Strong Mom Strong Fam

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I try to keep this blog light and focus on all the good in my life. Because there's a lot of it, and capturing that is what I created this little corner of the internet for. But there are bad days, of course. And this time last year, there were a lot of them. 

I haven't been shy about sharing the many tears shed since Neda came into my life, but I don't know if I was honest enough with myself, until recently, to openly talk about what a difficult time this was for me. As someone who has been battled anxiety and depression for decades and been diagnosed by any medical professional I've encountered (it's bad when your dentist spots it), I was prepared for postpartum depression. B and I knew it was a possibility, more so for someone like me with a history of it, and what it looks like on me. We were ready. 

The first night in the hospital, I wept. I blamed it on being tired. The day we came home, and for weeks that followed, I did the same at roughly 2pm and 7pm. I blamed it on hormones. I was in a terrible place, feeling very, very down, like that heavy feeling you get in your chest when you're sad about something. Why? I had no idea. But I had a feeling it wasn't good. Over the next couple weeks, I felt worse and worse. And I felt so guilty because I had a wonderful baby, a loving husband and a great life on paper. Yet, I was inexplicably falling apart. I felt utterly overwhelmed and exhausted by everything in my life. I remember driving one Saturday morning and seeing a highway sign towards Memphis, Tennessee. I wanted to drive there, alone, so badly. 

Throughout it all, I was very transparent with Brian. I told him I was losing weight, that I was unbearably sad, that I wanted to leave everything behind and move to Graceland. He came to my postpartum appointments, and I told him I was going to lie to the doctor about how I was feeling, that I didn't need another diagnosis in my files (every doctor saw right through it and looked both of us in the eyes and told us things were not OK). I was never at risk of hurting myself or Neda, so I thought it was OK. It wasn't OK. 

At the time, I wasn’t able to mention my sadness to anyone. Even now, I don’t know what I would have said if I had talked about it. And I didn’t want to admit–even to myself–how lost I suddenly felt. It was disorienting and inexplicable, and I felt like it would never end. My sadness felt like my new way of being.

Writing down these words feels strange now. That time feels so far away from me, now that a year has passed, but it was so rattling and all-consuming at the time. Overall, for 12 weeks–from mid-September to early January –life felt really, really dark. The clouds eventually parted, but before that I couldn’t bear thinking about the future. 

I wanted to share my experience, since, hopefully other wonderful mothers who go through this will recognize it for what it is, and get help for clinical depression, instead of just thinking that it’s them, their own life or failure to handle motherhood. 

Reading others' stories has made me much more comfortable with my own, and it was such an honor to get connected with Lauren Regula a few months ago. Lauren is a three-time Olympian who had three kids in three years. Just writing that blows my mind. She talks openly about the postpartum depression she battled for six years, and her story is incredibly inspirational. I interviewed Lauren on her family life, her company Strong Mom Strong Fam and how she juggles it all. Thanks for being so open, Lauren. We really are all in this together. 

I don't even know where to start. You're truly an inspiration. Let's start with three kids in three years. How on earth did you manage that? 

I wish I could remember more to explain how it all went. Life was a blur. There were more tears than I anticipated. Although, looking back at pictures, I know there were many great memories as well. Thank goodness for photos to jog my memory.  

My husband Dave and I actually planned to have three kids so close together, although we thought it might take a few more attempts than it did to get pregnant. When I realized I was pregnant with our third who would be due three years after our first, I definitely pictured our future family cannon-balling into the pool together, skiing together, and doing all sorts of adventures together... I managed to miss out on thinking through how the baby-years would go. 

One of the best quotes my best friend Peyton told me to lean on was "this too shall pass." The good, the bad, and the ugly. And that is exactly what happened and can sum up how the years have passed — and continue to pass. 

I suffered from postpartum depression, too. And I carry around anxiety every day that those darkest moments will come back. It also scares me when I think about having another kid in the future. Any advice? 

The very first thing I would like to say is that there is an answer... Sometimes it might take a little playing around, but there is something out there that will help. It's like a puzzle. You might not get the first piece to fit but that doesn't mean the puzzle is broken, it just means you haven't found the right piece yet. 

I was always afraid to get help because I was petrified that if nothing worked my "safety net" (aka having a resource to fall back on) was gone and it was proof that I really was broken — forever. 

I lived with postpartum depression for six long years. Some of the times I knew something was really wrong. Other times I just thought "This is the way it is now. This is normal." It has taken me years of therapy, doctor's appointments, bloodwork, and downright scrapping and clawing my way back to feeling like myself — and although it may be a lifelong battle, I am finally back to my pre-kids self most of the time. My only regret is that I wish I would have asked for help sooner. 

