The Journey of Jesikah Gutierrez

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The empty nest.

I didn't really think about it before it happened and it's still a journey everyday.

All of a sudden, there's all this time you didn't have before and you're forced to confront everything, including self, that had been pushed aside for so many years. I didn't recognize the woman in the mirror, but I knew that she was worthy and deserving of love and so much more. It was and still is daunting, but thankfully I've also discovered my life's passion in the process -- helping to lift other women to be the best they can be for themselves and their families.

What I have found is that by working with and lifting other women, I also lift my family - my sons and daughters. Having an empty nest forced me to look at myself and nurture the woman I am and the woman I strive to be.

The Journey of Edie Villarreal

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I was miserable for six years.

Hearing the word menopause, still makes me cringe. It reminds me of all the pain, sleepless nights, and mood swings I endured for six long years.

When I was younger, I thought having a period every single month was bad, except when I was pregnant with my three children. But going through menopause was much worse.

You often hear people making light of this “change” your body goes through, but most of those people are not the women who have gone or are going through it.

It changes who are you and at times I felt like I was going insane. You can’t fully explain what is happening to you, and the symptoms are absolute hell.

I couldn’t sleep and the night sweats were so bad, that every inch of my body perspired. It felt like my body was on fire and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. Even my pajamas irritated my skin and they actually hurt.

It was a constant battle of taking my clothes off to cool down, but then getting cold and putting them back on only to get hot again.

It was all night, every night.

I couldn’t sleep, so I would get extremely cranky during the day and that’s where my mood swings took over.

I finally decided to go to the doctor and was prescribed an antidepressant, which helped, but it wasn’t a cure. If I forgot to take my medication one day, all the symptoms would start again.

I was on the medication for six years and had to be weaned off because the doctor said it was too long to be continually medicated that way.

The worst of menopause is now behind me, and most of the “change” is over. But I will say that our families need to continue to support us through the changes in our lives and be considerate of our different emotions and feelings we may go through.

The Journey of Michelle Villarreal Leschper

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When I was pregnant with my first child, everything was a dream. I dreamed of what kind of mom I would be, how spunky and fun my daughter would be, how we would breastfeed and have time to bond, and nothing would be “that” difficult.

Then, I pushed an 8-pound baby out of my vagina.

My daughter wasn’t ready to come out, but she was at the cusp of being too large for a vaginal birth, so I was induced. That made my labor long and at times complicated. I pushed for nearly four hours, had an episiotomy, but still tore. Recovering from a third-degree tear was excruciating and it seemed to get much worse before it got better. I couldn’t sit right for weeks, and I was trying to figure out how to breastfeed and pump to build a milk supply because I had to go back to work at 7 weeks postpartum.

With each passing day, my body healed little by little, but my stress and emotional levels only increased. After I returned to work, I forced myself to pump three times a day. I walked out of meetings and didn’t answer a ringing phone, all to get a couple of ounces of milk for my daughter, that she seemed to be sucking down quicker than I could pump it out. My body also wasn’t fully healed, so I would occasionally get sharp pains and couldn’t sit for extended periods.

It was a lot to take in and a lot to handle, especially for a first-time mom. I often looked at photos and videos of my daughter while I pumped at my desk, in an attempt to produce more milk. It only made the emotional wave stronger.

At some point, my pumping times turned into crying sessions. I sat at my desk, pumped, and sobbed. I often called my husband, and while he had words of encouragement, I kept telling myself that I went back to work too early, and that I needed to be home with my daughter.

I was sad, upset and angry. I felt guilty for leaving my daughter.

I reached out to a therapist and it was one of the best decisions I made for myself. I didn’t have postpartum depression, but I did have the baby blues and stresses of being a new mom.

The therapist helped me cope with all the guilt and the string of emotions that went with it. We worked through setting small, attainable goals for myself, so I didn’t feel so overwhelmed. Once I started to achieve those goals, I started to enjoy life and my family.

