This week has evolved into the unexpected. I’m realizing that I have reached out to and talked to more people in the past 2 months as I am building my practice than I probably ever have. I’ve reconnected with women who I hadn’t spoken to in years. I’ve met women from all different professions. Through building connections with others, I am beginning to see where we can all create something powerful and life-changing. And it’s all starting with connecting, and being vulnerable.
I initially began with the idea to write about things not to say to a pregnant woman. I was ready to write my angry rant about not commenting on a pregnant woman’s size, not to give unsolicited advice, and definitely not to touch her belly without permission. Yes, all of those happened to me while I was pregnant with both my children. I commiserated with others who had experienced the same. While I’m sure that would have been really entertaining to read, this isn’t the kind of support that I want to create. The original intention was to create validation. However, I realize it would have been in a mean-spirited way, and that’s not what I want to put out into the universe. While those things that I found to be offensive happen to many people all the time, continued judgment does not foster healing. Don’t get me wrong, if you need to vent that, I’m all ears. But purposely putting that energy out there is toxic. As a professional who assists people in healing, my charge is to be with people in the struggle, honor it, and offer a way through.
Honoring Everyone’s Position
This concept of honoring one’s own position and the position of others struck me while having coffee with a friend. She told me a story about an interaction with a woman who was expecting her first child. My friend had no idea that this woman had struggled with infertility. My friend who disclosed that while she hadn’t had any trouble conceiving, she struggled in the adjustment to parenthood with her son who had colic for 6 months. I think often times I hear of women in my friend’s position feel guilty for voicing or complaining about parenthood when there are couple who struggle to conceive. But why is her struggle any less valid than a person who struggles to conceive? It’s the same journey, but we all struggle in different places.
In my journey, I had no trouble conceiving. My pregnancies were smooth and uneventful. My children were born with no complications and were healthy. However, I felt like I had no right to complain when I was in the thick of depression and anxiety. I failed to honor my own struggle. Having spoken with so many people about their difficulties with conceiving and with pregnancy, I assumed they’d judge me harshly for struggling postpartum. I wanted to be joyful. I faked being happy with everyone. And when my energy ran out from doing that, I isolated. I stayed there for a long time, ashamed of myself, scared to reach out. No one had judged me. I judged myself.
Kingdom of Isolation
At about that time, the movie Frozen had come out. My daughter would watch that movie over and over again. But there was a lesson to be learned. Elsa’s powers were out of control until she opened herself up to love. She couldn’t control her powers while she was in fear and isolation. I could go on forever about how Elsa’s struggles parallel those of someone who struggles with depression. But the simple fact is that in watching this movie, I was able to see that I was the queen of my own isolation, and that maybe, just like Elsa, I was missing people who could be there to help me out of it.
It started with my best friend who was also a new mom. You’ll hear me talk about her a lot. She witnessed my daughter wail in pain from colic. She saw my frustration. She saw what I was going through. In that event, I couldn’t hide my misery. I didn’t have the energy to hide it anymore. The more I opened up to her, the easier it became. Soon, I turned to others. I had my go-to people who have always been there for me, no judgment, no questions. But it was more than that. My connection to these women is powerful. Not only do I feel validated, but I feel fulfillment on a deep level. The point is, that letting people in started to take the pain away. That was just the beginning of how tremendous the power of connection really is.
The Healing Power of Connection
In our society, women experience so much pressure to be a certain kind of mom, to have a career, to never lose patience, to have the perfect body. And when we don’t meet those expectations, we judge ourselves. Not only can we not be imperfect, we feel like we aren’t allowed to say we aren’t blissful and perfect. But then we are stuck in painful isolation. We don’t feel like we are deserving of receiving validation, love, and support. But you can’t pour from an empty cup. And unless there’s willingness to be vulnerable, admit to what’s challenging, there can’t be an experience to receive healing through connection and be fulfilled. Be brave! Tell your story. You never know who may need to hear it to know that they’re not alone. Others need to know that someone needs to be in their position, and that there’s hope.
My challenge to all you mamas is to reach out this week to another mom, and be vulnerable. Talk about what you’re struggling with, talk about the small victories. See how it feels. But one condition is to not minimize your own struggle and pain just because you feel like it’s not as bad as someone else. Honor your own place in your journey, and the place of someone else.