This is Nine

My sweet Munch,

This has to be in my top five favorite pictures of you and I. We are laughing and enjoying each other.  I know that soon you won’t hold my hand in the parking lot or seek me out first for advice.  My job is plant your roots and give you wings to fly.

I love your grace, kindness and empathy. As the oldest child, you are paving the way for your little sister. I know she can annoy you a lot. Don’t forget that both Daddy and I were the oldest in our families. We are experts in annoying little sisters. Thank you sweet girl for showing us unconditional love and forgiveness when we make mistakes. 

The other day we talked about “pretty”. At first my  heart sank because I thought you hated how you looked.  Your definition was someone who dressed up all the time. I asked you to list off your best qualities – intelligence, artistic ability in both visual and performance arts (dancing), kindness and beauty. I reminded you that true beauty is both inside and out.  I nearly burst into tears. The amazing young woman in front of me was confident and assured well beyond her years. You are so loved, my sweet girl.
Love 

Mama

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Six Years

My sweet Skeeter,

When I whispered to you last night that it was your last night as a five year old, your eyes sparkled with delight. You told me that you’re not too old and you’re not too little. You’re just right for the age you are.

All day kindergarten has brought some changes with it. You tell Daddy and I how much work you do during the day. You were surprised to learn that you have to wear your uniform every day. You love your specials – art, music, gym, library and Spanish. Your capacity to remember all melodies and song lyrics is making Spanish so much fun for you. You are learning your new language primarily through music which is your love language. You just might be the only kindergartner whose favorite song is My Shot from Hamilton.

Never lose your sense of wonder and delight with the world.  I love to watch you sing, write, dance, and create.  Life brings us joy and pain, and I cannot shield you from the pain as much as I want to.  I want you to know how much you are loved.  Your capacity for love and joy is your greatest gift, sweetheart.

Thank you for healing the wounds in your mama’s heart.  I felt like I would not be able to be the mom I wanted to be for you and your sister.  When you watched my Listen To Your Mother video this past year, you broke my heart open with your capacity for love, grace and forgiveness.  You patted my cheek and whispered I love you as I cried listening to my story of how desperate I had been after your birth.  I was transformed from that experience into the mama you know today, perfectly imperfect just like you.

 

Love,

Mama

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Why I Climb: Connection and Healing

***Trigger warniwhy-i-climbng: If you are feeling fragile, or struggling, this post might be triggering.  I talk about intrusive thoughts and suicidal thoughts.****

I struggle with sharing some of the harsh truths that marked my experience with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  It is hard for my family and friends to read on my blog stories I struggle to articulate in words.

During the few weeks leading up to the Climb last year, a dear friend shared her story of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  When I saw her at the climb, I hugged her.  I thanked her for her courage, and I whispered in her ear that I had those feelings of suicide too.  Later she read this story aloud, and it broke me wide open.  Her story and her journey to recovery is different from mine; however, we both struggled with those feelings of utter despair and hopelessness.  I felt like I wanted to just disappear.  I felt like my husband and my daughters deserved better than me.  I didn’t have an active plan. I just wanted to disappear into nothing.  I have mentioned that I had intrusive thoughts of crashing my car headfirst into oncoming traffic.  These thoughts were my thoughts of escaping.  I did not realize that these intrusive thoughts were considered passive suicidal ideations until after I read Dr. Walker Karraa’s book, Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.  After I read this book, I wept with the realization of how sick I had been.  It is only in looking back that I realize how anxious and despondent I had been.

Suicidal thoughts are more common than we realize among postpartum women.  In fact suicide is the second most common cause of mortality in postpartum women. I never said yes to the screening question about hurting myself or others because I was afraid that I would lose my husband and my daughters.  I was one of the lucky ones – the 15% that receive treatment for their postpartum mood disorders.  I got help, and I recovered.

