Dear Anxiety,

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Dear Anxiety,

Do you remember the first time I even recognized your presence as a new Mom? I remember it like it was yesterday. The triplets were just weeks old. They cried all the time. It was before we knew they had GERD and the sleep deprivation was ruining me. It was the middle of the night and our boys wouldn’t stop crying. Do you remember yet? Everything I knew to do to as a Mother to help them wasn’t working. I could feel the panic rising in my body. I was sweaty everywhere! I cried so hard weeping with my babies, “I don’t know how to help you.” And I didn’t. I was tired and frustrated.

That was the beginning of our journey together. Although I know you likely snuck your way in before that moment, that was the first time I saw how cruel you really can be. There was also the first time I had the babies alone after my husband went back to work. Do you remember that day? It was one of my worst days. You used the fear of trying to parent my newborn babies alone to destroy every particle of confidence in my being.  I remember calling my sister on the phone sobbing with my daughter in my arms because I was so overwhelmed with three crying babies that all needed me. You used those moments to shower my heart in guilt and shame. You fed me lies about who I was as mom, and I believed you.   You used that time as an opportunity to breathe lies and fears into my heart. You stole my confidence and joy. I was afraid to take my newborns anywhere. You crippled me.  I felt house bound and lonely.  And I know that was exactly what you wanted. You were the culprit to my ongoing panic attacks. I was in a depression and walking through a very isolated postpartum season. It was hard, but I got help. I made a choice to change.

I hope you were feeling crippled the day I chose to seek the help, the day my courage was a force of strength! The day that even though I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety that day, the day I chose to make a change.
I am 1 in 5. And it’s okay. I am on medication. And it’s okay.  I am using coping mechanisms to overcome you. And it’s okay.
I am a good mom. You can’t take that away from me. I won’t let you.

It’s been almost 3 years since you entered my life and I still have to face you daily. But you have never won. Lately, you have made your presence especially known in my being.  You used your sneaky ways to breathe lies into my heart after I almost lost my daughter to drowning a few weeks back.  I am still reliving the moments, I know you know that. You have used the fear from such a terrifying moment to cause me to question who I am as a Mom. You have told me I am weak because I need therapy and am struggling with panic attacks again. I know you are using the trauma from the accident to continually bring fear and panic over me. I see you. I see what you are doing and the power you think you have over me.

 You have been in and out of my life since I became a Mother, and this season, the one I am in right now, is probably one of the hardest. However, perhaps you underestimated me. I will always choose to stand against you, stay healthy, and be strong for my family as I conquer the struggles you bring me. I will choose to talk about my struggles and what I am doing to overcome them.  I will take my anxiety medication because that is what I need right now. I will do self-care because it is incredibly important. I will see therapist and use the tools I continue to learn to help me prove to you that I am strong.  I will do my best to bring myself back to reality in my anxious moments.
Anxiety, You are apart of my story. I never wanted you. I never asked for you. But God is using you to make my story beautiful, to reach the hearts of the hurting, to remind those that are 1 in 5 that they are not alone. You thought you were coming into my life to ruin me. But you underestimated. I am using my voice to remind mother’s that they are not alone. Together we are strong. I am doing what I can to stop the stigma of mental health. And I hope it is making you quiver. I hope you are recognizing that you don’t have power over me, you don’t define me.
Follow me: @thefortintrio
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Meet Maya

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Several Weeks ago a friend of mine, Maya, reached out to me and asked if she could share her story and battle with Anxiety and Depression with me. I was absolutely blown away. I have known Maya for years (since I was in middle school) and I never knew my friend was going through so much.  She is so strong and so brave to be willing to share her heart, her story, and her battle with you.  These are her words and I hope you are  encouraged to share your struggles, get help, and know you are not alone if you are struggling with any of these feelings!

“Today is a day of reflection, as I think about Kate Spade I think of all of the beauty she put out to share with the world. She created beauty, maybe from pain; I do not know her journey with mental illness. A few short weeks ago our level of connectedness stopped at eyeglasses, a planner, and a pair of earrings. Now I know that our connection is much more intricate, deep, and meaningful.

