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Blog

These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Tag: Parenthood

A Postpartum Psychosis Reflection

jasmine banks

Media is a bitch! Yes. This is how I open my "Happy 5th Birthday" Mommyblog-ish post. Media is a bitch! When you get pregnant there is an influx of expectations that are suddenly thrust at you. There are supposed things mothers are supposed to do and supposed to feel. Suppose if a woman didn't feel and do those things? Well, if she listened or put any stock in what media and hoards of women say, she'd burst on the scene of motherhood already feeling like that "not good enough mother." I've written before about the relationship I had with my pregnancy with Isaiah. We were at war, my body and I. Isaiah was an unexpected pregnancy after years of being told I was infertile. I was in the middle of making my life awesome (so I thought) and KA-BLAM! it was a boy.  Upon preparing for Isaiah's arrival I felt deeply deeply ashamed of the kind of mother I already was. I spent the first two trimesters faking my way through happy, because once a woman is pregnant she is supposed to be happy- of course. I felt depressed, overwhelmed, unprepared, unsupported, and confused. I bought in to what the books said, what other people said, and what the damaging inner voices whispered.

 

After Isaiah was born I was severely depressed. I was a whiz at breastfeeding, but my lack of education about breastfeeding and lack of support meant trying to figure out my colicky baby alone. Garrett was clueless and I was angry. I was great in school, but sharp, smart, and talented aren't always the best arsenal against the breaks of motherhood.  Today I'd say empathy, intuition, and an utter trust for your body and its ability are powerful tools of pregnancy and motherhood. Also humility... though I don't know if I'll ever master that one.

It wasn't colic. The poor baby was getting too much foremilk... I had a supply that could feed a small nation. He screamed and lurked his body. He kicked and whimpered. He wouldn't sleep unless he was in the Moby wrap. My self-esteem faltered, I was sleep deprived, not eating well, and emotionally bankrupt.

We moved to our current home when Isaiah was 6 months old. The stress of a move, school, abusive friends, and coming to terms with a new body and a new baby took its toll

One night, while Garrett was at work I bathed Isaiah. He screamed and fussed in his normal fashion. He seemed to get overstimulated at the slightest thing. Looking back, today, I see that he was responding more to the anxiety I carried in my body. I sat him on my pillow on the bed wrapped in a towel and sat in front of him. I put lotion on him and cried. I was exhausted, so very tired, and defeated. As I looked his chubby body over, a black spider crawled over his torso. I grabbed Garrett's pillow and hit him with it. I could feel my hands grip the pillow hard and my heart beat in my chest. I held the pillow down tight. Have you ever had one of those moments where you look at something and then you find that you've been staring into space for a second or two. That is how this felt. My hearing came back into focus and I could hear the muffled wails of my son and I looked down to see his feet flailing from underneath the pillow. I quickly took the pillow off him. There was no spider. I started crying harder. I grabbed Isaiah and thrust him into his crib.

I immediately called Garrett. "I need help," I wailed. Garrett came home immediately.

The next day I went to see a psychiatrist. Over a period of a year I got the help I needed. I made a full recovery, but the diagnosis still lingers.

I had Postpartum Depression with Psychotic features.

And this is why the media sucks. When you say "psychosis" or "psychotic features" people immediately think Norman Bates. They think evil uncontrollable serial killer.

I had a break with reality. I hallucinated a spider and lost control and thankfully, I was able to snap back into reality before I suffocated Isaiah. Having a degree in psychology helped me to understand what had happened... to get help quickly. Because of the media and the "motherhood myth" I still carry shame from having suffered from PPD and Postpartum Psychosis. Instead of understanding that many women face these issues everyday, I have felt (in the past) the need to hide what I experienced. I believed, "good mothers don't have Postpartum Depression and Psychosis." People are even more accepting of women who survived Postpartum Depression, but when you say "psychosis" some get a look in their eyes. Maybe it is confusion. Maybe it is fear.

I have survived so much in my life and I am proud to say Isaiah and I survived this together.

 

Isaiah turns five tomorrow. The years following my episode with PPD, Isaiah and I worked hard to bond. We did bonding exercises, massage, and spent a lot of time re-learning each other. Isaiah taught me that humans are so resilient. We are capable of coming back from so many difficult things. I wondered if I'd ever love Isaiah like a mother is supposed to love a child. It turns out... he showed me how to love him just the way he needed. Today he is my emo kid. He is deeply intuitive, expressive, and SO funny.

Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet boy! Look at how much he has grown!

