This One is for the Mothers

This one is for the mothers.

This one is for the mothers who are sitting in a hospital bed at this moment, holding their new baby for the first time.

This one is for the mothers who are struggling with those first few months of motherhood. The sleepless night, the constant feeding, the pure exhaustion.

This one is for the mothers who are struggling with post-partum depression, wondering why they aren’t feeling that excited happy feeling everyone told them they would feel.

This one is for the mothers of toddlers. Your house is messy, you haven’t showered in days, you ate goldfish for dinner last night, you rock that messy bun like none other.

This one is for the mothers of school aged children. You are currently trying to homeschool your children even though you weren’t cut out for it.

This one is for the mothers of teens. They are learning to drive, they are hormonal and pushing you away.

This one is for the mothers whose children are grown. Your house is empty. Some days it’s nice to feel a sense of freedom again, some days you miss the chaos that was their childhood.

This one is for the single moms. You’re doing it all alone. You are taking on two roles as one person.

This one is for the mothers who have lost children. No one can understand the ache and heaviness in your heart except the ones who have also lost children.

This one is for the mothers of only one child. Everyone keeps asking you when you will have another, but you have decided to be “one and done” and that is what words for your family.

This one is for the mothers of 4, 5, 6, or more children. Everyone keeps asking you when you’re going to be done. Or they tell you you have your hands full. You wouldn’t trade your big family for the world.

This one is for the mothers who don’t have good relationships with your children. Your phone might not ring on Sunday, but you still matter.

This one is for the future mothers. Maybe you’re pregnant now. Maybe you’ve been trying to get pregnant for years, but each month you only see one line on that stick.

This one is for the step-mothers. You embraced children who you did not birth and love them as your own, because you fell in love with their father.

This one is for the adoptive mothers. Maybe you always felt lead to adopt. Maybe you struggled to have your own for years and never got pregnant. You took in babies and children whose biological parents didn’t want them or couldn’t care for them. You love them as your own flesh and blood.

This one is for the foster moms. You take in children from all walks of life. You don’t know if this child will be with you for a few days or a few years. You embrace that child no matter what kind of situation they came from.

This one is for the mothers who have lost their own mothers. Mother’s Day isn’t the same without her.

This one is for my own mother. She does so much for myself and my daughter. She is the kindest soul around. I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Mothers, no matter what stage you are in, you are loved. I know some days feel impossible. Some days you want to give up and run away. Some days you cry in the shower. Some days you drink multiple cups of coffee (or glasses of wine). Some days are fun and full of joy in laughter. Some days motherhood is everything you dreamed it would be.

That’s the thing about motherhood, no two days are the same. I hope today was a good one!

Happy Mother’s Day!

I Cried Last Night

I cried last night.

Life has changed drastically in the last 7 days.

School was canceled for the foreseeable future for my daughter. School work was sent home for me to help her with and teach to her. Visitor restrictions have been put in place at my hospital. A contagious disease is all over the news. The world seems to be in a panic. People are buying up all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Restaurants and stores have closed down. I hear stories of fellow healthcare workers getting kicked out of grocery stores simply because they might be carrying germs. People are scared to touch each other.

I cried.

I cried for my daughter who won’t see her friends for a long time.

I cried because I’m not good at teaching her. We struggled with getting home worked done before, how are we to get actual school work done?

I cried because what is happening is scary, but especially scary to a 7 year old.

I cried for my patients who are only allowed one support person at their bedside.

I cried for the pregnant moms who are terrified of bringing a baby into this disease stricken world.

I cried for the elderly who are scared to leave their house. Whether or not they catch this disease could mean life or death for them.

I cried for friends with immunocompromised children.

I cried for friends who are immunocompromised.

I cried for those so anxiety ridden that leaving their house is scary.

I cried in anger because some people think this disease is a hoax and refuse to take precautions.

I cried because I’m lonely and we have no idea when the world will return to normal.

I cried because I’m exhausted. Mentally exhausted. Physically exhausted. Emotionally exhausted.

I cried because I work in healthcare and the chances of me catching this disease at some point are pretty high and I don’t know how my body will handle it.

I cried for fellow healthcare workers who are even more at risk than I am.

I cried because there are reports of limited PPE (personal protective equipment) all over the country and healthcare workers are not able to adequately protect themselves from this disease.

I cried for Italy, because they are having to make the choices on who to treat. Who has the greatest chance of survival.

I cried because I can physically feel the depression setting in.

I cried because I’ve had to cancel plans to visit friends.

I cried because I don’t see a break anytime soon.