How I felt:

First, I was tired all the time, I was constantly taking naps. I would go to school, come home, and nap from 1:30pm until around 5pm. I would only wake up after my mom came home. It was the only thing I could do to feel “better”. Secondly, I absolutely dreaded going to school. This was odd because unlike most teenagers, I loved my high school. I was always involved in school leadership and I was good student, but I just did not want to be there anymore. I tried to alienate myself because I never felt happy or joy even with my amazing group of friends. I remember actively trying to avoid them, trying not hurt their feelings. I imagine that I was doing the opposite. My friends were supportive, understanding, happy, and hysterical. Had they known they would have helped me. But we didn’t talk about my depression because I didn’t share it with them. I also could not understand how my friend’s lives seemed so easy, they did not have to try to be happy, they were just easily cheerful. I had to try hard to put on a happy face, to act happy. There is literally nothing more sad in the world than trying “act happy”.

When it started:
Around my junior year my mother was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. My mother and I did not have a typical teenage daughter/mother relationship, we were extremely close, friends even. We didn’t agree all the time, but for the most part some of my favorite memories during this time were with my mom. My mom did not buy into not being friends with her children. She was and is still one of my closest friends. I have always been able to talk to her about literally anything, to laugh endlessly, and to trust her with helping me with any of my problems. The thought of not having my mother, scared me. It made me feel alone. I was always worried that something was going to happen to her. I would go with her to her evening ESL class that she taught because I feared being away from her. Because I associated the word cancer with death. I started to fear death and become obsessive about thinking about it. Once I finally realized that my mother’s death was all that I could think about, I told my doctor. I told my doctor first because I couldn’t bear to tell my mother that I was afraid of her, specifically her death. My doctor scared me a little when she started to ask me questions more directly about what I thought about. I didn’t have thoughts about self-harm or hurting others. I just felt scared to die and scared that my mother would. I would worry about not being picked up by her after school, I would worry about her going anywhere. I would worry about her when I was with my friends. I worried myself sick. I worried to sleep. My doctor wasn’t my favorite person. She kind of made me feel bad for being joyless and tired all the time. She also made me worry for worrying.  She also was a little too eager to have me try different medicines to “help”.  She made me feel as if it was my fault. My mom on the other hand always told me that it was a imbalance and we had to work a little harder to find a good balance for me, to be happy. I started taking depression medicine. It was the worst decision I had ever made, instead of feeling emotion like a normal person, it completely numbed me. I was numb to joy, sadness, pain and even clear thought. I would be so concerned about feeling bad that I would worry about what excuse I could make to get myself out of any situation.

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When one medicine didn’t work, I tried another and another. I tried Lexapro, I tried wellbutrin, I tried Celexa and others. I felt nothing, I didn’t feel joy. I couldn’t find my happy.

My Happy Place: The summer after high school my sister was getting married. I wasn’t a huge fan of the groom but I remember wanting to feel happy and like myself. My sisters best friend planned a bachelorette party at a country bar where people line danced. I learned a couple dances and minutes in, I felt complete and utter joy. I went back with them after the wedding, and then kept going. It was the place that gave me back my happy. I remember my friends not wanting to go there, I lost a few because they didn’t understand that it wasn’t just a bar for me, it was truly my happy place.  The only place I would feel joy, just dancing my little heart away. I loved the loud music, I loved how polite the people where, I loved the experience. My sister used to laugh because I never went to meet any guys, all I did was dance. It brought me the joy that I was lacking every other day of the week. I would go religiously, I even joked that it was my version of church. I went Friday and Saturday nights every week…for a long while.

Change has always been hard for me, but  high school ending, not seeing my friends anymore, and being away from mom was just way to much too soon.

Getting Worse:
I found myself not knowing what to do. I moved to my dorm and I remember feeling completely alone. I would go to class, feeling groggy from my depression medicine, get to class and like clockwork, the second my class was over I would cry, I would cry until my next class or work. I would cry constantly. I would cry when my best friend Marissa called me and I chose to ignore her calls because I didn’t want to bring her down with my problem. I felt terrible, I didn’t feel worthy of her friendship. I remember when I cried before and after work. I would cry during my break, I couldn’t stop. I was exhausted from it. I remember seeing a friend from high school, she asked me how I was doing and I started crying. I couldn’t handle people asking me how I was doing. I wasn’t well, I wasn’t close to it. I work at my Alma mater, there are specific places on campus that I would nearly run to, just to cry. I avoid these places because of how terrible I felt there. I couldn’t stop crying. My only stop button was my mom. If she answered my phone call while crying she would calm me down, enough to get thru the day or at least a few hours of class.

