I've had this idea brewing in my head for quite a while. I know so many amazing women and mothers in my community that I've wanted to start a blog to highlight them. I'm so interested in the lives of other mothers. The first thing I wonder about every mother I meet is "Who were you before you had children?". This definitely stems from the loss of identity I experienced after having a child and my journey to find it again. And by find it, I mean uncover it. It's still there. Sometimes it is quiet and complacent and happy to be devoted to others. Other times it rages up, burning to be centre stage again. I want to know how other women have managed this transition and adapted to this new season of life called motherhood. I want to hear their struggles because I know I'm not alone in it. I also want an excuse to hang out with them and take their picture. I'm starting off by interviewing myself. I feel that if you really want someone to bare their heart you need to show them you are willing to do the same. Here is what resides in my heart, for all to see.
*I literally have no recent photos of myself. If you are a mother I know you will understand this all too common occurrence. I intend to remedy this soon!
Who were you before you were a mother?
Before I became a mother I could probably be best described as a vagabond. I had floated in and out of many roles in my life and lived in a few different cities across Canada. Born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, I spent most of my childhood growing up in Medicine Hat, Alberta. My mom, brother, and I moved there when I was about 6, a couple of years after my father left the picture. We were close to family and I had a comfortable, happy childhood. My mom worked really hard. Harder than I can even comprehend and she bought a house when I was about 10 years old.
After graduating high school, I worked for a couple of years then attended university in Vancouver to study fashion design and technology. My mom had taught me to sew from a very young age and it's always been something I come back to no matter where I am in life. I attended the program for two years before deciding I did not want to work in the fashion industry, but happy with the amount of pattern drafting and sewing knowledge I had obtained. I dropped out before completing my degree. I spent one more year living in Vancouver during which I fell into major debt and in love with a musician. We bought a van and moved part way across the country to Toronto, where my partner had joined a band.
I arrived in Toronto with nothing to my name. I got a job with Lush Cosmetics and signed up with a debt relief company which meant I had 5 years to pay my debts and no access to a credit card during this time. I learned so much about money management, living cash only, and how to hustle during this period of my life. For 5 years I worked for Lush, moving up in the company until I managed to not only pay off my debts but save a lot of money on top of that. The caveat is that I was working myself to death. I travelled constantly for work and a salaried employee knows no boundaries when it comes to hours. I was sick and miserable. I decided to take a leave of absence which was spent living in a car and touring around the USA, trips to Europe with my mom and brother, and a lot of relaxing. And that folks is what I spent my hard earned savings on. I never went back to that job and I didn't work for about a year. It was glorious and I wouldn't change the way I spent that money.
I joined the work force again as an antique store employee, focused on sewing and creating, and started apprenticing as a shepherd (I'll get deeper into that some other time, maybe). I hopped around jobs for a bit, not willing to settle anywhere that didn't fulfill me. Eventually after almost 10 years of living in Toronto and not loving it, my partner and I broke up and I immediately decided to leave and pursue working with sheep and a life in the countryside. I bought an old Roger's van that had done a stint as a touring van for a couple of years and decided it would be my new home until I found work and some where to settle. During this transition I met my current husband who found me work on a sheep farm in Huron County. I only lived in the van for a week until moving in with him in a tiny apartment in Bayfield. We got married three months to the day after we met, started a business, had a baby, closed our business, and now here I am. A mother!
How has life changed for you since becoming a mother?
It has changed dramatically. I've always been one to just get up and go when I feel dissatisfied with how things are going in my life or just feel the need for change. I've never felt rooted anywhere or needed the security of a stable home or income to feel happy. I've never been afraid to take chances and make big changes. Now I have a little person to think about. Someone who thrives on stability and routine and needs a familiar bed to sleep in every night. I can't run away from my problems like I used to.
How has your postpartum experience been?
Full of major ups and major downs. An introduction to the biggest love I have ever felt and the deepest depression I have ever known. Crying tears of joy as I look at my son and watch him grow while also mourning the loss of my freedom and former Self.