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother's Day

jasmine banks

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This post was originally posted May 9th, 2011

I spent Mother's Day being, well, a mother. No simple task, by any means... Before the day was over I wanted to take a moment to mourn with those who mourn. I have met so many people who were raised for whatever reason by moms who weren't willing to mother. There are never simple answers to most stories, and the reasons why these women caused so much pain aren't either/or answers. Most people hurt because they are deeply hurt. One woman has a mom who was bipolar and unable to get well enough to raise her. One woman has a mom who was destroyed by her past of sexual abuse that she was unable to be present with her children. One mom walked out on her 3 year old daughter. One woman was so preoccupied with finding a man, a woman, a someone to complete her that her children went unnoticed. Another woman struggled to live up the dreams her mother was trying to live through her. And there are so many others... so many other people, women, who have survived damaged and failed motherhood.

It doesn't have to end in tragedy. Those experiences don't have to just be painful scars on your journey. Those experiences CAN be redeemed.

If you choose to become a mother you can choose to heal from your past, you can choose to not repeat the cycle. If you have a mental illness you can get serious about it, get help, not make your children responsible for you. Good mothers aren't perfect. Good mothers are damaged goods, sometimes.

So today I am filled with joy because I am a mother to two THREE amazing kids AND I am mourning with those who mourn because they went without a  mother. They went without someone to teach them how to embrace their identity, comb their hair, laugh with them, remind them that they are uniquely made. For them, reminiscing on Mother's day, even if they are mothers themselves, is a bittersweet and difficult day. There is a balm for their souls out there... I am hopeful they will find healing.

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Listen To Your Mother

jasmine banks

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I performed in Listen To Your Mother. Lela Davidson was able to bring Listen To Your Mother to NWA after paying off begging Ann Imig to give Northwest Arkansas a chance. She did give us a chance. Ann's payoff was a group of women wholeheartedly invested  in being exactly who they are. Although, NOW, I don't think I am who I was.

Because of the LTYM show, I have been transformed.

How can you not be transformed when you hear a woman reflect on burying her mom at 19 years of age, about another mother who fought to adopt a son and then falter in her self confidence, and yet another tell her biological mother's request for "friendship" on Facebook "NO!".  One cannot be the same after hearing those stories, just as one cannot be the same after telling those stories. Each time we speak the words and reflect on these truths we change the landscape. We break free from the "what to expect when you are expecting" persuasion and we proclaim, "NOTHING can be expected!" Each story belongs to itself. It morphs and transforms and is as unique as each snowflake that falls.

There is power there. Power in that place.

You know the one...

The moment in time where you are no longer bound by parameters.

I remember turning to a page in one of my pregnancy books. I thought, "where is MY story?" I couldn't find myself there. I couldn't find that chapter that was titled "What To Do When You've Had the Baby and Don't Want It Anymore."

Isolation and shame gives way to an audience full of people.

You feel the plastic sheet under your finger tips as you inhale to read.

You look out at the audience but see no faces, the light blinds your sight.

You speak the first words and very soon after that the last sentence.

You've told your story. You've shared a part of yourself. The show is over.

And just before you have time to reoccupy the world of self doubt and fear a woman walks up to you and grabs you underneath your arm and gently squeezes. "Me too", she says knowingly. You hold each other's glance. Through the humor and posturing she got it- Your story was her story.

That is it.

The point of telling your story is that not everyone can. Not everyone can stand on stage and say those words aloud. Not everyone can admit the fear they anticipate about their children growing up, being a "good enough mother", or wrestling with breastfeeding.

But today you read your story, you laughed and cried at the podium. You represented all the other little girls clicking decline to their biological mother's Facebook friendship request and struggling with unexpected pregnancies.

I don't know if Ann Imig knew what a gift she was creating when she penned the plans for Listen To Your Mother. She drew a line in the sand and simply said, "stand over here if you want to say it out loud. There are no rules, save talking about Motherhood."

No prescription for good mother or bad mother.

No list of how it is "supposed " to be done.

Just a blank canvass  BYOP: bring your own paint.

Listen To Your Mother is an invitation to artistic expression. It marks a cultural shift toward realism in motherhood. Surrealism be damned!

The Listen To Your Mother show is one of the most beautifully orchestrated ways to say, "me too." Thanks for that gift Ann, motherhood officially owes you one! We've brought our own paint and we are creating a masterpiece. We'll call it "Motherhood."

[Photo courtesy of Megan Clemence Photography]