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Getting Help:
My mom suggested that I stop taking medicine and going to talk to someone. It completely changed my life. I  nervously went and cried my way thru a few years of how my depression started, how I was dealing with my classes by crying, and how I couldn’t story worrying. My psychologist, was caring, kind and thoughtful. He let me cry as long as I talked through it. It took some time getting used to telling a complete stranger that I felt like a complete crying mess, but he was so kind and patient. He always kept very calm, it was like how people talk at a spa. It was like a light bulb went off in his office. He made me realize of the control and power I had in my thoughts. He gave me homework, “Start answering your what-it’s ” he told me. When you worry and have a what if this happens scenario, choose to answer with what your possibilities could be. I started to answer some of them in front of him. Then I tried it once I left his office, and again in my dorm, and then in class or at work. Every time I answered my what-if questions, my crying stopped and soon it faded away. I stopped crying completely. I was dried up, tired of crying and ready to find my joy again. It seemed weird to be that positive thinking and a very simple process would change my life, but it really did.

Overcoming Depression:

Between going to my happy place and finding a psychologist that helped me with new coping mechanisms, I felt human again. I felt worthy of love, I felt worthy of putting myself first and getting the help that I needed. I wouldn’t have made it thru the dark place that I was in without my support system. In my work I have spoken to a lot of teenagers, college students, and adults about my struggle with depression, it is hard to talk about – which I think is why most people don’t. It takes me back to a place where I couldn’t function without crying, I couldn’t feel joy or experience happiness. Now, I can say with certainty that I am happy, I choose to be happy every day. Living with depression is not easy but it is worth the effort every day. I am often looked at or talked about as the always positive happy one, but it is my choice to be happy every single day. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw my psychologist, but he changed my life. I built my friendships back, I started a new routine in college and met some pretty amazing people. I truly started enjoying college and enjoying what I was learning.

Currently:
I now work at my Alma Mater, I have for the past nearly 8 years. Without experiencing the dark side of depression, I wouldn’t have started seeing the beauty of my life and enjoying it. My advice for anyone struggling with mental illness is to seek out resources to help you, try to find one positive moment in your day (even if it is I woke up and that is a gift!), and always to know that you are not alone in your feelings. There are a lot of people out there that feel the same as you, worse than you – but we are a quiet group. You are worthy of love and help. My advice for the family or friends of someone that is struggling is, be there. Be there when you are ready to give up. Be there when your friend god-willing, gets through their fight and is ready to accept your friendship. I can tell you with certainty that they need you, they need to rebuild your friendship and that they want to. Call or Text your friends, get them to the help they need. Call and text your friends family and get there for them to support them. Be a light, be their happy. Continue living your best life and help those that might not be. Help can be a hug, a smile, a phone number to call, a cup of coffee – hell mine was a dusty ol’ country bar – you never know. 

Lastly, if you ever have a thought of hurting yourself or others – make the call and speak to someone, 1-800-273-8255. There is a beautiful world around you to enjoy, even if you can’t see it at this moment.”

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I Take Anxiety Meds. I Am Still a Good Mom

untitled-4I’ve been a Mom for almost 3 years now. During those 3 years I have been on and off anxiety meds. The journey has not been the easiest, but I have learned about who I am as a Mom and become so much stronger because of the journey. 🌿

When I was 3 months postpartum I finally saw my Doctor to get some help for the major baby blues and extreme exhaustion I was feeling. I was struggling at this Mom gig. I have never struggled with anxiety or depression until I became a Mom of triplets. The lack of sleep was tortuous and my anxious heart was crippling me. I was fearful of everything and my heart was smothered in “what if’s?” 🌿