My immediate experience was filled with anxiety. My son was born with only one ear and a deformation on the left side of his face and jaw that makes them slightly smaller than the right side. These conditions are named microtia/atresia and hemifacial microsomia for you scientific people. We were not aware of these conditions until his birth. When I first met him, I saw his ear and it meant nothing to me because he was perfect. But in the days and weeks that followed I could not sleep for fear that he would die. We were instantly followed by a number of specialists to check his kidneys, heart, eyes, general genetics and so on. I was afraid to put him down or let others hold him because I needed to hear at all times that he was breathing. Breastfeeding was extremely challenging. Henry was jaundiced and lethargic and my milk came in late because of my anxiety. Breastfeeding never became easy for us. This made me feel like a failure as a mother.
I don't think many of my family or friends really knew how much I was struggling. I'm very self aware and I think in the beginning I hid it well and coped. I hate to be a burden to others. I forced myself out of the house even though I dreaded it. I did all of the things you are supposed to do when depression sets in, except I didn't ask for help. I've never been good at that. Shortly after Henry turned one I admitted to my husband what I was carrying, or I should say he called me out on it. I had become numb, neither feeling sadness or joy. Just tears slipping down my cheeks whenever I was not keeping myself busy. Working together with my husband to recognize when I start to slip again has made a huge difference in my life. He is often the first to point out that I need a break and help me find ways to take one. It's been just over a year and a half and things are very different. I am starting to feel like myself again and am able to take action when I feel myself slipping again.
What is your occupation?
I've always been all over the map with my interests and what I choose to pursue to make a living. I have found something that really satisfies my soul and that is working as a Doula. I am a labour and birth doula which means I support women throughout their pregnancy, during labour, and for six weeks postpartum. It gives me great joy to welcome babies into this world in a loving environment. I was called to this work after my own experience having a doula and the positive impact she had on my birth experience. I am also a photographer, seamstress and general maker. I love creating things and sometimes I am able to make some income with those ventures which is nice. On top of all of this I am a stay at home mom, the biggest job of them all!
What is your passion?
I love relaxing, ha ha. I'm pretty passionate about it after experiencing the grind of a high pressure job. I'll never put myself in that position again, no matter what it pays. I really enjoy noticing beauty in the world. Photography is a really nice way for me to relax, notice beauty and make art from it. I love being in nature just looking and listening. I feel that when I am able to really relax and spend time in nature that my energy changes and can be used in ways that benefit others (like doula work). I love plants and gardening, being in the dirt, no shoes. I'm passionate about connecting with Mother Earth.
How do you balance family, work, and your passions?
Not very well! I could use some serious tips in this department. I truly feel like I am often behind in at least one if not all of these things. My son comes first. I try my best to make sure he eats well, gets lots of time outside, has chances to hang with other kids, as well as gets lots of practice listening and speaking, not to mention getting him to all of his appointments. My husband and I definitely don't get the opportunity to spend quality time together like we used to. I would say that we have lowered our quality standards in order to accommodate. I like going to bed fairly early and am not much of a T.V. watcher but these days I'll often stay up late and fall asleep on my husband while we watch Netflix, just so we get to be together. I love weekends. They are always super busy and we often work on our house and yard, but it's really nice to be all together and not have any schedules to keep (aside from naps).
My work and passions have been altered where they can to cater to my new lifestyle. Luckily, being a doula works well for us. I can schedule my client meet ups when Henry is in childcare (he goes two mornings a week) or when Chris is home with him. We have a wonderful care provider for him who is flexible enough to take him if I get called to a birth on other days. I also host toddler play groups through Huron Birth so I can bring Henry to work with me. It benefits us both because he gets to hang out with other kids while I get to hang out with other moms. My sewing work has been put on the back burner. I just can't fit it in these days but I know I'll come back to it as I always do. My spare time is currently spent studying, cooking or taking care of the house and yard. I do try to treat myself to a bath and a face mask here and there. I'm trying to meld my passions into forms of income so that I can earn a little doing things I enjoy and being with Henry. Relaxation doesn't always fit in there, but now that Henry is older and a little more independent, I look for it in different places and smaller chunks. My husband an I make an effort to take turns going on mini vacations to visit relatives with Henry so the other person can have a weekend to themselves. This is extremely rejuvenating for me and brings me back into balance.