I cried because life feels very out of control at the moment.

I cried. But I also prayed.

I prayed that I would have patience in teaching my daughter.

I prayed that I could help her understand the world at the moment.

I prayed that I could be the support person that my patients need.

I prayed that I would stay healthy and so would my family.

I prayed that this disease would subside.

I prayed that our healthcare system will be able to handle and accommodate those who are sick.

I prayed that I would have the strength to carry on when I feel like giving up.

I prayed that healthcare workers around the world would be protected and remain healthy.

I prayed for those who are sick, that they would heal.

I prayed for those who have lost loved ones to this disease.

I prayed for parents of immunocompromised children, that they would have peace.

I prayed for those who are immunocompromised, that they would be protected and stay healthy.

I prayed that my anxiety would subside.

***

The world is scary right now.

It’s ok to cry.

It’s ok to be overwhelmed.

Take care of yourself.

Take care of others.

Wash your hands.

Stay at home.

Hopefully this will be over soon.

And when it’s over, let’s celebrate!

A Holiday Reminder from a Single Mom

It’s Christmas.

Today is a day all over the world where families get together. Those who don’t talk much, call each other. Hugs are given. Gifts are exchanged. Families and friends smile and laugh together. Songs a sung, games are played, movies are watched, traditions are carried on.

Today we woke up, opened stockings and presents. Had breakfast and more gifts at my parents’ house. Then I took my daughter to meet her dad. As I watched them drive away, my daughter waving out the rear view window, my heart sank. I already missed her. Splitting the holidays is so hard.

I spent the rest of the day at work, thankful for the distraction. I helped a sweet Christmas baby come into this world. I helped a woman become a mom for the first time. I watched her wipe away tears of joy as she held her daughter in her arms after hours of pushing. I helped her husband learn how to swaddle their little Christmas bundle. I watched as this beautiful couple became a little family of three.

Now I am home. I’m sitting alone on the kitchen floor. My daughter’s gifts are still in the living room. The wrapping paper still crumpled by the couch. Her bed still unmade from this morning. Her Christmas pajamas in a pile on her bedroom floor. She’s not here though, she won’t be for 3 days.

Some days I find the time she is with her dad a nice break from the physical aspects of parenting. But this evening I find the silence in the house deafening. It feels empty. Holidays are hard as a single mom.

The lights on the Christmas tree still shine, but for me, Christmas ended this morning. I’m ready to move onto regular, everyday life.

I want to put this reminder out to you all. If you have friends who are single parents, remember them on the holidays. Most single parents split holidays one way or another. Holidays make the times when our kiddos aren’t with us so much more lonely. So if you know a single parent, reach out to them during the holidays. Show them a little extra love and attention. It may be just the distraction they need.

I hope you all had a lovely Holiday!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hands

Take a minute and think of all the things we do with our hands.

I was at my therapist’s office the other day and we were talking about body image. (This is something I struggle with regularly.) My therapist told me to pick something about my body that I love. I sat in silence for a few minutes. She then told me that she loved her hands. She said,

“My hands have done so much for me. They aren’t necessarily pretty or perfect, but I have done so much with my hands.”

After I left her office I began to think more about what she said. The more I thought, the more I realized how true it is that we do so much with our hands. (I’m typing this out with my hands right now).

In the short 28 years of life my hands have encountered so much:

My hands have helped me pull to standing as a baby.

My hands have held on to those of my parents’ as I learned to walk.

My hands have colored and painted multiple pictures.

My hands learned to write my name.

My hands have helped me pass tests from elementary school through nursing school.

My hands have written poems, essays, papers, and blog posts.

My hands have played many, many games with friends and family.

My hands have helped me throw balls in sports.

My hands have helped me swim.

My hands have written out millions of words that express my feelings and emotions in my journals.

My hands have high-fived countless other hands.

My hands have made many phones calls and sent many texts.

My hands have held those of people I love.

My hands have cradled my own daughter after she was born.

My hands have changed thousands of diapers.

My hands have fed my child when she couldn’t feed herself.

My hands have wiped away tears, blood, and sweat.

My hands have prepared meals.

My hands have washed and brushed my daughter’s blonde hair more times than I can count.

My hands have held those of laboring mothers when they needed that extra support.

My hands have provided life saving chest compressions on a baby who was blue and limp.

My hands have performed thousands of fundal rubs to prevent moms from bleeding postpartum.

My hands have given meds and spiked bags of fluid.

My hands have inserted IVs and catheters.

My hands have fed many babies and helped new moms learn to breastfeed.

My hands have held a premature infant as she took some of her final breaths.

