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Mother’s Day is coming up. It’s coming up soon, and it’s coming up hard and fast for some of us. This particular Mother’s Day, I’m really excited about it, because it’s my First Mother’s Day with a babe in arms. It’s taken me many, many years to get to this joyous occasion, though, and that’s what I want to talk about.

My tagline for this EmPowered Mama blog is Motherhood: Raw. Real. Honest. And that’s what it is always going to be. So without further ado- let me reveal to those of you who may not know, that I have considered myself a ‘mother’ for quite some time now.

On September 1st, 2005, I had an abortion. The fetus, if it pleases you to call it that, was 7 weeks, 4 days old.

I terminated because I was young; my family was largely unsupportive, and everyone seemed to think that I, as a 19-year old girl, would know what to do in this unplanned situation.

I didn’t know what to do, and I made my choice to terminate the pregnancy because I thought it was the choice that would most please my family.

I have regretted that choice in some form or another for all the days and years since.

Interestingly enough, the development of bipolar disorder occurs when a person has a combination of 8-13 different genetic factors and incurs a traumatic event in adolescence/early adulthood that effectively ‘launches’ their potential bipolar disorder into action.

The loss of my potential firstborn child was the catalyst for every single future mental health battle I’ve had since then.

To sum it up, in my first pregnancy, I did not get to birth a child. I did, however, birth my entire lifelong battle with mental illness.

Oh- the things you wish you could have known at the time.

Anyhow- fast forward through a lot of hellish years to when I finally had had enough therapy to forgive myself and get my shit together and I met Ryan and we fell in love and we said, ‘let’s make babies!’

So we did.

And we were SO good at making babies that within a month of going off my birth control, we were Pregnant!

We conceived somewhere around Valentine’s Day 2018. We had a positive pregnancy test on March 21, 2018 and we danced around the kitchen in a circle, holding hands and paws with the dog. I’ve never seen my man look so happy. It was Perfect.

And then it wasn’t.

I started bleeding March 26th. I didn’t stop bleeding until April 23rd. Our chance at becoming parents had died. Another little piece of me had died.

We got through it. We got our doctor’s clearance to start trying again.

And now- as I type this- I am using my other hand to soothe the forehead of my sweet 25-day-old baby girl, who is having a little nightmare beside me while she sleeps in our bed.

If there is a God- God is good.

It’s been 14 years in the making, but I finally have my babe in arms for Mother’s Day.

It took me 14 years to get here, and I’ve been many Moms along the way.

A grieving mom, a mourning mom, a hopeful mom, a bereaved mom, a persevering mom…

But I know that there are Many other women that don’t have their babe in arms this Mother’s Day- and this blog is for them too.

This is what I wrote for the “About” section of my blog:

“My blog was born because the shit women go through to make a baby is absolutely Nuts- and the fact that we all walk around making it look Easy is a goddamn travesty. Women are Incredible, and mothering is Hard as Hell.

This blog is for new mamas and old mamas and wannabe mamas. First-time mothers and mothers of multiples. It’s for bored at work moms and unconventional moms. Infertile moms and miscarriage moms. Stepmoms and adoptive moms and birth moms. Moms who still have a sense of humour. Old mothers. Young mothers. Mothers who are now grandmothers.

Anyone who’s ever wanted to be a mother.
Anyone who’s ever had a mother.

So basically- women.
This is a blog for All women.

I want you to join me. I want you to come along beside me in your little Mom-mobile and read these blog posts and share in these journeys. Let’s hear each other’s miscarriage stories and infertility stories and birth stories and postpartum stories. Let’s see pieces of ourselves in them. Let’s laugh about these stories. Let’s cry at the sad bits and pee our pants laughing at the funny bits. Subscribe to my blog and start following me if this sounds like it could be a fun ride for you. If reading my posts doesn’t make you pee your pants or bawl your eyes out- or do both at the same time, I’m doing something wrong.

XO, Em

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This post is in honour of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, which ends today.

As a new mom with a zillion time commitments right now, I am Squeaking in at the last moment on the final day of the awareness campaign to do my part.

And as a bipolar mom, who just recently achieved her goal of successfully avoiding postpartum psychosis- I have a Lot to say on the matter of maternal mental health- but I’ll try and make it brief for now!

According to the bluedotproject.org, the Maternal Mental Health Social Media Awareness Week Campaign was launched in 2014 to reach mothers, families and the general public to raise awareness about maternal mental health disorders, like postpartum depression, which impact up to one in five women in the U.S.

My friend Christine Bassit Winter runs an Amazing company called Postpartum Queen that has many wonderful resources and coping strategies for Canadian moms affected by postpartum depression, anxiety and/or psychosis, so if this post inspires you to action- please hop over to Postpartum Queen’s website http://postpartumqueen.com after you read this and get some more Canadian, home-based ideas.

