Mama, How are You…Really?

Maternal Mental Health

Maternal mental health has side effects that most mamas are ill-equipped to manage. We walk around acting like all is well – all the time (Oscar-winning performances no doubt).

I was blessed with birthing 1 child – my son/Airman for the United States Air Force.

Labor began at 1 a.m., arrived at the hospital at 1 p.m. 7.5 cm dilated, pushed for 4 hours and he arrived to an insanely tired, hungry mama. I was ‘fine’.

Everyone’s lives stayed the same, but mine was turned upside down forever.

His daddy and my mom went back to work, after helping me get into a groove with this tiny human, who screamed at me every 2 hours for food while I waddled around.

Six months into this parenting journey, postpartum depression decided to visit, and I opted to swallow a pill, pray, and hope for the best. No one tells you that you’ll probably need to continue to wear maternity clothes after maternity is over (is it ever over?). Your once-sexy bras will be set aside, and you’ll most likely stretch out your already stretchy post-baby bras.

My husband’s body remained unchanged while 9 months postpartum still couldn’t fit in my favorite pair of jeans and my breasts filled a bra size I’d never known was available to a woman forcing me to wear my husband’s shirts.

After processing all the ‘mom guilt’, I decided that staying at home with him was neither good for him nor me, so I returned to work.

**Pumping every 2 hours, chronic mastitis with flu-like symptoms, missing my baby but enjoying my job…where was self-care (this was the early 2000’s)?

Years go by, and I finally replaced that favorite pair of jeans worn pre-baby with a pair that fit snuggly over these new post-baby hips. His Dad and I grew apart, divorced, and both remarried other people. That ‘screaming baby’ grew into a wonderful young man, moving just down the road into a quaint little house on family property, then shockingly says that he is joining the military and has been training for special forces with the Air Force.

I don’t think I took a breath that entire year.

I giggled when my friends cried as their kids left for college, I could handle that, we did a great job raising him and I’d be fine as I nudged him out of the nest…ha! Again, no maternal mental check-in. I’d heard about self-care, but I was ‘fine’, right?

No one prepared me for how my ‘mama heart’ would react when he began standing on his own two feet, joined the military, and began his own life.

After the divorce, my sin and I were peanut butter and jelly, cereal and milk, two peas in a pod, and NOW HE WAS LEAVING!

Praise God for my husband (stepfather of ‘screaming baby’) and his patience and love throughout this journey. I WAS A MESS. He and I had never gone more than a day or so without talking, more than a week without seeing one another and surely had never been told we couldn’t communicate for a while.

Basic Training shook me. The ‘not knowing’ portion of this military journey ushered in grief I’d not experienced. How was I grieving when he was fine, albeit 10 hours away, and ONLY allowed to write/receive letters? Confirmation was glaring, I WAS NOT ‘FINE’.

It was by God’s hand that a close friend, and grief counselor, suggested that I lean into my feelings and process them. She walked with me through the stages of grief, and I learned there was more to my heartbreak than just my son growing up. Things rooted in me from childhood, divorce and adulthood that I needed to work through.

Self-care became a trend during all of this, and I am most grateful that it did. If I can impart any good, savory, information to you, Military Mama, it’s this:

  • GET the pedicure. Paint those piggies the color that makes your soul smile when you see them.
  • BUY the book. I suggest you begin with Be Safe, Love Mom by Elaine Lowry Bryne. If any Mama knows your heartbreak, it’s that Military Mama of 4 uniformed children.
  • LISTEN to the song and journal. Listen until you cannot cry any more tears. GET IT OUT.

Mama's Self-Care

And remember, you aren’t alone.


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