I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

It took three months, but my body finally healed. My mental health took a little longer, but things did get better. My husband became my support system and took on responsibilities to help in any way he could. My parents, my sisters and my friends were also right there whenever I needed them.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give to a mom, it is to ask for help – and not just when things become overwhelming. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a real mom.

From one mom to another, we all need a little help every now and then. We will support you!

The Journey of Laurie Lyng

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My name is Laurie Lyng, and this is my story.

I would consider myself to be a fairly laid-back person and always have been. It wasn’t until after I gave birth to our second daughter, Lily, just a couple of months before our first daughter, Lyla, turned 2 that I started to notice the change in myself. I started to become short tempered and on edge. All of the hardships that come with having a newborn and a 2-year-old were really testing me. I was just learning how to juggle both of them pretty much by myself. My husband is an amazing father, a good provider, and always supportive but his job requires him to work 12 hour shifts, alternating between nights and days which means that I am the sole one taking care of the girls most of the time. Along with being a full time mom I also run my photography business from home, and it was around the holidays so it was a very busy time for me. Some days I was starting to lose my cool and I even found myself to the point of yelling, a lot.

One day in particular I had my mom over to help me with the girls and Lyla, my 2-year-old, was doing something so completely harmless and innocent but for some reason it was driving me crazy! She was pulling all of her books off of her book shelf which she seemed to find really funny, but it just made me so heated! There she was with a big smile on her face making a huge mess all over the floor (like most toddlers do) and it just pushed me over the edge. Rage, which is such an ugly word to me, but yes rage consumed me and I started screaming at my precious 2-year-old daughter over nothing really.  You could just see the joy on her face from making this harmless mess turn into sadness and grief.  And in that moment, my mom said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “Oh Laurie, don’t scream at her, you’re going to break her spirit”.

Break her spirit. Oh man, that one sank in deep. But she was 100% right. Was she doing anything seriously wrong? No. Was it annoying to me? Yes. But that was my problem, not hers. She was just being a child, that is her job, and patience and understanding is a part of my job as her parent. With a degree in Psychology, I know full well the effects that displays of anger can have on a child in their formative years and how it can be a very dangerous, slippery slope. Children all have big beautiful spirits and bright shining lights inside of them, who am I to break that spirit or dim that light? I know this can be how troubles begin for people. That knowledge weighed heavy on my heart and I knew I needed to change me. But how could this have even happened? I’ve never had anger issues in my entire life and that is so uncharacteristically like me.

When discussing postpartum depression (PPD), one symptom that is not commonly talked about is anger. I didn’t even put the two together until my mother’s words struck a chord and I started to seek advice to change myself. It makes sense though, after giving birth there is a huge fluctuation in hormones that can cause a wide variety of mood changes that are alarming or out of character. For me, it was anger. It wasn’t until I took to internet though to find out I wasn’t alone.

From this whole experience something positive came from it. I decided to start a project using my background in Psychology along with photography to create visual tools to help remind me that there are healthier ways to communicate without turning to anger. I decided to call it “The Shine of Mine Project”. The first visual aid I created was my daughter’s “Let it Shine” t-shirt. I use it as a reminder that she has a bright, shining light inside of her and just because she might be doing something that frustrates or annoys me, I can talk to her about it in a calm manner.

Along with providing aids for myself, another part of the project is also to teach my children about respect for others. From that, I created my daughter Lily’s “Share Your Shine” onesie. She is a representation of pure shine and when I look at her smile, she lights up my world. It’s important for my children to know that not everyone’s life is full of light and if they have the opportunity to share their happiness or stop anyone from trying to dim someone else’s shine, that they should.

I also made the “Good Vibe Tribe” shirt for myself as a reminder that I’m the one who sets the mood for our whole family, our tribe, so it’s up to me to keep the positive vibes flowing.  

With my photographs, I started an Instagram account @theshineofmineproject to spread positive messages with imagery. Stay tuned for more to come but like anything and like myself, it’s a work in progress. I still have days where I feel like I am about to lose it and I’m sure there’s many more of those to come, but I try to reflect on the tools I have put together and the fact that I am not alone.