A few tips off the top of my head: 

  • I have learned the difference between depression (which normally comes about when thinking about the past) and anxiety (which normally comes out when thinking about the future) and just that distinction has helped me know where to focus my healing energy. 
  • Self-care is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have. I have always been big on self-care, but my experience has solidified my stance on the fact that you can't pour from an empty cup as a mother. I have really leaned into areas of self-care that I may not have been as open to like meditation, journaling and breathwork. But when I was at the bottom of the barrel, I was willing to do anything to feel better. Little did I know, depression or not, the tools I have acquired have allowed me to be so much more for myself and my family, that when the crazy opportunity of training for another Olympics came my way, I was able to say YES.
  • And finally, I have learned to treat myself as if I were treating someone I love. As moms, we are so quick to get down on ourselves and be really hard on ourselves. We often treat our family, friends and even pets better than we treat ourselves. 

What happened to softball during the years when you had three babies? What was it like to transform overnight. Everything you did, were, had to be set aside, no?

I had played softball my whole life. Actually, softball was my whole life. I went to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and my team ended on a heartbreak loss, and my dream of an Olympic medal was shattered. We came 4th. I was so ready to be done with softball, and the storybook ending that I was so intent on having didn't end up the way I dreamed of and I was devastated. Actually, to be honest, I was bitter. 

By November of 2008, I was pregnant with our first child, Grace. I don't remember all that much, but by 2012 we had three kiddos and didn't even know who I was anymore. I went from being a driven, dedicated, determined and confident Olympian to a worn-out, unhappy, demotivated shell of myself. Softball wasn't even in my thoughts, nor my future plans. I just tried to make it through each day, week, and month. I had to find myself again... and it would take seven long years. 

But now there are three beautiful, amazing kids, Strong Mom Strong Fam and your THIRD Olympics. Wow. What does that feel like? 

Fast forward to 2020 and not only did we pick up and start a couple of businesses from scratch, but I am now taking my hubby and kids along on my third Olympic Journey. 

I had been training like crazy and away with Team Canada when the world shutdown for COVID. I still have plans to make my third Olympic Roster and head to Tokyo 2020+1. I feel energized. I feel determined. Dedicated. Motivated. I feel like my old self, but even better. 

I created Strong Mom Strong Fam when I got the invitation to rejoin Softball Canada and train to make my third Olympic Roster. I think all too often as moms, we put ourselves last. We often think it's normal to be too tired to pursue our own dreams but I am here to say that just because it's "common" doesn't mean it's normal. I took all my learnings and put them into a program to help mom reclaim strength in their bodies and minds and give them the confidence so they can live a fulfilled life.

How do you manage it all? 

It has taken two years to really hone in on a system that allows me to feel like I am where I need to be when I need to be there. I am a scheduling freak. I have an evening routine, morning routine and weekend planning with my husband, Dave.

Something else that helps is I am constantly learning about myself — and I am talking digging deep. I need to be connected to my why because when I lose sight of my why, it's easy to fall off the dedication-wagon — and I don't have time to fall off any wagons.

I am also a big believer in making the time versus finding the time for things that matter to me. I manage what is between my ears as well as I possibly can. I believe that if I can manage myself internally, then everything on the outside will be where it needs to be.

But, let's be honest, I am human and I am still a mess at times. I am still prone to meltdowns. I have just learned how to manage them better and get over them faster than I used to so I can continue to move forward — even if it's baby-steps for a few days.

I'm far from an athlete, but my friends and family know of my mantra: "You never regret working out." You just don't. But it can be so hard to find the motivation. Where does yours come from? 

So true. I have never heard a person say "I regret that workout." Taking ownership of my own life, especially when I felt I had none in the depths of depression has been huge for me. I love the saying "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."

My motivation also comes from what I want my future to be. Most moms don't even know what they want for dinner tomorrow or for the rest of the week. I put a lot of time into daily, monthly, weekly and yearly goals so when I picture myself in the future, I know what needs to be done today to make that happen. I never want to let my future-self down. 

I started with it, and I have to end with it. You're an inspiration. What's your advice to anyone out there that needs an extra boost right now?  

I live by the equation DO x BE = HAVE and there is only so much we can do. If we want to have more, we need to be more. There is only one person who can nurture that "be" part — and that is ourselves. 

For parents, one of the things I ask them is "Look at yourself right now and picture your kids in the exact same position when they are your age. In what area would you want more for them?" If your relationship with your spouse is lacking fulfillment, then ask yourself if you would be happy for your kids in an unfulfilled relationship. If you are uncomfortable in your own skin and overweight, ask yourself if you would be happy to know your child is uncomfortable in his/her own skin when they are grown up. 

If you are lacking passion or purpose and feel like you are floating through life empty, ask yourself if you would be happy for your kids if they end up feeling that emptiness like you. 

And if you wouldn't want that for your kids, then you shouldn't tolerate it for yourself. Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to get really clear on who and where you want to be. Once you are clear on who you want to be, you can start on the path to getting there.

(This post was sponsored by Strong Mom Strong Fam (love their inspirational tanks!). Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

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