When I saw my Doctor, she told me I was actually high risk for PPD because of my infertility, multiples pregnancy, and traumatic birth. I certainly was not prepared for the struggles that came. And I kind of wish I was more aware about the risk factors and the possibilities of PPD or Anxiety prior to having kids. I had this non existent idea of Motherhood. I thought it was going to make the happiest I have ever been. And don’t get me wrong, it certainly has. It’s the most rewarding journey. However, Motherhood is not easy. I have also struggled more to love myself and find self worth and confidence which has always come so natural to me. 🌿

When I stopped breastfeeding I went on Lexapro daily and Xanax for my panic attacks. And I have been on them both and off since my kids were 3 months old. 🌿

Being on anxiety meds does not make me a failure. It doesn’t mean I am not good enough or undeserving. It means I am doing what I need to to be the best I can be for my kids, my family. 🌿

Our mental health journeys are all personal, heart breaking, and usually very difficult. Yet what I have seen more than anything birthed from my mental health journey is strength. I am strong and I’m fighting anxiety daily. I am learning more about myself and my needs as a Mom. A new found confidence has been placed in my heart. I am brave. And I am not alone. I am doing what I need to do to help me walk through this season of Motherhood. I am owning my journey and believing by sharing my story someone’s heart is touched!🌿

Follow: @thefortintrio

Confessions of the Anxious Mama: My Postpartum Story

34076010_1594520523930454_2046302696771682304_o“You’re f***ing miserable all the time.” The words someone told me when I was neck deep in my postpartum struggles. Words that weren’t supportive. Words that just made feel worse about how I was already feeling.
If you would have told me that just weeks after my babies were born I would experience postpartum depression I wouldn’t have believed you. I waited years to finally become a Mom, I didn’t think the “baby blues” would even be in my vocabulary. The truth is the postpartum blues, exhaustion, and the lack of confidence as a Mother can sneak into your life overnight and it is paralyzing. The fear of failing my kids, not knowing their needs, and the pure exhaustion through me into a battle with anxiety and depression.
The triplets had GERD and needed individual attention during feedings. I quickly became overwhelmed with being a Mother. Breastfeeding didn’t help. My body became strictly a funnel for milk. There was no connection, no bond, just pumping and milk. I often wondered how God thought I could be a Mother to triplets. I was failing them and myself. Comments like “I guess you prayed a little too hard” weren’t supportive or helpful either.

Three months into my postpartum I finally saw a Doctor. I knew I needed help. The bright, outgoing, confident me was gone. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and disappointed.

There are many things we thrive for as a Mom, but honestly, we just need to survive. I did what I needed to to get though my postpartum journey. This meant admitting I was struggling, seeing a doctor, and going on meds. It meant getting help with overnights and hiring a Mommy Helper. It meant throwing my pride out the window and saying “I cannot do this mom thing alone.” Little did I know it would take a full year before I could feel more like the me I once was. But truthfully, I will never be her again. I’m a better me. Being a Mother has brought on an anxiety that I have struggled with on and off since their birth. But here I am, nearly 3 years later, and I am surviving. I know how to help myself when the anxiety kicks in. I know the value of leaning on others. I know I can’t do this without Jesus. And I am a damn good Mom. ❤️👊🏻🙌🏻

Follow: @thefortintrio

Confessions of the Anxious Mama: I Just Need a Break

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Where do you go to hide to deep breathe before you go all monster on your kids? To inhale a sandwich or a homemade cookie so you don’t have to share?

My bathroom break moments are usually always the deep breathing kind of moments. Although every now and then I just need to peacefully eat a peanut butter cup.
My kids are far from perfect and they really know how to throw a good tantrum. Those moments can be incredibly overwhelming. They are a trigger for my anxiety and sometimes result in panic attacks.
After going to therapy last summer, I learned a lot about myself and how to help my anxiety. Sometimes excusing myself from the chaos is the best thing for me, and for my kids. There have even been times where I have gone into our garage and screamed, sometimes cursed. Not my proudest moments, but sometimes stepping away from the chaos is the answer at that moment. I may even just need a “come to Jesus” bathroom moment so I respond in love to my kids and breathe normally.
I have also learned the value of actually taking a real break. And by break I mean going to target alone, getting coffee, having some kid free time. There is no shame in taking time for yourself. I have learned that by taking care of myself and allowing myself breaks (guilt free) is healthy for me and I’m a better mom because of it.
Today our morning started off bad and it just got worse after Daddy left for work. Even my “come to Jesus” moments in the bathroom weren’t helping my attitude. I have a gym membership that offers childcare so I decided to take the kids to gym. I had no plans of exercising. I spent the entire hour and a half laying on the couch in their lobby. I didn’t even feel guilty about it. I just needed a break.
Be encouraged to do something for yourself. And find your hiding place to deep breathe, eat treats, and have your own “come to Jesus” moments because sometimes that’s just what is needed. After all, we are all just trying to raise good humans and sometimes that means taking a break because it helps us become a better Mom.

