Accepting the Slow-down of Mama-hood

When I first became a mama, there was a good 5-6-month period, where I couldn’t for the life of me, wrap my head around slowing down. It wasn’t just about being physically and energetically unable. It was about having to redirect the attention normally put towards my business and myself, to my infant son. It’s not that I hadn’t been prepared to be a mom. I read the books and googled my life away for 9-months. I had wanted a baby for God’s sake! Nonetheless, all of that couldn’t have prepared me for the reality that a child would not fit into my plans, my lifestyle or my agenda. 

After a year of adjusting and learning to let go, I feel freer and more successful than I have since before my son was born. The funny thing about this success is, it’s still a 80/20 ratio- where my son’s needs and desires are the winning 80% and mine are obviously the latter. It’s been a wrestling match with pre-baby and post-baby me, but I’ve learned to cherish the slow down and I even enjoy it.

If you’re struggling with the slow-down of mama-hood, keep reading. Below are three mental modifications and tricks I’ve learned that have helped along the way as I raise my son.

  • Embrace ‘phases’ and understand that nothing is forever. 

A necessary modification to my mind frame after having a baby was shifting my ‘now or never’ attitude to an ‘it can happen later’ attitude. During the first year of motherhood, I was unable to pick up as much work as I had done the year before. Rather than understanding this as a phase of ‘slow down’, I saw it instead as my business failing and blamed being a mom. I was worried and angry. Now, I look at it from a long-term point of view and remind myself that everything happens in seasons. At some point as both you and your baby grow, your phases will change to work better for your current life situation. Now that my son is over a year old, I know that I’ll be able to gradually get back into the ‘building phase’. I see now that adopting a ‘nothing is forever’ mind frame would have lessened the unnecessary guilt and grief. Give yourself enough compassion to call out each phase that you’re in and know that your phases are not forever. 

  •  Try to find a community, work and hobbies that support your new lifestyle as a mom, but also allow for various versions of yourself.

Going back into the world as a mom can be daunting. For some, the work world is not as pro-mom as it should be. You’re showing up to this world as multiple versions of yourself. You are a mom, a professional, a colleague, a mentor, a friend, a boss, etc. Being able to step into each of the roles separately is a skill and requires boundaries. However, as many working moms will attest, the role of mother is a harder one to separate completely than the rest. Finding clients, workplaces and communities that are flexible and understanding of your multiple roles, creates a safer and more authentic life. A few examples of combining roles are; finding gyms with in-facility babysitting programs. Finding workplace options that promote flex schedules and going to local breweries and vineyards with kid friendly accommodations. 

  • Accept Defeat and do ‘the new’ you, just as great as you did ‘the old’ you. 

Finally and probably most importantly, just admit sweet defeat. You birthed a very incapable and incredible little human. Part of the gift of motherhood is that you get to be responsible for this baby’s sense of love and development through your attention and time. When you realize this, the game changes. I recognized how blessed I was that I had been able to conceive my little man and birth a healthy little boy. As I settled into the new me, defeat morphed into appreciation. Try to take the pressure off of yourself as best you know how and enjoy your small wins and little bits of progress. You’ll be surprised at how successful this new version of you can be.   

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Finding Gratitude Through Tough Times

“I don’t want to carry gratitude in seasons. I want to carry it in my bones. I want it to rest on my tongue like it is a language that I never stop speaking.” -Arielle Estoria

I saw this quote the other night and it really resonated with me, especially with the holidays just around the corner! Yes, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate all of the blessings in your life, and yes we all know we are of course just as thankful throughout the remainder of the year, but do we really focus on that gratitude outside of the holiday season? A lot of us do not. And what about when life has been particularly hard to us? How can we focus on gratitude when we feel like life has been unfairly cruel?

Having a special needs child has completely changed the way I celebrate gratitude. Madison is a constant reminder to be thankful. When you have watched your child fight for their life, and when they are left with needs in which people can’t tell you what to expect or how long you’ll have with them, every single day with that child becomes a blessing you are immeasurably thankful for. Every moment with her is a reason to be thankful because I truly don’t know what her future holds.

And special needs or not, the day to day of motherhood is HARD. There is no question about that. In fact, for many women their journey to motherhood is HARD. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. And when you’re longing for a family of your own, the holidays can be tough to bare.

When in the moment each day seems so hard, it can be difficult to be thankful. There are days when I just curse this universe for what it’s done to Madison and my family. How can I feel thankful when the daughter I’ve waited for my whole life was stolen from me at just 11 days old? And sometimes I let myself feel that way. I let myself have days where I’m angry and sad and that’s ok, because I have every right to be. That’s right mamas, you can be thankful AND be sad! We can be grateful AND be angry. We can feel all of our feelings, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the sad ones.