My hands have dressed and bathed lifeless bodies of stillborn babies.

My hands have taken thousands of photographs for myself, friends, and patients.

My hands have delivered a baby when the doctor didn’t make it in time.

My hands have sustained needle pricks, getting slammed in doors, becoming dry and cracked, and yet they never fail.

My hands have been washed over and over again.

My hands have given hundreds of back rubs to soothe nerves in both my daughter and patients.

My hands have washed dish after dish and folded load after load of laundry.

My hands have packed and unpacked boxes when I’ve moved in the past.

My hands have picked flowers, raspberries, apples, and more.

My hands have popped pimples and cleaned cuts.

My hands have turned the pages of books I’ve read.

My hands have steered my car safely for 13 years now.

My hands have kneaded bread dough and baked countless numbers of cakes and cookies.

My hands have held open doors for other people.

My hands have done so much more for me than I can thank them for.

What have your hands done for you?

Gray Matter: An OB Nurse’s View on Abortion

I am going to approach a subject that has been all over the media lately. This topic has been a constant battle for humanity for years on end. I am going to share with you my thoughts and feelings as a medical professional in women’s healthcare. I am going to share with you how my views have changed over the few years I have been in this career.

I will begin with the disclaimer that I am by no means a professional on abortion. What I share with you are thoughts, feelings, and views on the subject in hopes that I am able to put both sides in each others’ shoes.

Abortion is not black and white. I grew up believing it was. I grew up believing that abortion was wrong. End of story. No exceptions. I grew up in a Christian school and a Christian church surrounded by people who became upset when a woman had her fallopian tube removed due to an ectopic pregnancy because she had “aborted” her baby. (I do not remember this incident, but my mom has told me the story.)

The first time I encountered the idea that abortion may be acceptable in some cases was during an English class in high school. I remember the subject came up, though I’m not sure how, and my teacher very frankly said that abortion was wrong unless the pregnancy threatened the mother’s life. I remember being mind blown at the realization that abortion could be a life saving measure for someone.

As time went on I continued to hold a pro-life view point on the subject. At some point in the past 3 years of my nursing career, my view points changed.

I no longer see abortion as a black and white subject. It is so very gray. You see, this world is evil and broken. I do not believe that a woman (or girl) should be forced to carry a child if it is going to be detrimental to her mental health.

Rape exists. Rape is never simple. Going through with a pregnancy, and all the hormonal and physical changes that come with it, serves as a constant reminder of the tragedy that surrounds rape. Sometimes rape includes a stranger, sometimes it’s the woman’s partner, sometime’s it’s the 13 year old girl’s brother or father or uncle. That 13 year old should not be forced to continue a pregnancy that will serve as a constant reminder that her family member, who she thought she could trust, took advantage of her in a weak moment. This is why abortion should not be banned.

Sometimes a woman becomes pregnant and is excited. At her 18 week anatomy scan they discover that this baby has no brain, or fatal cardiac anomalies, or any number of horrible defects that mean that baby will not survive. The blood tests confirm what was found on the ultrasound. Perhaps this woman is a single mom and has very little support. She has to make the very hard decision to terminate her pregnancy because she knows her mental health would not withstand carrying the baby to term. She has to be as healthy as she can be for herself and her living child. This is why abortion should not be banned.

Perhaps a woman is pregnant and before viability she falls terribly ill. This sickness could be caused by the pregnancy or not. Perhaps she has developed dangerously high blood pressures and dangerously low platelet counts (a complex, life threatening illness of pregnancy called HELLP syndrome). To save the mother’s life they have to terminate the pregnancy. Or perhaps a woman discovers she has cancer and needs chemotherapy and radiation before viability or her own chance of survival becomes increasingly slim. The mom makes the hard decision to terminate her pregnancy so she can continue to live and be there for her family. This is why abortion should not be banned.

Sometimes abortion is necessary for the mother’s wellbeing, whether it be mental or physical. Sometimes women use abortion as birth control (which I feel is a whole separate beast).

Now I could go on. I could share heartbreaking stories. I am now going to the other end of things. Just because someone was raped does not mean that they should not carry that pregnancy to term. I have cared for women who have conceived from rape. These women are brave and strong. I know people who were born as a result of rape, and these people are not any less important than those conceived out of love. However, everyone is different. Every situation is different. This is why it is important not to jump to conclusions and say a woman needs to go in one direction or another under these circumstances.

