I am a failure                            I failed at this attempt

Here’s your experiment to try this next week, when your day is going bad, what are you saying to yourself? When you find it difficult to get yourself motivated to do something, which voice are you listening to? I’d love to hear your results; what you realized about yourself.

The best teacher I can give you to go further in depth about this is Brene Brown. I’m going to post two links to two videos she did for Ted Talks. She has written several books and I’d wholeheartedly recommend them to you. You will be redirected to another window when you click on the links and they’re each around 20 minutes long, still completely worth watching!

The Power of Vulnerability

Listening to Shame

Now I’m going to take this to a spiritual level. This is something I struggled with. When it came to repentance I always thought I needed to reach a certain level of me being the best I could be to receive Grace; to use the Atonement. I never thought myself good enough to even reach the level I had set for myself. I shamed myself into thinking I was never enough. I was so wrong. I’d never been so wrong in my entire life!

This talk by Brad Wilcox, His Grace is Sufficient, gave me a wonderful understanding of what Grace really means for each one of us. I recommend reading it even if you aren’t LDS, it’s a great reminder of what Christ did for us. Don’t let shame keep you from becoming closer to Christ.

 

If you are someone who struggled with this and have a recommendation for something to read or listen to, please share in the comments below!