Memos from Moms: Cassie Shortsleeve, Health Journalist + Founder, Dear – Jenny + Evie

Memos from Moms: Cassie Shortsleeve, Health Journalist + Founder, Dear Sunday

1. Tell us about your family. When did you become a mom and what was the road to motherhood like for you?

I became a mother at 12:49 a.m. June 20, 2019, the night before the summer solstice when I gave birth to my daughter Sunday. My path to motherhood was confusing for me. Despite always 'wanting' to be a mother — and being a health reporter for the better part of a decade — I never felt more in the dark than when I was pregnant. I am lucky in that I had a completely healthy pregnancy but I struggled greatly with many of the physical and emotional changes that pregnancy brought with it. I didn't like what pregnancy did to my body. I didn't understand why I didn't feel 'excited' about having the daughter I always thought I wanted. Worse, I felt that my feelings clashed with society's views of what those nine months are 'supposed' to look like. I felt isolated. When people asked me if I was excited, I often lied. I said 'yes' even though deep down I had so many fears, including what kind of a mother I would be if I was feeling this way. Today, I finally understand what everyone "meant" when they'd tell me that a mother's love is indescribable. Today, I feel as though motherhood was my purpose — and that I stepped into a whole new level of love and understanding through becoming a mother to Sunday. But it wasn't without struggle. As a health reporter, my experience opened my eyes a lot to the way we talk about pregnancy, the perinatal period, and postpartum.

2. What did (or do) you find to be the most challenging part of the postpartum period?

Sleep deprivation, absolutely. More broadly, I'd say that from a societal standpoint, there's so much oversight of the mother in those fragile postpartum days when people come to meet and hold the baby. A few days before I had Sunday, I read an article that introduced me to the word 'matrescence' — you don't hear it much but it's the birth of a mother. I've been lucky in that I have a large support system of family and friends around who have supported me. But not everyone has that. And in those early days when you come home with a new baby and you're bleeding and raw and sleep-deprived? You need care, too. That's part of the reason I decided to launch my company Dear Sunday (it's named after my daughter). We launched on Mother's Day and provide downloadable e-guides for pregnant women and new moms as well as coaching services to help women understand the ups and downs that come with the monumental perinatal period. We'll tell you what to do if you can't do on a run or if you have heartburn at 2 a.m. We'll help you understand that it's okay to not always be excited about every aspect of pregnancy and we'll tell you what to actually pack in a 'go' bag. I like to think of Dear Sunday as the resource I wish I had access to when I was pregnant and postpartum. 

3. It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child. Who is part of your “village”/support system? Does your village look the way you thought it would?

I don't know how I would have made it through the past year if it weren't for my own mother. Before I had Sunday, she showed up at my house with a sitz bath, ice packs, hemorrhoid cream, and more in a bag. She put it in a closet and said we'd talk about it after I had the baby. She's the only one who really even hinted to me that I'd need that stuff (and more). My husband, Christo, stayed by my side throughout every single thing I went through from dark moments in pregnancy to two nights in the hospital and amidst those more-than-teary postpartum days. I feel so fortunate in that I have so many loved ones around, too, who have helped me in ways that I probably will never even be able to thank them appropriately for. For a story I wrote for recently about the postpartum period, an expert told me that there are different seasons of life — seasons of giving and seasons of receiving. When you're a new mom, you're in the season of receiving. I think that's really hard for lots of women to feel comfortable with but I've tried to keep it in mind when I feel 'guilty' of accepting help. Accepting help has also, interestingly, helped me get to know my loved ones better. It's allowed me to see how different people you love show love (my brother-in-law and his girlfriend come over often and cook us dinner; my sister pops in right when I'm at my wit's end to make the baby laugh; my dad spends his Saturdays strolling our neighborhood with the baby and doing errands I know we'll never get to; the list goes on).

4. What three words do you think best describe motherhood?

I'm going to answer with two words: 'both-and.' A wonderful perinatal therapist I work with frequently in my magazine writing (she's also going to be an advisor for Dear Sunday!) told me that emotions are really never 'either-or' — they're 'both-and.' I've found that to be so very true about motherhood. Sometimes it's happy and sad, tiring and invigorating, exciting and scary. That's a big theme with Dear Sunday — seeing that 'and.'

5. If there was one piece of advice you could give your pre-baby self, what would it be?

I don't think it's possible to fully give 'advice' about motherhood. It's just something you have to experience. That said, I would tell myself that it's okay to struggle with the changes of pregnancy and postpartum and that lots of people do (some research suggests that the adult female brain never changes more dramatically than when she becomes a mother, with changes lasting up to two years). I'd also tell myself that there are better ways to prepare for the realities of this life-changing year. I'd also tell myself to buy TakingCaraBabies' sleep guides so that I could understand infant sleep cycles right off the bat. She's a miracle-worker!

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