I have a lot of hard days as a special needs mama, but then I remember how much sadder I would be had Madison not survived. I think of all of the incredibly strong superhero parents that I’ve seen lose their children far too soon, and I know that I’m lucky I have this time with her. So even though I don’t always like this special needs journey I’m on, there are still things to be thankful for. There are still things all of us can be thankful for, even through the darkest times when it may not feel true.

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Personally, I am thankful for my husband and his unconditional love and support. I could not get through life without him. I’m thankful for our family and friends who stand by us everyday, help us when we need, and simply check in on us to see how we’re doing. I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses, specialists, and therapists who saved Madison, who continue to make her care a priority, and who have helped her get to where she is today. I’m thankful for the other special needs mamas that I’ve connected with over the year. These mamas have helped me immensely in learning about new treatments or side effects, have given me stories of hope, and also been those I could vent to knowing I would not be judged because they are the only ones who truly know what I’m going through. It’s a tribe I never thought I’d be a part of, but I’m blessed to know so many incredibly strong women.

It’s important as mamas that we find our tribe and hold onto them. For some of us our community consists of family or friends. For others, a yoga class or coworkers. Hell, your community might be an online support group of women you don’t even know in person, it doesn’t matter! Let’s value those relationships ladies, and be thankful for the people in your life that make you smile and lift you up, even when you may not realize it.

Progress

Sometimes it’s hard to see how far Madison has actually come, but when I think back to last year I realize how much more fragile she was. It’s so easy to focus on the areas our children struggle, especially when your child’s developmental goals are things that come so easy to a healthy child, but we need to remember to celebrate the inchstones too. Any progress is better than no progress and is something to be thankful for. No matter what Madison is able to accomplish, you can bet I’ll be proud of her. We cannot compare our child’s accomplishments to another’s. Try not to stress on the missed milestones or areas your child is struggling. Take it from the mama of a medically complex babe, these things truly don’t matter! Celebrate their health. Celebrate the things they CAN do. Celebrate the fact that you have a child when so many women long to be mothers. Celebrate your child for exactly who they are and watch how much fuller your heart becomes.

Strength

Being on the special needs journey will mold you into a completely different person. I can’t tell you how many times people compliment me for my strength, but in all honesty, I have no other option but to be strong. Being an advocate for a medically complex child will make you more resilient, unafraid to speak your voice, smarter, more compassionate and understanding, and less judgmental. I have no time to worry about anything in life other than Madison and my family. Nothing else matters. And I’m thankful for this strength that has allowed me to think like that. It can be hard to be confident in our mothering abilities. We all wonder if we’re doing enough, even though most days it feels like we couldn’t possibly give any more. But trust me, you are enough. There is no one stronger than a mother. The days may be long and hard, but remember to be thankful for them; for they have made you the strong, badass woman you have become!

Resources

I’m also extremely thankful to have so many educational resources at my fingertips. With each diagnosis and with each failing medication, all I do is research what else I can do for Madison. What meds haven’t we tried that might work? What alternative treatments are available? What therapies have worked for others? I can’t imagine going through this journey in a country where the access to education and resources is limited. We’re lucky to be able to research and learn on our own and to have the ability to travel freely to esteemed medical professionals. Fertility struggles? Marriage problems? Addiction? The list goes on and on for the plethora of difficulties we might face, and yet there are so many resources available to help us through. Going through hard times can cloudy our want to be thankful, but it’s important to remember that we have resources to help pull us out, and that is a blessing in itself.

The Chaos

The pure chaos of motherhood may seem like something silly to be thankful for when it’s also the thing that drives us crazy, but trust me, it is. So your house is a mess? Be thankful to have a roof over your head. Be thankful your child is able to make that mess. It means they are learning and playing and figuring out this world, a joy that a mama of a disabled child, like me, would give anything for. So you’re juggling therapy and doctors appointments for your medically complex child? Be thankful you’re able to offer them care and opportunities to grow. So you’re balancing fertility appointments or childcare with work? Be thankful you have a job, a safe place to send your child, or the means to explore the wonderful advances science has to offer in helping you start or grow your family. The chaos, as exhausting as it might be, simply means we are living!