I have cared for women who have delivered babies who would not live. I have watched moms kiss these babies’ heads as they take their last breath. This is a beautiful thing. Often they see their pregnancy as a blessing despite being unable to bring their baby home. However, once again every situation is different. Some women have a wonderful support system to get them through a tough pregnancy, knowing their baby would not survive. But many other women do not have the gift of close friends or family.

Everyone has their own views on abortion. Some folks believe it should not be allowed under any circumstances, while others use it as birth control. Some say it should be banned and punishable by death. Here’s the thing. Women will still find ways to have abortions, they just won’t be safe ways. Abortion laws help women who decide to get abortions at least have them safely.

Abortion is gray. Abortion is sad. I wish there wasn’t a need for abortion. However, we live in a broken world. We live in a world of tragedy. We live in an unfair world. A world where sad things happen in the worst of circumstances.

I said before and I’ll say it again, I am not a professional on the abortion subject. However, I am a labor and delivery nurse. I have seen an cared for many women amidst some terrible circumstances.

I have heard many people proclaim “well I would never have an abortion.” And all I can think is “well, good for you”.

I have been fortunate enough not to have been placed in a circumstance like I have listed above. So I do not know what I would do. But I do know this, I will not judge or belittle anyone who has terminated a pregnancy for any reason.

This subject will never be at rest. There will always be conflict. People will always have different views. We will never have the answers.

However, perhaps we can decrease the number of abortions performed simple as birth control. Perhaps better healthcare can help. Perhaps better access to women’s health and birth control can help. Perhaps better support for struggling single moms can help. Perhaps a more loving world can help.

I urge you to stop to bickering. To your left is a woman who had an abortion. To your right is a woman who was conceived out of rape whose mother chose life. Be gentle with your words and do your best not to judge someone for their decisions. Love those around you. Show kindness to women in all circumstances.

To those of you who were born with disabilities, conceived in awful circumstances, who grew up in foster care, who were born to single mothers, you matter. We care about you. To those who have terminated a pregnancy for any number of reasons, you matter. We care about you.

I could share so much more on this subject. I will end here for today.

Thanks for listening,

Liz.

Snippets From a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Nurse

/ners/

Noun

1. A person trained to care for the sick or infirm, especially in a hospital

Verb

1. To give medical and other attention to (a sick person)

“Do small things with great love” -Mother Teresa

I have been a labor and delivery nurse for a few years now and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This job has the reputation of being a happy, exciting place to work (which it is); it is one of the most coveted jobs in the nursing profession. When I tell someone that I am an L&D nurse I get all sorts of responses most of which are full of envy, or excitement, or just completely clueless about what my job entails. Well, I’m here to tell you what my job entails:

I have calmed anxious, new mothers who come in for inductions not knowing what to expect.

I have spent hours applying pressure to women’s hips and backs in an attempt to relieve labor pains.

I have held the hands of women as they sit up for an epidural placement, anxiety stricken by all the stories they’ve heard of epidurals gone wrong.

I have coached these same mothers in pushing techniques for hours on end as they bring their baby into this world. I have stood by their bedside. I have held their legs. I have cheered them on.

I have sprinted down the hallway next to my patient’s bed as we run back for an emergency c section praying that everyone will be alright.

I have done my best to converse with patients who don’t speak English. To make them feel as comfortable as possible while surrounded by people who don’t speak her language.

I have caught a baby with my own two hands when he came so fast that the doctor didn’t have time to get in the room.

I have have cried happy tears with my patient when her baby is finally born after hours of pushing.

I have grieved with parents who have lost their baby before she was even born.

I have cleaned and clothed babies gone too soon.

I have cried tears of joy when a rainbow baby is born.

I have cuddled crying babies while wishing them a happy birthday and telling them how much their mom loves them.

I have seen babies as small as a pound and as big as 12 pounds.

I have wiped away tears and sweat and blood from mothers’ faces.

I have climbed on top of patients and applied suprapubic pressure in an attempt to disengage their baby’s shoulder that has gotten stuck during delivery.

I have been the bad guy and kicked the unwanted guests out of a laboring patient’s room.

I have wrapped my hands around a little baby’s chest and did cpr while praying that he will start to cry. “One and two and three and breathe. One and two and three and breathe..”

I have weighed blood soaked pads during a post partum hemorrhage, calculating that this mom has now lost more blood than the average human body contains.

I have given multiple units of blood to pale, hypotensive mothers after they have lost too much blood during delivery.

I have encouraged moms in pain relief techniques when I know they really want to go natural, but feel like giving up.

I have placed countless IVs and catheters. I have bolused countless liters of fluid.

I have been soaked in puke, blood, amniotic fluid, and urine. Sometimes all at the same time.

