I've taken a long silent pause since the last time I had anything to share on this platform. Truth be told, I was uninspired and beaten down by the relentless "morning sickness" (let's be clear it's not confined to the morning) that I experienced for the first four months of this pregnancy.
I let myself surrender into the dark and quiet energies that fall and winter bring, and I watched a lot of Project Runway on my couch while drinking all the peppermint tea and sucking down ginger candies like it was my job.
Thankfully my energy shifted some time after the holidays, and as I rounded the corner into my second trimester, the sun and my energy were on the rise. I'm now beyond the half-way point of this pregnancy (25 weeks today.) I'm in the final stretch with the finish line in sight and a whole lot of INSPIRATION and MOTIVATION to CREATE.
My tank is full to the brim with feelings of love and gratitude for everything I learned in my first go on the merry-go-round of motherhood. I have been spending time reflecting on the ways that Leif supported my growth, healing, and transformation the past four and a half years, and I am curious to see what this next soul child has to offer for life lessons.
I am extra grateful for having space and energy in this pregnancy to continue to explore my passion for healing and energy work and so thankful that I took the time recently to add the tools of sound healing(via tuning forks) and Reiki to my toolbox. I anticipate these modalities will be of great value to myself, new baby, and family in our transition to a family of four and as part of my postpartum self-care plan.
The time I spent in the first half of this pregnancy feeling so very far from my best was a solid reminder of how motherhood brings significant challenges to our physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual bodies. With morning sickness came— anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, body discomforts, self-doubt, mental fog, a sense of isolation, and feelings of being wildly unproductive in my home, mothering, and passions — all of which I experienced in the throes of being a new mom.
My first pregnancy was joyful (even the morning sickness was more bearable). I was so wide-eyed and wondrous about my changing body and fully committed to preparing my body and mind for an empowered birthing experience (which indeed manifested). I gave very little of my attention to thinking about or preparing for postpartum. I believed at the time that I would be able to find balance and self-care easily in motherhood and entered with the best of intentions to do so. However, I realized in the aftermath that I had unrealistic expectations for myself and didn't reach out for enough postpartum support. I had no idea that sleep deprivation was no laughing matter and hadn't ever so severely experienced such dark fears and anxiety, the questioning of my worth, or the extreme physical, mental, and emotional fatigue that came under the heaviness of it all.
The truth is— you don't know what you don't know— and there are some things in life for which you can not fully prepare. I also can't say that I would change any of it. I accept that I needed to weather that storm to learn more about myself, to transform and heal. I needed to Brave the Dark Night of my Soul to arrive at where I am today, and I am unconditionally grateful for all of my struggles.
All that being said, let's be clear it wasn't all doom and gloom either, there were a lot of ways that I made space for and nourished myself that I am absolutely proud of, lots of ways I DID balance caring for myself with my child and marriage.
I still plan to do better by myself this time around by creating a postpartum plan that will prevent and or mitigate as much of the unnecessary and physiological Postnatal Depletion as possible.
If this is your first time hearing this term (I hadn't heard it before,) it may be because postnatal depletion isn't talked about nearly enough, though if I had to wager, you might personally know its damaging effects ( I sure as shit do) all too well. Many of us in the mom game are or have experienced this depletion, and unfortunately, when it's not dealt with, it can be extremely troublesome and last well into our children's teen and even adult years. I have coached mothers who are working on recovering from this damage long after their children have left the nest. I am not interested in this happening to me, anyone I know and love, or any mama for that matter. We all deserve better.
Our western culture perpetuates this depletion. With the unrealistic and inadequate maternity leave policies, the lack of adequate support networks, and the pervasive and unhealthy messaging around our bodies "bouncing back." It also stems from self-imposed expectations and pressures, most likely arising from the societal undertone that we must "have it all, be it all, and do it all" as mothers.
Postnatal depletion comes from all sorts of places; we can not discount it from a purely physiological perspective. The toll pregnancy and birth have on the body is often just swept under the rug, but this is where depletion begins. Bottom line— growing another human being in your body is a BIG ASK, and no matter what type of birth you have, it is a significant trauma for the body to withstand. Meaning we enter into caring for an infant with our batteries less than fully charged. Pile on— sleep deprivation, the additional caloric requirements of breastfeeding, imbalanced hormones, nutritional insufficiency, multiple children, the extra load on the nervous and immune systems, and conditions that may have developed with pregnancy— your battery life starts to feel critically low and fast.
