Updated: Jan 6, 2022
I became a mom in 2018. In almost every area of my life, I present as an affirmed and confident woman because I am. I’m the oldest of 5 children, I’ve served my country, I have 2 degrees, I am as confident as I present myself to be. So, I wasn’t really surprised that NO ONE checked on me in the first year of motherhood. My first son was born with a nuchal cord three times and spent a little time in the NICU. So, my mother and mother-in-law stayed with me for a week postpartum. My husband took paternity leave for that same week. And then everyone left me with my baby. At first, it was serene and magical and overwhelmingly delightful! As a therapist I was quite familiar with Postpartum Depression, so I did the recommended things to navigate it safely. However, around four or five months postpartum I was in the thick of a battle with postpartum anxiety.
MY TRUST ISSUES...
I didn’t trust my baby to be with anyone but me, I would have vivid dreams and hallucinations of him looking for me and feeling abandoned or crying himself into asphyxiation. I began to carry weapons again to protect us when we left our home. I had two baby bags always packed to ensure I always had what he needed, and I wasn’t sleeping. It negatively impacted my marriage. It negatively impacted my self-esteem.
I’ve always been introspective so after an anxiety attack at Costco because I’d left the car seat rain cover at home and it was raining, I asked myself, out loud, what was wrong. I had to admit I had an extreme level of irrational fear which made me depressed. I was shocked to admit I had postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. After some therapy sessions, I was able to pull myself out of the sunken place that is postpartum. On my first clear or better day, I was so emotional. It was absolutely time for a cathartic cry, but I cried, also for the women who didn’t have a therapist, or a degree in mental health, or the ability to stay home and navigate that in privacy. I was heartbroken for any woman who subscribed to being called crazy because by every definition she felt crazy. I was angry for the women who functioned but no longer felt because it was the only way to survive, and I cried for the babies being raised by them.
Prior to becoming a mom, I’d briefly had an organization that advocated for female veterans and helped them navigate the VA to receive all the help, care, and benefits their sacrifice granted them. I immediately turned that passion towards black mothers. My mission is to dispel the stigma and stereotype of the crazy black mother. To use my knowledge of mental health to encourage millennial moms to prioritize their mental health so that they could fully be the mom they envisioned themselves becoming. To create the necessary village, the safe space for the formidable black woman to lay down her cape.
LET'S GO DEEPER
The Covid 19 pandemic posed a great threat to my organization as the in-person intimacy was the great stand-out component that separated my organization from the typical, ‘leave the kids with a sitter and let’s pretend we don’t have kids’ girl group. Personally, I was pregnant again and VA had rendered all non-emergent appointments virtual. I witnessed more black men brutally murdered as I grew another black male in my body. I’m very mindful to manage my anxiety and stress while I’m pregnant so I began to do breathing exercises to interrupt negative perseverating thoughts. To navigate the loneliness of a quarantined pregnancy, to prepare me to approach death as I brought forth life again. Once again, my brain took me to the women who didn’t know they had the authority to reset their entire nervous system by intentionally breathing. To gain control of their response to any and all outside stimuli and by doing so actually activated their power.
I recalled how when we women are in labor we are reminded and encouraged to BREATHE, when we are in cognitive or psychological distress, we are told to BREATHE, extreme excitement, BREATHE, great fear, BREATHE, paralyzing confusion, and blind fury…. BREATHE. I wanted my organization to be a constant reminder that we’re not doing this alone. Most of us have unhealed trauma from childhood and adolescence and it shows up intensely in motherhood, and all of us could use a reminder to BREATHE because we really are in control…. We just need to remember it. BREATHE BABYY is my love letter to black moms and my hope is that I can encourage them to love themselves enough to prioritize their mental health so that they get the opportunity to not just exist in motherhood but enjoy the journey. Breathe Babyy, you’re not crazy…and neither am I.