I DECIDED TO CREATE MOMUMENTAL MOTHERS TO CELEBRATE WOMEN FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE. EACH OF THE WOMEN I WILL FEATURE ARE DIFFERENT, BUT THEY ARE ALL UNITED IN MOTHERHOOD.
Today it is my pleasure to interview Katherine.
When I read Katherine’s blog, I was struck by how open and honest she was about her experience with becoming a mother and all that has accompanied it. She is a strong woman and mother, and I am happy that I can introduce her to you.
Katherine, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Katherine and I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am 34 years old, married, and a mother of two daughters. I am also a registered nurse and have been for about 12 years. My hobbies include reading, crocheting, taking yoga classes, going for walks and blogging.
How old are your children?
In July, my oldest daughter will be eight years old and my youngest will be four years old.
What do you feel is your biggest struggle as a parent?
I think one of the hardest parts of parenting is trying to get everything done that you need to do in a day and still find some time for yourself. It’s very difficult not to get in the habit of making every day only about your children’s needs. I believe it’s important to make time for the things that bring you pleasure, like your hobbies or scheduling a date night with your husband, so you don’t lose who you are as a person.
Do you think it is possible for women to truly have it all?
Balance is something I am continuously striving for. I believe it is possible to have all those things, but it definitely takes effort to try to keep them up in your life. Things like hobbies, passions, and friends are often the first areas to be put aside when I’m busy trying to stay afloat with family and career demands.
I think it’s important to schedule your week out in advance to include chunks of time for yourself to do what feeds your soul. For me, that means I have two days a week where I go to yoga in the morning, as well as having at least one get together with a friend every week. I am lucky to be able to work part-time so it is easier for me to fit in a few hobbies and coffee dates with friends during the week.
Working full-time does make it more difficult to try to fit in everything on evenings and weekends, but I do think it’s possible. I know when I worked more often, I felt it was worth it to have a house cleaner every two weeks, so I could spend that time with my family and friends instead. It may help to try to find creative ways to delegate certain tasks to others in order to have more time for yourself.
What is your normal day like?
If I’m working, then I get up around 5:45 a.m. to get ready for the day. I then get the kids up and my oldest daughter ready for school. I drop them off at their childcare provider’s house at 7:45 a.m. She takes care of getting my oldest child to and from school and watches my youngest daughter throughout the day. I then work from 9:00 a.m.- 5:15 p.m.
My husband will pick the kids up around 5:00 p.m. and feed them dinner. I sometimes have something made in advance, but otherwise, they just eat an easy meal that he can throw together quickly. I get home around 6:00 p.m. and then will eat my dinner and visit with my family.
My husband will usually bathe the children while I clean up the kitchen and make lunches for the next day. I will then do homework with my oldest and start getting them ready for bed. My youngest goes to bed around 7:30 p.m. and my oldest around 8:00 p.m. If the kids actually go to sleep well, then I have about one and a half hours to spend with my husband and to do hobbies such as crocheting, reading or blogging.
On the days I am not working, I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and get my oldest daughter ready for school and walk her to the bus stop for 8;15 a.m. I then get my youngest child and myself ready for yoga class from 9:30-10:30 a.m. They luckily have childcare provided which makes it so much easier to exercise with a young child. Afterward, I often will have a coffee and playdate scheduled with a mom friend who has a child around my daughter’s age. We usually visit and have lunch together.
After the playdate, my daughter and I will usually run some errands and then I will tidy up the house if I have time. I have to pick up my oldest child from the bus at 3:30 p.m. and will get dinner ready for 5:00 p.m. My oldest child sometimes has an evening activity such as piano or dance class, so I will take her to that after dinner. Then our evening routine is pretty much the same as when I work.
What do you think your parents did when you were growing up that helped you be a responsible and successful adult? What do you wish your parents would have taught you or given you that you didn’t?
My father was a construction contractor and my mother was a teacher. They both worked full-time and education was very important to them. I was expected to work at a young age and often did chores around the house and yard. I also started babysitting when I was twelve and continued with that job into my early twenties. My parents also expected me to go to University after high school. They definitely taught me the importance of working hard and the value of a good education to get a substantial job as an adult.
There was a strong focus on working hard and working a lot to provide my sister and me with a good life and the opportunities to be in many activities. It was great to be able to play sports like soccer, but we were also often overscheduled and life felt rushed most of the time. With my parents working full-time, it didn’t leave much time for them to focus on self-care activities like exercise or their own hobbies in the evening. I do wish my parents would have modeled better self-care behaviors, so it wouldn’t have been so difficult for me to learn these skills after my daughters were born.
