Jaime and her first baby, Jake, in 2010.
1. Tell us about your family. When did you become a mom and what was the road to motherhood like for you?
I had my first son in 2010 (Jake, now age 9) and since have had two other children, James (6), and Zoe (2). Luckily, I had a relatively smooth first pregnancy and as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I experienced a mood lift during pregnancy -- I remember my OBGYN at the time explaining that counterintuitively, sometimes that happens as a result of lowered cortisol and higher progesterone levels. So, I had that going for me! Although, I do remember feeling nervous about what to expect since there were so many unknowns -- like swaddling! I remember watching Dr. Harvey Karp’s video The Happiest Baby on the Block (which was popular at the time) and trying to perfect the swaddle on our living room floor and failing miserably every single time. And worrying about stuff like, What if I forget how to unfold the stroller or clip the carseat in? Sometimes I felt calm and pregnant-Zen, but other times I would kind of full-on panic about how much information we were trying to absorb in a relatively short period of time.
2. What did (or do) you find to be the most challenging part of the postpartum period?
For me, as brutal as the sore boobs and sleep deprivation were, I found the identity shift that happens after birth to be the most challenging thing of all. I found it very difficult to reconcile the overwhelming love I felt for my newborn son with the seismic shift that happened in every other area of my life: my marriage, family relationships, friendships, and career (I was a teacher/freelance writer at the time). It was like my priorities had shifted completely, and I didn’t want to/couldn’t be who I used to be -- but I still deeply grieved that change. All of this was compounded by a bout of PPD which I didn’t realize I had until much later on, because of the later onset (the symptoms were at their worst when my son was around 10 months old).
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 admit, I always resented this quote because it made me feel like I would always feel isolated unless I had a set of parents down the street, or a sibling I could trade babysitting favors with, or a huge group of childhood friends whose kids mine could grow up with. But that wasn’t my reality. But over the years, I’ve slowly built up a support system that I cherish and am really proud of. Especially with mom friends who I love, trust, and treat my children like they’re their own. This is key for me because my family and my husband’s family aren’t local. These relationships weren’t formed overnight, but slowly through playdates, moms’ nights, and playground meet-ups. Over time, you realize who you connect with and who can be supportive through the ups and downs of motherhood. And of course, who you can laugh with. That’s so important...other moms who can appreciate along with you just how ridiculous, overwhelming, and beautiful parenthood can be. I also rely deeply on a couple of trusted babysitters who help care for my kids during the week and also for date nights; I am so grateful for these women who change diapers, soothe tears, and help find lost lovies and soccer cleats.
4. What three words do you think best describe motherhood?
Relentless. Grounding. Heart-stopping.
5. If there was one piece of advice you could give your pre-baby self, what would it be?
I know self-care has become kind of a cliché buzzword, but I think we hear so much about it because it’s so incredibly essential to a mother’s well-being. To my pre-baby self, this was a completely foreign concept. When my first son was born, I felt like being a good mom was turning myself over to him completely. By the time he was a year old, I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleted, having given myself very little attention at risk of seeming “selfish” or like a “bad mom.” So to my pre-baby self, I would say: Love yourself. Tend to yourself. Make time to have coffee with a friend. Hire a babysitter. Sign up for a yoga class. Drive to the beach in the middle of winter and take a long walk. Take a bath and go to bed early. Care for yourself, and you’ll be better able to care for your baby, and enjoy the journey more, which is what it’s all about.