How has becoming a mother impacted your relationships?
I've always been a lone wolf. I get along easily with everybody and enjoy the company of most but have never had a large, consistent circle of friends. My friendships didn't change all that much. Most of my close friends have always lived in different parts of the world from me and we go years without seeing each other. When our paths cross it's always the same comfortable relationship. I've had many friends pop in and out of my life even before having a child. In my life, most friendships are seasonal things and the people I connect with in each season of my life will be different.
My relationship with my husband has changed the most. We've had some really rough times but through them we've grown into an amazing team. Most of the time we are really good at communicating with each other and this has been the key to our growth. We got married knowing almost nothing about each other and dove head first into a lot of things, learning many lessons along the way. We are vastly different people and this makes us great teachers to one another. Once you have a child and your roles change, I don't think you can ever truly understand the other person's perspective. Is being at home with a demanding toddler all day easier or harder than going to work all day? Either way you look at it, we are both tired when our free time rolls around and although we often slip and fall into the "I have it harder" mentality, it doesn't take us nearly as long as it used to to come back around to each other again.
What does Self Care look like to you?
My concept of self care has changed dramatically since having a baby. It used to be retreating alone into the wilderness or taking road trips to new places, often for extended periods of time. It used to be getting lost in books, walking for hours on end and meditating. I don't get a lot of time to myself any more. For a long time I just ignored my needs and this led to trouble.
I'm trying my best to adapt now. I've started regularly taking long walks with my son and a lot of snacks in tow. I just make sure we end up somewhere that he can run free and get his own exercise in. That way I get to move faster than a toddler's pace while he is in the stroller and he also gets to burn up some of that crazy energy he contains when we reach our destination. He doesn't love riding in the stroller so he often complains most of the time, but it's a compromise I'll take in order to get active and feel good.
I lay down with my son to help him fall asleep at nap time and at night. I now use this as my time to meditate. I used to find this to be a frustrating time because my mind would be racing with all of the things I wanted to get done. I've changed my perspective and use it as a time to calm my mind. My son will not need me in this way for very long. I know it will be sad for me when it's over. Now I really look forward to having his little body snuggled against mine while I quiet my mind and just be. This is when my best ideas have started coming to me too. Nice bonus!
What fulfills you?
Seeing smiles on the faces of my family and hearing them laugh. Feeling calm inside in the presence of nature. Connecting with others on a deep level.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for all of my life experiences and the way they have helped me grow. I am grateful that I have a home and a comfortable life. I am grateful for the love and support of my husband and family. I am grateful for the women who welcome me into their birth spaces and the opportunity to witness the miracle of life over and over again. I am grateful for the amazing supportive women in my community. I am grateful to have a garden to plant food in. I am grateful to live near the forest and the lake. I am grateful.
Anything else you would like to say?
Becoming a mother has been one of the most challenging and important lessons in my life. It has brought to the surface many old wounds and things I need to work on as a person. It is making me a better person because I choose to dig deep and work on these things for the sake of my son. I know he is who he is and that I can only be a gentle guide. But if I choose to work on myself that is the best I can do to help him grow into a person who is kind to others and true to himself. I know I will never "get it right" or reach perfection and that is why sharing this information with other mothers is important to me. We're all out here floundering in the deep waves, thinking most others have got it down. We are all trying our best, even if some days your best is laying on the floor with toys spread around you, your kid climbing on you while you try to sort of have a nap because you feel like you can't go on another minute without sleep.