How do you handle everyday stressors?
I find that having good organization helps me feel more in control and allows me to not overschedule my days. I have a monthly family calendar with all of my work days and main activities mapped out so my husband can look and see what is happening for that month. I also use my phone to schedule my daily activities and to-do lists so I usually don’t forget anything important. This also helps me plan better for things like birthdays or large events where I might have to pick up something from the store in advance.
I have learned to accept help from other people, such as my mom when she offers to come over to look after my kids. I also regularly schedule my childcare provider for a few hours here and there throughout the month so I can have a break from my youngest daughter and have some alone time to get things done or do some of my hobbies. I find when I make sure to have breaks scheduled, I show up as a better mother for my girls.
One other tip I have learned is the value of taking long deep breaths in and out when I am starting to feel overwhelmed. Pausing and doing this will help to immediately calm me down and make me feel more capable of taking on the rest of my day. I am working on incorporating times throughout the day where I remember to breathe at least 5 times in a row. The moments I find that trigger me to do this the best are when I get into my vehicle, go into the bathroom and when I am getting ready for bed.
What are your tips for getting through each day with preparing for work & school/evening/bedtime?
Having a day planner is essential for staying organized. This also allows me to see what I can do in advance to make a busy day a bit easier when it comes. I also consciously lower my expectations on the days when everything is just so overwhelmingly busy that I can’t possibly do it all. Some days my kids go without a bath for two days, my house is a disaster or my daughter’s lunch is mainly unhealthy snack foods, but I just try to remember that I’m doing my best at that moment and it’s okay.
I would say that getting your kids into a routine is beneficial for everyone. If your morning can start out pretty much the same and that process continues into the evening, then everyone will be happier. I’ve found with my children that consistency is also so important between me and my husband. Even being in agreement with how we get our children ready for bed makes a difference. As my first daughter gets older, she will often try to play us against each other if we don’t do things in a similar fashion.
Bedtimes can be tricky because sleep regressions can happen at any age. My seven year old will go through periods of time where she is very frightened at night and can’t go to sleep, and she will constantly come downstairs when I am trying to wind down in the evening. I remind myself that this is only temporary. She will eventually go back to sleeping okay and I will get my alone time in the evenings back. It is always frustrating at the moment, but I find that sleeping patterns, in particular, come in waves of good and bad and you just have to ride them with patience as best you can.
I have always had anxiety and except for some periods during college, I don’t believe it was ever an issue for me until after my second child was born. After that, I had a lot of anxiety, which often manifested itself in impatience and anger, which was not my normal self. I spoke to my doctor about it and finally was diagnosed with GAD. I started on medication to treat it and even though I have my ups and downs, I feel like it has made a world of difference.
You told me that you had Postpartum Psychosis and Depression with both of your children. After their births, did you realize that something was not right or did a friend or family member tell you? How were you diagnosed?
I realized that something was wrong with my first daughter and actually knew it was Postpartum Psychosis but I couldn’t verbalize it to anyone or explain what was going on. I write about the signs and symptoms I had leading up to Postpartum Psychosis in the following blog post Falling into PostPartum Psychosis.
It started with normal sleep deprivation from having a newborn. I also had anxiety pretty early on which just continued to intensify as the weeks went by. My mind then progressed to having racing thoughts and extreme difficulty concentrating. I eventually became unable to sleep at all due to my racing mind. My husband identified that something was wrong and took me to the Emergency Department where I spent three weeks in the hospital.
After my initial treatment for Postpartum Psychosis, I fell into a severe Postpartum Depression that lasted for about one year. The only way I can describe depression is that it felt like I was completely numb all over. Every task I tried to do took so much energy to accomplish and I felt utterly exhausted trying to make it through the day. But, I kept going, day by day, and the depression finally started to lighten up around the one year mark and then I gradually began to return to myself.
When we had our second daughter, it unfortunately only took three days before I ended up falling into Postpartum Psychosis again. This time I felt fine for the first two days I was in the hospital until I went home and began to experience intense anxiety again. I kept thinking about Postpartum Psychosis happening to me again and getting more and more anxious about that. I also again couldn’t sleep and my mind began racing.