I have pestered doctors (sometimes over and over again) to come check on a patient who I have an uneasy feeling about.

I have encouraged single mothers that they CAN do this! I have shared my story and told them that they can be a successful mother without a husband.

I have titrated pitocin to get moms into labor and insulin drips to bring down blood sugars. I have started mothers on magnesium and brought them fans and cool rags to help ease the unbearable heat that comes with the mag bolus.

I have spent hours trying to get a baby to stay on the fetal monitor.

I have been the calm voice in an emergency when in reality my heart is beating out of my chest.

I have worked with doctors to figured out the best plan of care for a medically complicated patient.

I have taught dads how to swaddle their babies and reassured them that their baby is not going to break if picked up.

I have let big sisters and brothers help change their new sibling’s diaper. I have let them listen to the baby’s heart and lungs with a tiny stethoscope.

I have assisted countless new moms in breastfeeding their baby. I have reassured moms that they are not failures for choosing to bottle feed.

I have congratulated thousands of parents on their new baby.

I have told moms how strong they are when they feel weak.

I have held the hands of patients being told they need a c section, or that their baby needs to be delivered early, or that their baby may have a scary heart or lung condition.

I have seen babies born addicted to multiple drugs.

I have seen super fast labors and labors that lasted for days.

I have seen babies born after 6 hours of pushing and babies born without pushing at all.

I have cared for the rich and the homeless, all with the same compassion and kindness.

I have taken beautiful pictures of babies who have passed so that the parents can have something to take home with them in their seemingly empty arms.

I have checked cervix after cervix.

I have cared for friends and strangers. Some of these strangers end up feeling like friends in the end.

I have repositioned patients, turned off the pitocin, given oxygen, and a fluid bolus in an attempt to bring the baby’s heart rate back up to normal during a deceleration. All the while doing my best to keep the patient and family calm.

I have worked entire shifts without eating or peeing.

I have spent hours catching up on charting after a busy shift.

I have rubbed backs, I have brushed hair, I have taken pictures.

I have come home from work with sore feet, back, shoulders, and arms.

I have cried and laughed more in my career as a labor and delivery nurse than I have in my life. I have also never been more exhausted or fulfilled.

I have made awesome friends in my fellow nurses and doctors.

I have shared a lot, but my job is so much more than this.

My job is joyful and heartbreaking. It’s wonderfully difficult.

I love this job I have.

So, next time you think that an L&D nurse just “wipes off babies”, think twice and remember these things I’ve shared with you.

With love,

Your friendly, neighborhood Labor and Delivery nurse.

Anxiety Is Real (and you should acknowledge that)

Acknowledgement. Validation. Acceptance. Support.

It’s the simple things. The simple moments that you don’t realize how much they matter until the moment has passed. The things that later will hit you like a train and make you realize how different life could be.

I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. There are events from my childhood that I can remember feeling out of control, feeling like a disaster was about to happen, feeling an “impending sense of doom”. This childhood anxiety has stuck with me over the years (how kind of it to be so loyal right?). The anxiety has changed from time to time. Sometimes the anxiety focuses more on relationships or FOMO (fear of missing out). Sometimes the anxiety is completely irrational to the point that I feel like a crazy person for even struggling with it. Sometimes the anxiety creeps up in social situations or at work.

“They’re laughing at you” it whispers, “how could you have said something like that? That was so stupid!”.

Anxiety by definition is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease”. The thing is, anxiety doesn’t always present itself in this way. Sometimes anxiety presents itself in physical symptoms. These symptoms could be anything from a stomach ache (hence the “butterflies in you stomach” saying), to chest pain, to headaches or dizziness. There have been times when I have felt horrible physically before I realized that I was anxious about something.

Anxiety can come in waves. Sometimes I will go days or weeks without anxiety (or at least not acknowledging the anxiety). Other times anxiety comes one like a clap of thunder, it booms out of nowhere catching me off guards. Even other times it feels like a fog, constantly hovering around while I wait for the weather to warm and the sun to come through. Sometimes the anxiety brings on a depressive state. A state in which I feel hopeless and lost. A state that seems to never end. Other times a depressive state brings on the anxiety. I feel down and before I know it I am panicking, worrying about this or that or sometimes I worry about something that I can’t pinpoint.

That’s the thing about anxiety, there isn’t always an obvious culprit in the causation of this overwhelming feeling. At times I feel my heart pounding and my mind racing for reasons unknown to me. At times I have an irrational sense of impending doom. Often times I never find the cause of this anxiety, it’s just there. It jumps out at you like a bully trying tease or hurt other kids for no reason.

