Mama, are you okay?
The other day, as I was leaving coffee with a friend, I turned to her and reminded her to appreciate the days she is in. She’s about 10 years younger than I am and was planning to attend a Shrek-themed rave that night. It sounded like so much fun! I never went to a rave myself, but a night out with the girls sounded like so much fun.
These days, a girl’s night needs to be coordinated months in advance to ensure a babysitter is coming for the night, everyone is in town, and there are no familial obligations already in place. As I started my car, I thought about the sweetness I’m living in now that I might not be noticing. My husband, Tyler, and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first pregnancy. We’re excited to be parents, but I know we’re in a sweet time right now that we’ll look back and miss one day.
With that in mind, I took to social media and asked a question. I asked,“ new Mamas or pregnant Mamas, what do you miss about pre-baby days?”. The answers came flooding in, with the most frequent response being sleep. Others included:
– slow mornings
– being spontaneous
– drinking, eating what I wanted, not always being the designated driver
– being available for others immediately, being spontaneous
– Friends inviting me to things (friends assume you can’t go when you have a baby)
– Self-identity, the ability to trust my body
– thinking I had my life figured out (I know better now)
– it didn’t take so long to get ready
– sleeping in
– body autonomy
– feeling rested
– flexibility in the schedule
– doing nothing
– quality time with my husband
– time to myself
– doing things I enjoy when I want to
– not feeling like I’m doing it all, and it’s still not good enough
– not feeling constantly overwhelmed
– not feeling rushed through everything
– not having constant anxiety about the baby’s health
I found the frequency of “friends” particularly interesting. The assumption is that a Mom can no longer join friends for outings after they have a baby. It has me wondering, in what is arguably the most significant identity shift in a woman’s life, do we lose our sense of community? When I posted the question to both Facebook and Instagram, I anticipated an onslaught of responses as simple as sleep. I did not expect the breadth of musings I received. In recent months, I’ve laughed to myself on more than one occasion at the lack of knowledge my husband has about the transition to a baby. After reading these generous responses I’ve realized I, too, am clueless.
A couple of months ago, after I published a blog about not being pregnant, I received so many messages from women who are struggling to get pregnant themselves. One message in particular sticks out in my memory. She wrote to me saying,
Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone and that I can allow myself to feel sad and disappointed but find peace in knowing it’s not God’s timing for us. I’m trying to think of things that I can do right now because I’m not pregnant and find an ounce of joy in that. May have an extra glass of wine tonight!
Her words have been on my mind ever since I received them, as I was trying to do the same. It’s such an interesting emotional place to be in – wanting to be pregnant while trying to appreciate exactly where life is. When I initially sat down to write this blog, I had the intention of making it about appreciating the sweetness of the present. I wanted to become aware of the small things I’m taking for granted, while still looking toward the future. What I stumbled upon in the process, however, has surprised me.
There’s a sense of loneliness and disconnect from the community among women who choose to become pregnant or have had children. Just recently, a new mom friend of mine was brought to tears when asked, “are you okay?” She felt alone and isolated. The struggle to become pregnant feels frustrating, confusing, and lonely. On both ends of this life-changing event, women are struggling with a sense of identity and community.
Maybe, one of the greatest gifts we could give women wanting to be a Mom and women who already are Moms this holiday season is a simple question. Maybe asking, ‘are you okay, really?’ would foster the connection so many are missing. The majority of holiday preparation and stress and, let’s be honest, hard work, falls on the shoulders of Mothers, anyway. Maybe there’s room for a vulnerable conversation that doesn’t center on passive-aggressive slights, politics, or if you’re from the midwest, snowfall totals.
On the other side of the coin, remember, is the willingness to be brave in conversations. To ask is one thing, to respond in honesty and vulnerability takes courage. This question is not to be asked lightly and, if you have any intention of casting judgment or shame, don’t ask. It’s not easy to admit a struggle when society is more comfortable with a facade of perfection.
When I asked my question on social media, I didn’t anticipate stumbling upon a little-known niche of mental health struggles. Fortunately, I’m deeply passionate about mental health, so I want to talk about it. And I’m challenging you to do the same.
If you know a new Mom, send her a text, meet her for coffee, visit her home and watch the baby while she naps. Or just chat. Don’t be afraid to ask, ‘are you okay?’
If you’re trying to become pregnant, know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you. I so desperately wanted a Christmas announcement for our families, but it’s not in the cards for us right now. I know how you feel. I’d love to connect with you and share this journey. You’re always welcome to send me an email or message me on social.
As I shared earlier, the main point of this piece was originally a reminder to appreciate the sweet things in life at this moment. That still applies. Two things can be true at once. You’re allowed to want more while noticing the sweet moments of this day. I encourage it. You’re also allowed to check on the people you love. And you’re always encouraged to be honest about your mental health. It’s okay not to be okay. But, please, say something.