But what I’m here to talk about is my own experience with postpartum that I just went through.

On April 13th, I birthed my baby girl at 7:29 am.

By April 19th, after a traumatic birth involving a front to back tear, complete with savage episiotomy and forceps-assisted delivery, my baby’s subsequent unexpected 4-day stay in NICU, and the rigours of caring for a newborn child on a four-hour feeding schedule-

I felt myself rising into a bipolar mania.

The ONLY thing that separates a healthy bipolar Emily from a manic or depressed Emily is Sleep. Meds- obviously- but the variable factor (as I have religiously taken my lithium for the past 5 years), is Sleep.

And what do you NOT get with a newborn??

Sleep.

But herein lies the rub-

In retrospect, when I look at the three day period between April 19th and 21st where I Thought I was going batshit manic bipolar crazy, and therefore took my anti-psychotic emergency medication (Seroquel- 50 mg dose; fairly heavy stuff) for three nights in a row to try and circumvent the crazy-

I could have, in all likelihood, just been having a NORMAL Postpartum Experience!!!!!

Let me demonstrate:

Taken from Healthline.com:

“Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme mood swings from high to low, and from low to high. Highs are periods of mania, while lows are periods of depression. The mood swings may even become mixed, so you might feel elated and depressed at the same time.” (www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder)

Well- if elated and depressed at the same time doesn’t sound like postpartum to you- I’m guessing you haven’t had a baby yet. 

Here are the top 6 hallmarks of mania, as listed on healthline.com:

  • Feeling overly happy or “high” for long periods of time
  • Having a decreased need for sleep
  • Talking very fast, often with racing thoughts
  • Feeling extremely restless or impulsive
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Having overconfidence in your abilities

And, to demonstrate how similar they are, here are the top 9 hallmarks of baby blues, as listed on mayoclinic.org:

“Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying
  • Reduced concentration
  • Appetite problems
  • Trouble sleeping

(https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617)

Do you see how they sound eerily similar? Bipolar mania versus postpartum blues? I hope I’ve done a clear enough job of explaining how one might have been the other. In your postpartum days it’s pretty much a given that you will not eat a lot of food, you won’t sleep, you’ll be giddy with joy and overwhelmed with responsibility, and with everyone clamoring to see you and to talk about baby, you’ll be very easily distracted. And there’s more than a fair chance that because of all these factors, you will be irritable.

Here are the takeaways that I want non-bipolar potentially postpartum women to know. The following pesky and annoying factors of baby blues are likely going to happen to you. I read somewhere that 85% of women WILL get baby blues. And that’s Completely Fine. 

Trouble sleeping? 

We call that a newborn. We can also attribute trouble sleeping to factors such as: a savage episiotomy, aching lady bits that don’t get comfortable in any sleeping position and breasts so engorged they’re bordering on mastitis. It will get better. But those first 10 days- sleep is a unicorn.

Appetite problems? 

You ever tried to eat real people food while holding onto a crying newborn? They eat. You don’t. That’s how it works.

Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, sadness, feeling overwhelmed?? 

HELL yeah you should feel those things. I get all those feelings when I realized I’ve just murdered yet another house plant. And here they are, sending me home from the hospital with a GoDdAmN human CHILD!! Of Course you’re going to feel overwhelmed!!!

Reduced concentration?

Have you ever stayed awake night upon night studying for midterms? Worked a 67-hour straight shift at an oil and gas plant? Done the same shift work for multiple days and then got switched to a different shift? Take all of those experiences- then get your vagina cut from the southern end allllll the way to the perimeter of your bungle, and add a newborn child that you have to care for.

Word soup? Forgetting what day it is? Can’t remember your newborn’s name? COMPLETELY normal.

I’ve run out of time- my baby is currently squallering at me to feed her.

I wish I had something more prophetic to say about the maelstrom that is postpartum mental health- but in all honesty, the best thing you can do is talk about it. Even better- laugh about it.

I confided in a lady friend of mine that I was feeling quite loopy around day 7 of postpartum and she said: “Oh that’s normal. Do you have any thoughts that you need to throw yourself or your baby out the window yet?” To which I burst out laughing in shock and said no, and she said “Oh then sweetie- you’re doing just fine.”

Postpartum is rough. Weird. Tiring. You’ll cry. You’ll laugh. You’ll wet yourself. You’ll feel delirious with exhaustion and like your heart might just explode all over the walls from the amount of love you’ve squished into it.

It’s ALL normal- and when it starts to feel too crazy- too far from normal-

You call someone. 

A Hell of a lot of women understand what you’re going through, cuz they’ve been there too.

Xo, Em