Jenny and her first baby, Benny, in 2013.
1. Tell us about your family. When did you become a mom and what was the road to motherhood like for you?
For as long as I can remember, being a mom has been my #1 goal in life. I always loved babysitting, especially for family, and had dreamt of being a stay-at-home mom, or working as a teacher and being home with my kids as much as possible throughout their early childhood years. I always say my first child was my nephew, “Evie.” That’s where the name Jenny and Evie comes from. I was his nanny for about a year after I quit professional ballet school in NYC, and I really credit him for introducing me to motherhood. After a long and winding road of education, working as a teacher, and then a mental health clinician while getting a doctorate in clinical psychology, my husband and I decided to wait until I was almost finished with grad school to try getting pregnant, which felt like eternity! I had my first son (who’s now 6) when I was 32. That year we bought a car, a house, moved from the city to the suburbs, I finished my full-time internship where I worked several evenings per week, completed my Psy.D. (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology), and my husband, was just starting a startup! We had our second son (now 4) when I was 34.
2. What did (or do) you find to be the most challenging part of the postpartum period?
The sleep deprivation, hands-down. My oldest son didn’t sleep through the night until he was 3 years old. Not joking. Also, just not having enough education or awareness of the realities of the postpartum period. I honestly struggled for several years, and the hardest time for me was actually almost a year after each of my boys was born. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life, and being a trained mental health professional, I was looking for symptoms of depression. I had a regular therapist, psychiatrist, supportive husband, and family all relieved when there were none. I had no idea that postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was even a thing, until I had an epiphany one night while rocking my second son -- too anxious to put him in his crib because I was afraid the odd number of slats of his crib meant he would die if I put him in it! Because of the anxiety, I found it difficult to rest even when I had the opportunity to, which just compounded the problem.
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 have the most incredible village of friends and family right now. It took some time to build because I had just moved before having my first son and went from working full-time to being home and not knowing anyone in my town. I'm lucky enough to have great family that lives very close by, and I met my closest mom friends through our local town family network. I went to a Mommy and Me yoga class when my first son was about three months old. We didn’t get much from the yoga, but we’d go out for lunch after and texted each other about everything from sleep training to dinner recipes. That was my lifeline for years. I've met some of my best friends by just forcing myself to go to a new mom meetup, exercise class, or out for a drink or dinner.
4. What three words do you think best describe motherhood?
LOVE. Consuming. Transformative.
5. If there was one piece of advice you could give your pre-baby self, what would it be?
Search high and low for that person you can trust with your baby, because taking care of a baby is all-consuming and depleting. Taking time to be alone both physically and mentally can really make a huge impact on your mood and overall outlook. Even if you are just running an errand for thirty minutes, or sitting in the parking lot of the gym drinking coffee wearing workout clothes but not going in (yup, I did that!), you will feel better. When mom feels better, she is a better mom, spouse, girlfriend, friend, daughter, employee, boss. And find your local mom soul sisters - I know that was two pieces of advice, but so important also!