Confessions of the Anxious Mama: I Have a Mean Side

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I never even knew I could get so angry until I had babies. I am embarrassed to even admit it, but it is true. The mean mommy in me, my angry side, is one of the reasons why I found myself in counseling last summer. I had to do something to help me control my anxiety so it wouldn’t hit the point of anger. It was a side of me I felt only the triplets were having to bare and it made me feel awful. My anxiety tends to fuel (for lots of reasons) but especially when all 3 of my kids decide to throw a tantrum at exactly the same time. No one is patient and everyone is screaming, crying, kicking-you name it. I feel like I have no control over the situation. In those moments my body would heat up and before I Knew it, I would be screaming too, which results in nothing and tends to make things worse.
There were times where I felt so lost in Motherhood that I would throw my own tantrum wondering how God could even entrust me with my kids. There was no grace for those moments, just shame. I hated who I was. Who knew I could get so angry? I certainly did not. It is those moments that I am not proud of and it is also because of them I knew I had to get help. I had to learn how to respond to my kids midst tantrum in a teachable and loving way, rather than just yelling.
Along with getting on medication for my anxiety, I saw a therapist to help me work through this. It is not easy coming face to face with a side of you that you hate. We are all human and it is natural for us to get angry, upset, hurt, etc. But we can choose to respond in a way that doesn’t make the situation worse for everyone. During my therapy I had to work through some rooted things from my childhood that were buried in my heart. Things I didn’t want to face, but knew I had to because sometimes freedom is found in doing hard things. I had to learn grace because I am not perfect and I will fail. It’s okay to step away so you can breathe normal and respond calmly. I had to find a community of moms to share life with. I had to communicate well with my husband about my needs because some days are just hard. I had to fully relay on Jesus because I can’t do this Mom life without Him. ❤️

Confessions of the Anxious Mama: Silently Grieving

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Sometimes we face things that are really hard to process, work through, and overcome.
About a year ago, I told a friend who was struggling with infertility that I would be her surrogate if it came to that. After much hope for my friend, she finally conceived. My heart was overwhelmed with joy.
As time went on, I still felt like it was on my heart to be a surrogate so we found an agency to work with.
We met with my Doctor to discuss surrogacy and if the complications during the delivery of my triplets would prevent me from even qualifying. “You have 3 beautiful babies at home that need you,” she said as she proceeded to share the potential things that could go wrong considering my history. “You could lose your life, Des.” Ultimately, carrying and more so delivering another baby, would be life-threatening.
I knew right away I would likely not qualify for surrogacy, but all I could think about was my 12 remaining embryos. “Are you saying the same risks apply to me if I got pregnant with my own biological child?” She was silent for a moment. I knew the answer.

Grief struck.

It painfully struck.
My heart broke because I truly wanted to help someone become a Mom. And I deeply grieved my embryos and my broken body. I was ashamed for wanting another baby when I have 3 miracles right in front of me. I was ashamed of my body for not functioning once again the way it’s supposed to. I felt like my desire to have another child was stolen from me. Silently, quietly, privately, I grieved- which was usually the few minutes I had alone in the shower. I cried and I cried hard.
It was a matter of time before my grief was crippling me. I started to have panic attacks every couple days. That’s when I knew I needed help. Ultimately, it was my silent grief that was the culprit to this painfully difficult season I’ve been in the last several months.
However, my silent grief also showed me how God is always at work in us, revealing and renewing our hearts. I have to choose to trust Him in the story He has created for my life, especially the fine print. And I don’t know what our story holds, but I do know God is doing something good in me.