It is really great to be able to talk about these issues because sometimes they come in forms we are not familiar with. Even for me with an education in behavioral sciences, I didn’t link PPD with the behavior I was, and still am battling with because it is not nearly discussed enough. Postpartum anger is very real and more common than I even realized.

I hope my story will connect with others and hopefully by being open and having these discussions, we can all share a little shine!

"Just the Baby Blues"

“ Just the baby blues,” is one of the most popular phrases women hear after giving birth and not feeling like themselves. In fact, it occurs so much, that they too tend to shrug these feelings off with a “ this too shall pass,” blasé attitude. Shrugging these feelings off, and not giving the situation the attention it deserves could potentially be dangerous.

Take the story of Greg and Elizabeth Ludlam, for example.  Greg, and his wife, Elizabeth had the picture perfect, fairy tale marriage. Even after the birth of their first child, they tackled parenting and married life like pros. After the birth of their second child, Greg began to notice a change in Elizabeth. He figured it was stress related, and that she just needed a break. After she continuously rejected his offers to stay with the kids while she went out with her friends, Greg figured she might just need a change of scenery, and be closer to family. After numerous attempts to cheer her up, or to figure out what the problem was, Greg resorted to the internet to find a solution.  I’m sure you know how the story ends - Elizabeth committed suicide.  She leaves behind two children and a husband.

As a wife and a mother, I know that sometimes talking to your husband about “women issues” may not always be the most comfortable feeling.  Getting together with mom friends can help because they may have a solution for you; you never know if they went through something similar. You also have the Corpus Christi Maternal Mental Health Coalition peer groups. Your life is important; you matter. Don’t let these negative feelings bring you down- take care of you. No one else can take your place.

For more information on Greg and Karen’s story, visit: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a43999/postpartum-depression-elizabeth-greg-ludlam/

Follow CCMMHC on Facebook to keep you in the loop on our peer – to - peer support group meetings. Visit, https://www.facebook.com/ccmmhc/

Unnecessary Silence

Due to the increased focus on censorship in the media, I feel inclined to speak on the normality of postpartum depression. It may not feel normal, nor seem normal, because of the stigma attached to it, but it happens, and we shouldn’t be silenced on the topic, simply because it might make others feel uncomfortable. A few things to remember:

1.  There is no qualifying level for PPD; in other words, just because you don’t feel like inflicting harm upon yourself or your child does not mean that you are not suffering from PPD. If you feel tugs of insomnia, withdrawal, panic attacks, mood swings, or fatigue, you just might be experiencing PPD.

2. Hormones, y’all. Hormones. These things are like tiny little aliens inside our body that we have no control over. It’s bad enough that our hormones go nuts with minor changes in our body. Enter pregnancy, and you’ve got a circus going on.

3. Let’s talk a bit about Dad. He’s that big guy in the corner of the room who seems to be staring into outer space half the time. Truth is, he’s probably thinking of ways to cheer you up, or possibly doing something special for you. But- he’s at a loss. He doesn’t know what to do or say. Now, before you think, “man, this crazy lady is adding to my stress,” I bring this up to remind you of your options. Talk to him. He may not have gone through the roller coaster pregnancy the way you did, and he may not understand completely, but he can be a good support system for you. Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to.

The bottom line is, you are not a bad person, or mother. It doesn’t help that the media loves to demonize mothers experiencing PPD, by labeling them “crazy” or “psycho.” Each mother has her own story, her own journey. This is why it is important not to censor these experiences. These stories add to our repertoire of motherhood experiences, and help others come forward and seek help.  Most importantly, remember that everyone is different; while some mothers might just need a break once in a while, others might need more extensive treatment and that’s ok. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to seek help.  Do what is right for you.

 

 

Mom Shaming

In today’s society, we tend to be more worried about what others are doing, instead of focusing on our personal growth. This is also true for moms. The term “mom shaming” emerges from the constant berating that occurs when parenting “experts” pounce on other mothers if they feel she isn’t doing a good enough job. While it may seem like just another petty argument between mothers, it is fuel to the postpartum depression fire.