I climb for the moms who we lose every year to suicide.  I will keep climbing, and I will keep telling my story.  I climb for all the women in my life.  I climb for the warrior moms past, present and future.  I see your struggle, and I see your brave.  I will continue to encourage others to tell their own story. I do not want another mom to feel like she is all alone in her struggles.  I have been on the edge of that precipice.  Take my hand, and I will support you as you climb out of this darkness.  You will be well.  It does get better.

If you’re local to the Milwaukee area, please come join me and my little ladies and a host of amazing women as we walk through Havenwoods State Forest for Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/. If you are not local to Miwaukee and want to find a climb in your area, http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of…/find-a-climb/.  Together we can shine a light of hope for moms on their darkest days.

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10 signs of a musical nerd family

1. You and your husband sing together and pick out songs that have harmonies.

2. You have several copies of the same song in different keys.

3. Your children watch YouTube videos of their parents’ favorite musicians.

4. You have no idea what Kidz Bop is.

5. Your family is vehemently opposed to auto tune.

6. Your children ask in disbelief how you know so many songs. It’s called sight reading.

7. You can pick out individual voices in bands and ensembles. You shush your children at Mass so you can hear your college friend cantor.

8. You show your children pictures and videos of shows that you were in.

9. Your children request show tunes for a bedtime song.

10. You embarrass your children by singing show tunes in front of their friends.

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One Word: Courage

 

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuitionMy word last year was believe. I needed this word as a talisman as I experienced a layoff for the first time in my professional career. As I reflected on my next steps, I realized that I had not brought my authentic self to work. I spent so much time fitting myself into what people expected of me.

I saw this new opportunity as a chance to make a fresh start. I chose the word courage for this year.  I wanted to lead from my heart. I discovered that I enjoy work because I am myself. My boss has become a mentor to me. I can get perspective, support and insight. I enjoy leading a team even when it is challenging.

Three months into this new year courage and opening my heart is exactly what I need to do. Leading like this is vulnerable. It is not easy at all. It requires me to be intentional and mindful of my interactions with everyone. At times I get frustrated and twitchy because change is difficult. I need to remember that change does not happen overnight. I need to give myself, my family and my team the grace and space to adapt to change.

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To all the struggling mamas

 

Hi mama,A Real Hero

How are you? I want to know how you’re really doing. What can I do to help you? Bring you coffee or tea so you can just talk to someone who gets it?

I see how hard you are working to get better. You may think it’s not enough, but those small steps are leading you on the path of recovery. I see you advocating for yourself when you encounter roadblocks. I see a mama tired of fighting, but she still perseveres to get healthy for herself and her family. Lean on me, mama. Lean on the community.

Never give up hope. You are not in this alone. When you make it through this, I’ll be dancing with you. The sisterhood of the warrior moms is like no other.

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Career change

I stink at transitions. As a young child I loved to plan and schedule things. When a transition is not planned, it makes it even tougher for me. I rage and pout. I dig my heels in and protest this transition. I need that time to grieve the familiar.

A positive outlook helped me a lot with this latest transition, but I still struggled with days and hours of self doubt and depression. I wallowed in sadness and pity. The only way for me to move forward is to sit with all the uncomfortable feelings.

Of course my anxiety spiked due to the unplanned transition. I also struggled with my first significant colitis flare in over a year. I realized that I needed to be mindful and practice self-care. I needed quality sleep. I needed to move my body. I needed to eat healthy foods. My emotions were too raw to blog, so I wrote in my journal instead. I read books. I listened to guided meditation and inspiring podcasts.

I had two major takeaways from this experience. One is a comment made by the outplacement service. We all stay too long at our jobs. I had been bored for a while. I was no longer challenged on a daily basis. I had become complacent. I was comfortable with where I was. I needed to challenge myself, but I was afraid to take that first step.

My second aha moment was realizing how much I missed not building better relationships with my colleagues. I had so much fun at work during my final week just reconnecting with people. I am an extrovert by nature, and I need interaction with others to recharge my batteries. When I bring my authentic self to the workplace, I am more engaged and more productive. So next year I will begin my new position on January 4th with an open mind and an open heart.
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