My husband knew I needed to go to the hospital and I was admitted for about two and a half weeks. With this pregnancy I was on antidepressants throughout and afterward, so I didn’t become nearly as depressed as I did with my first daughter. I also had already gone through the transition of becoming a mother so I felt more confident and secure in my parenting abilities which helped me feel much more bonded to my baby.
What has your life been like since being diagnosed?
It took about two months to recover from Postpartum Psychosis and get to the point where I could fully care for my baby by myself. My husband had to stay off work for most of that time and I had to rely on my mother to help me until I felt mentally capable enough to do all the tasks involved in caring for a newborn and for myself.
I was being followed by a great psychiatrist and nurse therapist after my initial diagnosis and all the way through until a year after my second daughter was born. I was then discharged from their care and was stable for two and a half years until I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder in September of 2018. After my hospitalization with Bipolar 1 Disorder, it took about a month to start feeling less anxious and overwhelmed with daily tasks. My mother helped me take care of my girls when my husband went back to work.
One of the most important lifestyle changes I’ve had to do is making sure I get at least eight hours of sleep every night. For me, lack of sleep can easily set my body into a manic episode so this is an essential piece of my own self-care. Since this diagnosis is quite new, I am still learning my patterns with it. I did find that I became very anxious when springtime came and I had to have my medications adjusted. I am very lucky to have a great Psychiatrist who can easily make these changes and help me feel back to myself again in a timely manner.
Otherwise, I am still able to function normally in my everyday life and my friends and family don’t see a difference in how I act and who I am as a person. I still work as a nurse part-time which I enjoy. I also take care of my daughters and run them to all their activities and playdates. With medications that work to treat my Bipolar 1 Disorder, I am still able to live a fulfilling life and do all the things I used to do before my diagnosis.
Do you still live with these diagnoses or do you feel/does your provider feel you’ve recovered from them?
I have fully recovered from Postpartum Psychosis and Postpartum Depression; however, I now have a lifelong diagnosis of Bipolar 1 Disorder and will have to take medication for the rest of my life to avoid going into a manic or depressive state. I have actually been finding it difficult to accept that I will now have a Mental Illness for the rest of my life and I have definitely gone through periods of grief and anger about my diagnosis. I am feeling more accepting now as I get closer to the one year anniversary of my diagnosis, but I still have moments where I don’t think it’s fair that mental illness always seems to happen to me. So acceptance is still a work in progress at this point.
Having experienced Postpartum Psychosis and Depression do you ever consider having another child?
After suffering Postpartum Psychosis and the severe Depression I had with my first daughter, we definitely hoped it wouldn’t happen again the second time. I was followed by my psychiatrist and remained on medication throughout my pregnancy to try to prevent it from happening, but it was inevitable for me. We made the decision to not have any more children and I write about that difficult choice in detail in the blog post Everything Blue.
What do you want other mothers and parents to know about Postpartum Psychosis and Depression?
That it’s not your fault this happened to you and there’s nothing wrong with you as a person. Having a mental illness is comparable to having a physical condition such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. They are manageable with medications and therapy.
Know that healing takes time and you need to have patience with your progress and faith in your medical team. You will get better if you take your medications and get as much rest as possible. Take your recovery one day at a time and try to stay in the present moment without focusing too much on the future.
Building a support network of people you can rely on to help you while you recover is essential. Sleep was one of the most important pieces of my recovery so my husband had to do the nighttime feedings when both our daughters were infants. This allowed me to get the rest I needed so my mind could heal. I recommend finding whoever you trust to help you in any way because you will get better faster with extra support.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a new mother?
To make sure you prioritize self-care because you can’t be the best mother to your baby if you are depleted physically and mentally. Sleep is so important to try your best to let the to-do list go and just rest when your baby is sleeping. Make sure you allow people to help you when they offer whether it is to help you with the baby, clean the house, cook some meals or run some errands. There is no need to try to be a superwoman and do it all yourself as you may jeopardize your health which is not worth it at all.
Katherine, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I appreciate you taking the time to tell us about your journey and sharing your sage advice about self-care, motherhood, and mental illness. I admire your strength and resilience. You really are a ‘momumental mother!’
You can learn more about Katherine by visiting her blog https://butterflytearsandkisses.com and by following her on social media:
Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/BTearsandKisses/
Instagram – Instagram.com/butterflytearsandkisses/
Pinterest – pinterest.ca/butterflytearsandkisses/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/BTearsandKisses
If you are interested in being featured as one of my Momumental Mothers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org