“Sometimes when I say I’m okay, I need someone to look me in the eyes and say, ‘I know you’re not.’ My daughter did just this for me yesterday. I try to hold it together for my child, but she knows.
Check on your strong people. I, and many of those around me, would consider myself to be a strong person. You see, I am one of the friends who is known for having it together, the planner, the happy contagious smile girl always on the go. I am one of those Moms who likes a clean and organized house. I like to leave the house with myself and my daughter looking put together, and I usually have some sort of plan or schedule. To some, it may come off as, ‘Oh, she’s just extremely organized or anal retentive.’ In reality, it is because anxiety consumes my life.
Recently I had a resurgence of debilitating anxiety. Not just, ‘Oh I’m nervous about an upcoming event,’ but the kind where you have panic attacks out of nowhere while driving to your favorite place, or all of a sudden you can’t breathe while playing with your child, or your heart palpitates while sitting still in your living room. The kind where an outgoing, always on-the-go person is afraid to leave the house.
The strongest people are often making time to help others, even if they are personally struggling with their own problems. Check on these people, the strong ones. The ones who seem like they have it all together. After some tragic events in my life, such as losing my mother to cancer at a young age, watching my father put everything he had into raising me right, I had to be strong at a very young age. I had to move through it all and try to be a normal kid again. You don’t forget those things. They stay with us no matter how we heal. I firmly believe in the saying, ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.’
I had been very busy planning a birthday party, prepping my courses at the college I teach, doing advocacy work for my passion on maternal and infant health, taking care of a household and a 3-year-old. All things I enjoy. It is possible to be blessed AND stressed. All of this was around the time three years ago that I almost lost my life after the birth of my daughter Emma. I wasn’t remembering on purpose. I didn’t choose to backslide into the past. The thoughts came to my mind clear as day, so vivid as if it just happened. The trauma came flooding back, and anxiety once again reared its ugly head. I saw my doctor right away, discussed some solutions, and went on my way. Society doesn’t realize it’s not a quick fix. I have battled this for years.
I needed a moment to myself, so I asked my husband to watch our daughter so I could take a quiet bath and decompress. Twenty minutes to myself isn’t something that comes easily to Moms, whether you work, stay at home, or both. Of course, the moment I did, I heard, ‘Mama, please!’ through tears coming from the other room. It was only a matter of minutes before she busted into our master bath reaching for me. My husband swiftly removed her multiple times, as I said, ‘Mommy will be done in a minute baby, I am right here.’
Finally, when she came in again, I told him just put her in the tub with me. She immediately stepped in, hugged me, and clung to me. Intermittently she would turn to give me a kiss and say, ‘Hi Mama,’ and then we sat in silence holding one another, her head on my chest listening to my heartbeat, while I patted her back and smelled her sweet curls. We stayed that way for about 45 minutes, skin to skin in the warm water, just being present for one another. It was precisely what each of us needed.
It was one of the best and most beautiful gifts anyone could give me. That sometimes life’s not okay, that this too shall pass, and that I have the representation of unconditional love to help me through it.
You see, I was hiding my anxiety and my fear from the world, but her intuition picked up on it. She didn’t understand that the crying made me stressed, but she did understand that communicating she wanted to hold me and be held was her heartfelt way to fix things and make my anxiety better. This took me back to our skin to skin time when she was a premature baby in the NICU, and the amazing bond that we created from day one.
Ever hear that saying, ‘No one will ever know the strength of my love for you, after all, you are the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside’? It reigns true, this unconditional love and bond that is created within the womb and into raising this little person. I think we have a lot to learn from children, to be more aware of the people and feelings that surround us. I will say it again, check on your people, especially the strong ones. Listen to your children and your pets. Their intuition and love will help you.”