Let’s also remember that feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. No one feels grateful for the bad things that happen to them, but despite those things, we can choose to BE grateful for the things we do have. Being forced into some really tough times has showed me not to take anything for granted, as I’ve seen firsthand how quickly life can change. When you learn that the things you love most can be taken away in an instant, you become immensely more thankful for them. My gratitude for the good times has also provided me hope and the will to keep going.

So as you sit with your loved ones this holiday season and reflect on how hard this year may have been, remember to instead focus on all that you DO have. There were moments and people and learnings and even your own bravery through these times, that you can and should be thankful for. Let us remember to be thankful every single day, and not just during the holidays. And above all, please be thankful for the health of yourself and your children. Not all mamas, like myself, are as lucky in that regard. Hold those babies close and I promise you, you’ll feel more reasons to be thankful than you ever imagined possible. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season mamas! We’ve got this!

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Kelly Backiel is a wife, and SAHM to her daughter, Madison. Madison was diagnosed with meningitis at 11 days old, leaving her with severe brain injuries and complications. Kelly blogs about her experiences as a special needs mom, and hopes to spread awareness and support to others in similar situations. She is a fan of the beach, and a nice glass of wine! Read more about her here!

My Journey to Motherhood: Loss + Love

Hi. My name is Destiny. The only way to start my first post as a contributor for, “Outnumbered Mamas” is to tell my journey to motherhood. I’ll tell you in advance it’s not the fairy-tale version and right away I was shown how difficult motherhood was. How different every journey to motherhood is.

I always knew I wanted to be a wife. Ha! I’m sure you thought I was going to say mom. Nope. As a matter of fact, I was very very unsure on that front. My husband, Christian, and I were married on Cinco De Mayo 2012. We were married for going on 3 years when we started talking about becoming parents. Christian wasn’t sure, and I had no idea. We must have gone back and forth for a good two years. The same old points were discussed over and over. Yet, I always came back to the same thought, “we are so happy and have reached such a good rhythm. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.” At this point in 2015 I was 30 and about to be 31, of course my age was on my mind and I was very mindful that there was a clock ticking. I remember distinctly going up to my husband and saying, “Hey, I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure if I want to be a mom-so I’m going to have to defer to you.” So we did, and that meant taking a leap of faith. Trusting that when I held my baby, whenever that was, that I would suddenly get the mom gene I felt I lacked and be a rock star parent. A few months later….

After one try, were were pregnant.

I was terrified, I had no idea it would happen as quickly as it did. Yet I was so excited. I was surprised by this excitement. What happened to all that uncertainty?! We told our families on Christmas and it could not have been more magical. Around 7 weeks along, we had some announcement photos taken. They were gorgeous and captured our elation perfectly. As I looked at them I thought, “oh….there it is.” The desire to be a mom I was worried I wouldn’t have even after being pregnant. It showed up right away. We were living in a little dream. We posted our announcement early and were encouraged by all the excitement surrounding our little babe!

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That very week I began to bleed. I knew right away this wasn’t something to be calm about, and I went to the doctor right away to check on my little one. My hormone levels were checked, and at that time everything seemed ok, so I was sent home with some scary news about what could be coming. My family and friends rallied around us with prayers and hope, but we couldn’t do much but wait.

We returned to the doctor on a Friday just two days later to check on baby and my cervix was nice and closed but we were told the chances of loss were high. I was once again sent home and told that if I was still pregnant on Monday then we would have reason to hope. If, however, I had a miscarriage over the weekend, the pain would be bad and I would know it was happening. I remember that Sunday very well. I stayed on the couch the whole day, going to the bathroom often. I was cramping but not at the level where I would even consider the ER so we were hoping that was a good sign.

Then I miscarried that evening.

Some might say my loss was easier as I was not far along. I was a mere 8 weeks, but my heart doesn’t understand that logic. I was a mom the moment we saw that pregnancy test. All the worry, anxiety and confusion about whether I had what it took to be a good mom, melted away. I fiercely believe I will meet that little babe in heaven one day. I’m forever grateful for the mom heart that grew as a result of that sweet baby. So little one, this first post is for you. Thank you for the mom heart you gave me, and for the short time we were together. I miss you.

And then came Emma, my rainbow. I was terrified my entire pregnancy, for good reason-but 9 months came and went and I was introduced to my very own real life princess. I became a mom everyone could see September 12, 2017. But I was a mom before then, too.

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I know everyone’s journey is different. I know ladies who are moms at heart even though they don’t have any children. I know ladies who’ve adopted after years of loss after loss. I know women who have had their miracle child after being told they would never have children. We all walk a different road to become moms. If you’re reading this and have experienced loss-I see you. You’re not alone. Grieve however you need. Some need the support of others, while others need to do it alone. Just know, there is a whole tribe of women who are right there with you, and I’m ready and willing to pray with you, for you.