Not everyone understands anxiety. Yes, most people understand feeling anxious, but not everyone understand the true, crippling effects of anxiety or panic. Not everyone understand the crazy images that pass through your mind or the unrealistic thought patterns that come on. These people will often times tell you “not to think like that” or “that will never happen, be realistic”. Some will tell you that you need to “get right with Jesus”. (Coming from a Christian community this irks me the most.) Not everyone has the ability to handle or understand this anxiety. That is why it is so important to find a community that will support you, acknowledge you.

This week has been a tough one for me. Transitioning antidepressants and anxiolytics is always tough. The anxiety and depression is unpredictable. Often the original medication has worn off before the new medications has taken full effect. This week has turned me into a muddy, anxiety puddle (yes puddle, all the tears!). Things have crossed my mind that haven’t caused this much anxiety in years. (I even filled out the medical ID in my phone in case I were to get in a car crash or die of an aneurysm that way people would know who I am and who to contact. Crazy right?!).

Yesterday I called my doctor to talk about side effects of the new medication I’m trying. I was worried that it wasn’t working or that I was developing serotonin syndrome.

*Serotonin Syndrome is a group of symptoms that can occur following the use of certain serotonergic medications or drugs, if can range from mild to deadly.*

I explained to my doctor about what was going on, the side effects, the crippling anxiety, the morbid and irrational fears. This woman was so encouraging. She didn’t tell me to stop thinking those thoughts. She didn’t tell me that I was crazy. She understood. She acknowledged and accepted those thoughts and feelings I was having. She validated them. She was empathetic and compassionate. She knew that these thoughts and feelings were real to me.

It didn’t hit me until I was on my way home from work this morning (#nightshift). I felt free. There was something in me that felt at peace. Someone understood. Someone acknowledged my anxieties without questioning them. This feeling was amazing.

So, I am going to challenge you. If someone, anyone, comes to you to express their anxieties, treat them with understanding. Acknowledge them, validate them, accept them, and support them. We weren’t made to live alone in this world. We were made for community. We were made to love and support each other no matter the circumstances. This kind of care and compassion is life changing for those of us that feel isolated by our anxiety. So please, go change someone’s life for the better.

Depression, You B**ch

Depression doesn’t care what day it is or what you have planned. Depression doesn’t care if it’s a holiday or if it’s your daughter’s birthday. Depression doesn’t care if you have to work or have errands to run. Depression doesn’t care about your friends or your family. Depression is sneaky bitch, it likes to take you off guard. It knocks you down and laughs at you. Depression whispers lies in your ears. Depression lurks in the shadows waiting for your most vulnerable moments, takes those moments and pounces, preying on all your insecurities.

Lately I’ve seemed to be doing better than I have in years. I seemed to have more control over my emotions than I’d ever had. I had gotten back into an exercise routine. I was finally not lonely. Loneliness was the biggest manifestation of my depression and for the past several months it had disappeared. Of course things were going all too well for too long.

Out of the blue the depression fell. At some point, it hit me, like a punch in the stomach. Depression makes you feel hopeless, useless. When I become overwhelmed with this emotion I often can’t move or think straight. It’s as if the depression is intoxicating, but not in the fun, flirty way. In the way someone is drunk, stumbling around in the dark. In the way that makes one nauseous at the thought of getting out of bed. In the way that makes all your movements feel sluggish.

Depression can be triggered by a number of things. For each individual it is different. Over the past few weeks I’ve struggled with some lower back pain which has put a damper on my exercise. That’s only the beginning of what I think triggered this episode of depression. Then I ended up developing a migraine straight from hell. No amount of Meds or sleep can cure my aching head. My child has become increasingly difficult behaviorally which makes it hard to do anything. And as the holiday came up, I discovered so many friends making plans and deciding what to do. This is when I realized the vast lack of close friends I have in the area. Or perhaps the lack of friend groups (single mom doesn’t fit in with the singles, young couples, or couples with kids). I could head down this spiral even farther, but I’ll spare you that.

The point is depression sucks and there is no magic ticket out of it. I don’t write this to get sympathy. I write this in hopes that someone, somewhere realizes they are not alone. I hope they realize that there are other people out there who experience the same feelings they do. So if you are struggling with depression please understand that you don’t have to struggle alone.

Hang in there, Friend.

Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

This phrase dates all the way back to 1862 and may be one of the biggest lies of all time. Words heal. Words break. Words build. Words destroy.Words are everywhere. Books, billboards, magazine ads, commercials, online, everywhere. Everyday we wake up and are bombarded with words. Words in the form of an argument. Words in the form of encouragement. Words in the form of distress or happiness. They are everywhere

I’m a deeply emotional person. I take everything to heart to the point that my chest aches. I will hear a song or read a quote and feel those emotions intensely. I read books. I feel the joy or heartbreak of the characters as if it’s my own. I cry, I laugh, I get angry. Words have more power than you may realize.

I’ve written before about word vomit. Basically spewing words before thinking about what you’re saying or what they mean. So often these words are instantly regretted. Words have so much power, but not only to they have the power to build or destroy, they can be misconstrued by the receiver of the words.

The 21st century is the age of texting and social media. Via these modes of communication it can be very difficult to to convey tone of voice or body language. In these scenarios all you encounter are the plain, raw words left to be put into tone by the imagination and insecurities of your own brain. For example, in these situations an otherwise simply cheerful “okay” can be misinterpreted as a short, stiff “okay”. This leaves the receiver of those messages wondering what they said or did wrong to upset the sender.

If you’re anything like me, you overthink. I mean, to the point that your brain hurts. What did they mean by that? Should I have done something differently? Did I say something wrong? Etc etc. And here comes the word vomit. Because if you are indeed like me, you need to reconcile these issues (that are likely made up in your head). I tend to send texts asking if I did or said something to upset the person. I try to resolve the [imaginary] problems by speaking (or typing) more words that can be misinterpreted.

But, we are also in the age of emojis. Smiley faces, thumbs up, poop emojis, the laughing so hard I’m crying, and my personal favorite, jazz hands. These little characters help us to convey emotions and tone of voice in an other monotonous text. It may sounds weird, but I am thankful for emojis. My little brain who runs in overdrive thanks the creator of emojis. (Something odd to be thankful for, I know.)

Back to the main purpose of those post. . .

Words have the ability to tear people apart. Since we do live in an age of social media, this also means we live in an age of cyber bullying – something that shouldn’t even exist. But it does, and now there is a whole website committed to cyber bullying (you can find it here). While reading up on this website I came across an astonishing statistic:

“The 2014–2015 National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.”

That’s 1 in 5 high school kids!

ONE in FIVE!!

In looking up Cyberbullying I also looked up Suicide rates connected to Cyberbullying. While in my brief research I couldn’t find any direct statistics between Cyberbullying and suicide, I did find statistics on suicide in teens and preteens. What I found is astonishing:

  • suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in people ages 10-14, and the 2nd leading cause of death in people ages 15-34
  • 17% of high school students have seriously considered suicide. 13% have made a plan of how to commit suicide. 8% have attempted suicide and 3% have been successful or attempted suicide causing serious injury.
  • bully victims are 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide

Here are a few links to PDFs provided by the CDC on Suicide:

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdf

Now I mentioned Cyberbullying, but how about actual bullying? In person, in the flesh? If we were all sitting in a room I would ask for a show of hands of those who have been the receiver of hurtful words. I would be willing to bet that everyone would raise their hand without hesitation. Next, I would ask for a show of hands of those who have said something hurtful to someone else. I would be willing to bet the hands would be a little more hesitant this time, but if everyone answered honestly, I’m sure they’d all be in the air.

I didn’t start this post intending it to lead to suicide prevention, but that’s the funny thing about words, sometimes they lead you places you didn’t expect.

We talk. We speak to a variety of people every day. Your neighbors, the barista at Starbucks, the teller at the bank, the cashier at the grocery store. We comment on statuses and photos on Facebook. We send and receive emails. All of these people have lives and feelings of their own. A small conversation can make or break their day.

As I’ve said, words can tear people down. Words can destroy a once positive, youthful spirit. But here’s the thing, words can also build. Words can support and offer love. Words can inspire. Words can provide hope in a time when you feel lost.

So, please, go out and be kind. Offer uplifting words to those you come across today, empower each other, encourage each other, you don’t know what that person may be going through. Who knows, your words could save a life.

The Mom Conspiracy

I don’t often get involved in disputes on Facebook. I find it makes me more frustrated than anything and it never solves any problems. However, last week I got involved in an argument in a local public forum. A woman, probably in her late 50’s, made a post stating:

“Why do people just sit and ignore their screaming, wild child? I’m about to go tell the kid to shut up!”.

The comments on this post came from so many different people, spanning from each end of the spectrum. Everything from folks agreeing with this woman who said she wanted to tell the kid to shut up, to people defending the screaming child, pointing out that the kid could be on the autism spectrum. I won’t get into what I said or some of the very cruel comments that some others said. But, what I did find is that most of the people who said the child should have been disciplined right away and removed from the public place did not even have children (they even bragged about not having children). Some of these people even went on to say that if a parent could not “control” their child they should not be taken out in public.