I was a victim of mom shaming- by the very nurses that were caring for me mere hours after the birth of my son. I was a 20-year-old new mother, who was just coming to terms with the idea of parenthood, all while having an episiotomy. As soon as I was taken to the recovery room, I was instantly bombarded with pamphlets and other educational materials for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding? Wait, what? Remember, I’m 20. I was overcome with a sense of discomfort and fear. This was not something I signed up for. When I told the nurses that I was not comfortable breastfeeding, and preferred bottle feeding, the frowns reared their ugly heads, and the “ I’m a mom and I tried it; it’s super easy,” stories swirled around my head, making me feel dizzy. The nurses excused themselves to bring me the bottled formula, but instead returned with a doctor in tow. The doctor sat down, and in the most professional manner, explained to me why breastfeeding was more beneficial, not only because of the nutrients, but also for bonding purposes. My fear got the best of me; I mean, I didn’t want my son to hate me because I didn’t breastfeed. The three nurses, along with the doctor, sat there as I attempted to breastfeed my son. Moms, when they tell you that your baby notices your discomfort and stress- they do!  My son refused to latch on, and I was in tears because I’d already convinced myself that because of my ignorance and reluctance to breastfeed, my son would starve and die. I had let the pressures of medical personnel, as well as my own fears label me a bad mother.

After what seemed like an eternity, they excused themselves and said they’d take my baby to be fed in the nursery while I relaxed and took a nap. I need white noise when I sleep, so I asked if they’d turn the TV on for me, which they did, and I closed my eyes. I couldn’t sleep, and when I looked up, I noticed they’d left the TV on one of the hospital’s channels- the breastfeeding tutorial channel. Yes, you read that right. They have a channel dedicated to “experienced” individuals that can help quell your breastfeeding fears. Experienced? Like, they do this for a living?? I was so annoyed, and I gave up and “knew” I was a bad mother, and I hadn’t even been a mother a full day.  My mother was so upset, that she spoke with the doctor, and told them to back off because I’d made my decision, and their bullying was affecting my recovery. It really was. They backed off, BUT…..they conveniently added a plethora of pamphlets and literature on breastfeeding.

I decided to try again when I went home, thinking that maybe I could do a better job in the comfort of my own home. Nope. I gave up and chose bottle feeding. At the time, I didn’t realize I was suffering from postpartum depression, and the breastfeeding fiasco was only adding to it. I’d like to say that the support I received from my family was enough to get me through it, but the truth is, the breastfeeding brigade continues to cast a pall over mothers who choose bottle feeding, and vice versa. It is a constant war between mothers to prove that one is better than the other. Looking back, it was difficult having medical personnel bombard me with pressure, but it’s a lot more difficult when you look for support from other moms, people you should be able to share experiences with, only to have them berate you as well. Moms, we are a team, with the same goals – to raise happy, healthy children and to make sure they have the best lives. How we get there may be different, but in the end, we have the same goal. Please stay tuned for future support group meetings; let’s stick together to erase the stigma of postpartum depression. 

Adapting to Change

I know I’ve been MIA for a while, and I apologize, but I’m back! Like most moms, I just experienced a major change in my life- I got a full-time job, and boy did it shake up my schedule. I was having a ton of fun working part-time and indulging in all my extra time, but when duty calls – it CALLS. Adapting to change can be tough, and we may not always like it. It’s a constant in our lives, and some changes are easier to adapt to than others. One major misconception about motherhood is that since we’ve got 9 months before our child’s grand entrance into the world, we’re extremely prepared for the changes. Wrong! Becoming a mother, whether it is your first child, or your tenth, will always bring about a change. Some mothers see it as a positive change in their lives, and others see it as a negative change. That’s ok.  You might even “miss the old and happy you.” That’s ok, too. Here’s the good news- the “old” you is still there- she’s just got some new stories, and maybe a few extra gray hairs- she’s also got sass and character. Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to that will help us out, even if it’s just lending an ear for venting. So, let’s take this next step together. Bring in the new year with a peer-to-peer support group meeting, held January 6, 2018 at 10:30 AM. Click the following link for more information:

https://www.facebook.com/events/140729070045861/