Now that you’ve learned a little about my journey to motherhood, I can tell you that when I share a post, you can expect it to be: humorous, usually Disney or Harry Potter related, and real. I love sharing the happy moments of life and motherhood, but I have to share the unhappy ones too. It’s my life-and I believe strongly that when we let others in and allow them to see the pain we’ve experienced it can help soothe the pain of others (and ourselves!). I believe pain can have a purpose, and I believe community is necessary to get by. I’m excited to be contributing here alongside some other amazing moms!

Welcome to my little corner of the world,

Destiny Warren

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Destiny Warren is a wife, mother and a native Houstonian, who packed up her life and moved to Florida to be closer to the magic of Disney and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She is a fan of antiquing, coffee, classic movies, traveling and obviously anything Disney! You can  learn more about her here!

You Are The Most Beautiful Disaster

Hey mama, I see you.

I see you in all your hot mess glory.

I see you with those bags under your eyes, because you were up with the baby in the night. I see you in your stained shirt that you smelled this morning before you put it on. I see you with your day old make up and messy bun, because that’s all you’ve got the time and energy for. I see you with your extra large Diet Coke you snagged in the McDonald’s drive-thru after you dropped your daughter off at preschool.

I see you, and I feel you.

I feel those nagging negative thoughts that keep popping up into your mind today, “I am a hot mess.” “I am barely surviving.” “Am I doing enough?” “Am I enough?” “My kids deserve better.” “My husband deserves more.” “I am failing.”

You, my sweet friend, are not alone.

And for the record, you’re doing great! You aren’t failing. You are being a Mom.

“But look at Sarah and her perfect Instagram life. She never wears day old make up, and stained clothes. She never has bags under her eyes. Her skin is glowing, and her smile is so perfect. She drinks water and protein shakes and has the perfect butt in her Lululemon yoga pants. Her kids are always dressed in matching clothes, with their hair tied up perfectly in a bow. She’s never late for preschool pick up, and she always brings healthy homemade snacks.”

“I forgot it was our snack day and had to run to the grocery store before school and sent my child in with Goldfish.”

Girlfriend, snap out of it. You’re living the real mom life. The one where we make mistakes… constantly. The one where our alarms don’t go off, so our kids are late to school… again. The one where we have cereal for dinner because that’s all the energy we have left for at the end of the day. The one where the laundry piles up until the mountain is so high there is no possible way we can fold it all. The one where we survive on Diet Coke and a cat nap while the kids have TV time. The one where we put on a movie just to entertain the kids for a few hours.

BUT… You are also living the one where you held your daughter today and rocked her in the rocking chair while you sang songs. You got down on the floor with your son and played race cars. You told your kids about a million times how much you love them. You covered your babies from head to toe with kisses. And when they asked for a silly snack, you arranged those leftover goldfish you sent to school on a plate to look like they were under the sea.

So, your Instagram doesn’t look like Sarah’s does. Who cares? Your life reel looks happy, full of love, giggles, and snuggles. One day you’ll look back on these memories and you won’t remember that you looked a hot mess. You’ll remember your daughters face as you sang together. You’ll remember how much your son loved crashing his car into yours. You’ll remember how there are never enough kisses to cover your babies with.

That stain on your shirt? It’s because yesterday, you let your kids make slime, and those sticky little hands hugged you to tell you “Thanks mom, this was so much fun.”

Those bags under your eyes? It’s because your daughter needed you, not daddy, YOU to snuggle her back to sleep (because you give better back rubs).

Your day old make up? Oh yea, you stayed up late helping your son finish his science project and didn’t have the energy to wash your face afterwards.

Mama, you may think you’re a hot mess. But what I see is a mama who puts everyone before herself. Who makes sure her children know just how loved they are. A mama that plays cars and sings songs because the laundry can wait (at least it’s clean). I see a mama that makes sure her babies are taken care of in all the necessary ways. And I see children that love and adore you because you are the one that showed them how to love and adore.

What I see is A Beautiful Disaster.

And it truly is, beautiful.

You, Mama, Are The Most Beautiful Disaster.

 


 

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Laurel Dowse is a wife and mom to 2 girls and a baby on the way. She is a SAHM by day, and teaches dance a few nights a week. She loves true crime podcasts, binge-watching her favorite shows, and encourages naps! She is a cancer survivor after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma on her leg in 2015. You can read more about her here!