The result of this depletion no matter what the source— complete and utter exhaustion, confusion, mood swings and disorders, scatterbrain ("mom brain"), feelings of overwhelm, reactivity, decreased libido and weakened immunity. Though I am sure we could all add symptoms from our personal experience to this list.
Beyond these symptoms of depletion we simply can not and should not ignore the staggering statistics around the skyrocketing rates of maternal mortality in this country. We must also seriously consider how prolonged levels of depletion can be directly connected to many chronic diseases that have been increasing for some time.
In the book The Postnatal Depletion Cure, written by Dr. Oscar Serrallach, he shares this sentiment about this syndrome of motherhood.
"The bottom line is that if you want a healthy society, you need to start with healthy communities. To have healthy communities, you have to start with a healthy family. If you want a healthy family, you need to have the mother in the best possible health physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually."
So, how do we support ourselves as mothers in being the healthiest version of ourselves despite the challenges of mothering? I believe there is no linear approach to this issue. WELLNESS is multi-faceted, and it requires a whole-hearted holistic approach to offer a remedy to our depletion. Individually we must prioritize and make space for our own needs to be met, and we must also create a tribe of support and tap into the many resources that are available to address this issue. We need to ask for help when we are suffering and clearly communicate our needs to those who can help us.
We must take an honest look at the pressures and expectations that we place on ourselves as mothers, create boundaries with those in our lives that do not enhance our well-being, and reduce to the best of our ability the number of stressors in our lives.
A lot can be done just in working with developing AWARENESS of your emotional state, thoughts, beliefs and how they translate into helpful or harmful behaviors— and from that we have the ability to change and grow.
I know that there are answers to support us in reenergizing and repairing our systems that are overburdened by the glory that is motherhood. I have full confidence that there are specific ways to nourish our bodies and souls better, to get sound rest, and to exercise in a way that doesn't further deplete our already dry wells.
I am starting with myself and creating a plan for my postpartum time that honors not only the sacred #firstfortydays after my next child is born but one that will help me into the high energy requirements of toddlerhood and beyond. I am sharing my thoughts, feelings, experience, and resources with you in hopes that whether you are pregnant for the first(or more) time(s) or have been living in a depleted state that something within what I am writing here will be of service to you.
I recognize and honor that each mom's journey and circumstances of mamahood are uniquely their own, and also believe that there are universal and accessible options for enhancing our well-being.
I genuinely hope you find healing aid on your path, and you rise to your full health potential. I am here for you, don't hesitate to connect with me, we are all in this together.
Additional resources on this topic
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson
The First Forty Days by Heng Ou
Do less by Kate Northrup
Hangry by Sara Fragoso and Brooke Kalanick. ND, MS
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan, MD (while this book does focus on pregnancy and care of baby, there is loads of valuable information for moms care as well)
https://www.yourbirthyourworthpodcast.com/ ( Great resource if you experience any trauma or feelings of disappointment around your birth, and you can receive a free birth and postpartum planning template)
Mental Health Support
For Seacoast NH Locals here are some postpartum supports and services that may be of value to you.
https://www.reliefparenting.com/ This is a one stop shop for all things pre and postnatal support. You will find me in their respite and work rooms, so grateful this mecca of maternal support exists.
https://www.thedouladarcy.com The coolest postpartum doula I have the pleasure of knowing, she is a wealth of knowledge and a valuable resource, she even offers online support!
https://www.smallbatchwellness.com/ Holistic nutrition support and meal services, I am looking forward to working with Meg!
https://moonessence.life/ Did you know that vaginal steaming can support you with preparing for labor and healing from birth, and help you regulate your hormones and cycles, yes please, I'm in! Check out Adrienne and tell her I sent you.
https://www.seacoastflote.com/ I am including Flote because it is a wellness safe haven with many services and workshops that aided me in healing my postnatal depletion. Plus spending time floating in a quiet dark place in warm water is where you want to disappear to when you are in the midst of those toddler meltdown, trust me.