Follow me: @thefortintrio
#confessionsoftheanxiousmama

The Cleo Madison

I am so excited to introduce you to Cleo Madison.  I am in love with this beautiful boutique that offers modest, yet incredibly gorgeous and stylish apparel for women.  I also love the heart behind this brand. I think it is … Continue reading

Confessions of the Anxious Mama: I hated Breastfeeding

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I hated breastfeeding.
There. I said it.
When my triplets were born I experienced some complications and nearly lost my life. My Doctor told me I would likely not be able to breastfeed, but miraculously my body produced enough milk for all 3 babies. It was such a miracle and I was so proud of my body for functioning the way it was supposed to. I came to the NICU everyday with milk that I pumped the night before and I would take turns nursing the triplets hoping to experience “the bond” I often heard about.
When we finally came home with our babies, I pumped exclusively. The triplets all had GERD, which made feedings stressful because each baby needed individual attention. And I was already so exhausted, pumping didn’t help. But I kept telling myself I needed to do this for my babies. I felt like I would be failing them (and myself) otherwise. A “friend”even told me that “formula is poison.” What a disappointment I would be if I chose to stop.
The weeks continued to go by and I was in a fog. I knew I wasn’t myself. I started to despise breastfeeding and even felt jealous of my husband as he laid in bed while I stuck a machine to my boobs.
There was such a tug-a-war in my heart. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed because I didn’t want to breastfeed anymore. Guilt can ruin you.
When the babies were 3 months old I finally saw my Doctor to seek help for my postpartum anxiety and depression. It was one of the hardest steps, but the best thing I could have done for myself. I needed help. I was exhausted, in a depression, just not my normal self. The very first thing she suggested was to stop breastfeeding. She even wrote me a prescription that said “stop breastfeeding.” I felt like she gave me permission to stop.
So I did.
If you take anything from this, take this:
Fed is best. Breastfed. Formula fed. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re an amazing mom. Surround yourself with people who will support you because you need that, especially as a Mom. Ultimately, we are all working hard to raise good humans, so let’s stand together Mama’s and support each other.

#confessionsoftheanxiousmama

Follow me: @thefortintrio

Confessions of the Anxious Mama: I just want to Sleep

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Lack of sleep is like a poison.
Like all new moms the sleep deprivation kicked in hard when the triplets were born. It was a whole new level of exhaustion and the culprit of my postpartum depression and anxiety.
One night when the babies were just weeks old. I had just finished nursing Charlize. I cradled her in my arms and dosed off. And by dosed off I mean, I fell into a deep hard sleep.
Suddenly, frantically, I woke up, shouting “we forgot to feed the babies.” I startled Ryan as I jumped out of bed without even realizing I had Charlize in my arms. I remember Ryan shouting “Babe. No!” as if he was watching a slow motion film. Fortunately, Charlize was cradled in my left arm so she slipped right into the bed, but if she was in my right arm, she would have fallen on the floor. My sleep deprivation put me into a delirium. I was exhausted all the time. This moment told me lies about who I was early on as a new Mom and instilled fear in my heart.
Sleep is a need. It is medicine to our soul. It helps us stay healthy. I was not prepared for the lack of sleep that would intrude my being and ruin my functionality as a Mom. It heightened my anxiety and put me into a depression. I wanted to be in bed all day, but I couldn’t. I was a Mom to three tiny newborns who needed me. I felt so incapable.

Ashamed.

I had no clue what I was doing. The triplets suffered from GERD, which didn’t help. Feedings required extra help and individual attention. I often wondered how God could entrust me with all 3 of them. I hated feeling like I needed help, like I couldn’t be a mother on my own. But what I learned is that it takes a village to be a good mom. I needed to ask for help. I needed to go on meds to help me function. I needed a Mommy helper. I needed to do things that would help me get through such a hard season.
My babies are toddlers now and I can tell you, I still need my sleep. If I am not getting the sleep I need I turn into a monster. I have less patience and am sometimes reminded of all the lies I believed about myself back when my babes were newborns. However, what I’m reminded of more than anything, is that, it takes a village and it’s okay to ask for help.