Have you ever heard the saying that everyone is a perfect parent until they have kids?

Now, I’m sure you can imagine how upsetting this is for parents to read comments like this. Especially lonely, struggling parents who do not have perfectly well behaved children.

P.S. No child is perfectly well behaved, even if their parent claims they are.

These comments got me thinking. I’ve been a mom now for nearly 6 years. And a single mom since my daughter was 6 weeks old. Over the years I have received so much conflicting advice on parenthood and how to raise my daughter. If you’re a parent you probably know exactly where I am going with this. If you’re not, sit back and read.

Parenting in the 21st century is difficult. Not only do we have friends and family telling us how to care for our children, we also have articles on the internet being thrown in our faces all the time. Here are just a few snippets of “advice” that I have heard in the past 6 years of parenting:

Sleep: Let the child cry it out so they will learn to self soothe. Go cuddle your baby as soon as they start crying, this will help them learn to trust you and feel safe. Make sure your baby sleeps in their own bed, co sleeping creates too much dependence and the child will never become a full functioning adult. Co sleeping helps the child and the mother sleep better and has huge health benefits for the child as they get older.

Diapering: Disposable diapers are killing the planet, use cloth diapers. Cloth diapers are expensive and are a pain to wash, use disposable. Use disposable, but only the organic kind.

Feeding: Breast is best, you’re a failure if you don’t breast feed your baby. But don’t breastfeed too long, because nursing a toddler is gross and weird. But don’t nurse in public because it turns men on. But women have a right to feed their child with their breast’s where ever they like. Introduce sold food at 4 months, 6 months, a year, etc. Baby lead weening vs baby food. Feed your children only home grown, GMO free, organic food because store bought food has too many chemicals.

Schedule: Make sure your child has a set schedule, this will help regulate their day and create routine. Don’t stick to a set schedule, this will make you slave to your child and you will never be able to go anywhere at certain times of day.

Pacifier/thumb sucking: Don’t ever let your child have a pacifier or suck their thumb, you will never be able to get them to quit. Thumb sucking and pacifiers are self soothers, this is good for your child’s mental and emotional health.

Discipline: Spank your child as they disobey. I’m sure you’ve heard people say “had I ever done that, I would’ve gotten a whoopin’. This is what’s wrong with kids these days”. Spanking is child abuse, use the gentle parenting method. Children should be able to be controlled and sit still. Children are the future allow them to have their own mind and have their own voice.

Working: Be a stay at home mom, your children need you to raise them, not a baby sitter or day care. Go to work, it teaches your children good work ethic and that it is not just up to the man to provide for the house hold.

Me Time: Take time for yourself, go out with some friends every once in a while. If you go out with friends, you are neglecting your child. Allow yourself a glass of wine in the evening or after the kids are in bed. If you drink in your child’s presence you are teaching them bad habits and making yourself an incompetent parent.

Relationships/Marriage: Stay with your significant other even if you don’t love them, it is important for a child to see their parents together. Create a healthy environment for your children, even if this means that their parents are separated.

House: Keep your house clean, this will teach your child self discipline and how to keep a clean home. The dishes and laundry can wait, it is more important to spend time with your child.

Schools: You don’t truly love your children if you don’t homeschool them and teach them yourself. Homeschooling children creates sheltered, antisocial adults. You need to send them to public school. Public school will corrupt your children, you need to send them to private school.

The list goes on and on. Vaccines, screen time, one child vs multiple children, etc. etc.

Parents these days, especially moms, are held to unrealistic standards.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” This phrase sums up parenthood more than anything else.

As a labor nurse I often have new moms asking me for advice. This is what I tell them. . .

You will receive advice and opinions from friends, family, and strangers. All of whom will think their way is the right way. It’s ok if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, formula is a wonderful alternative, what matters is that your child is fed. It doesn’t matter if you feed your kid home grown kale or frozen pizza for the 3rd day in a row. It doesn’t matter if your kid sleeps in a crib or in bed with you. It is ok to take time for yourself. It is ok to be a stay at home mom. It is ok to work a full time, night shift job. It’s ok to send your child to public school, it’s ok to homeschool, it’s ok to send your kid to private school. You are doing a fantastic job as long as your child is loved, fed, has a roof to live under, and a bed to sleep in. The rest doesn’t matter.

Motherhood is hard and messy.

Keep your chin up, Mama. You’re amazing.