I didn't expect to be able to get pregnant, or get pregnant easily. I was 38 and just imagined that I was likely "too old". But luckily for us, we did get pregnant and luckily for me, my pregnancy wasn't difficult. Physically I felt good. I was exhausted in the early weeks of the first trimester but when that faded. Most of the time, I had good energy, slept well and while I stopped going to the gym early on, I remained active with walking and yoga. Emotionally, however, I was a different story.
I had been a confident woman for decades so it was strange to feel like that was all gone. Suddenly, I felt anxious about every little thing. I felt sure that I was the oldest mom-to-be in Durham. There was no "First Time Moms Over 40" Durham Meet-Up at that time. I didn't know anyone else who was pregnant! On my daily drives to Chapel Hill, I found myself angry with careless drivers on 15/501 and wished aloud many times for a "pregnant lady on board" sign for my car so they might be extra careful around me. I felt unsupported and stressed emotionally about my job and uncertain, even what it would be, when I returned from my leave. There was no "pregnant women support group" that I could find. I felt alone and vulnerable often.
...until about the seventh month! My husband and I took a childbirth ed class where we finally met other expecting parents. There wasn't much time set aside to talk among ourselves or debrief in general but I really appreciated the weekly company. We also hired a birth doula which was reassuring for both of us. I'd come full circle with my job, too. I had originally planned on returning after my three month leave (1/2 of which would be unpaid) but ended up deciding it would be best to give notice and find something else at the end of the summer. I began to feel my confidence come back.
My daughter was born in the summer of 2012. Neither my husband or I had much experience with babies and I remember thinking, through my fog of sleeplessness, worry and physical pain, “it shouldn’t be like this.” When I learned about post-partum doulas a few months later, I decided that I wanted be one of these amazing women: a special blend of confidante, sister, nurse. But was that the answer? I'd already began to wrestle with this new identity. I was someone's mother while still 'Elizabeth'. "Elizabeth", as I knew her, had to be in there somewhere, I thought. And it didn't seem to be "just" a matter of finding a new career.
I began to realize that it was about more than wanting to offer support and help as a postpartum doula, I realized that we moms need to give ourselves permission to count again. I needed to. And not just in the professional sense, as it seemed I was trying to. It felt wrong to go off and have a coffee with an old friend but common sense and a good sense of self told me that was exactly the thing I needed to recharge and return ready to tackle a hungry baby. I was still important as an individual with different needs (including professional ones), even if I was now someone's mom. This permission to count again, to see one's self as important and to be seen as important -separate from being a mom - seemed to be completely missing from conversations that I was part or anything that I read.
I started Outside The Mom Box about eighteen months after I had my daughter. And with it, I started to have the permission conversation on a smaller level, in blog posts, support groups and informally. Grounded in that piece, I started to offer all the services and support that I wanted and couldn't find when I was pregnant and a new mom:
Pregnant women and new moms support group? Check!
Short-term coaching services to normalize feelings of anxiety, offer a reality check from someone who's been there before and won't judge? Check!
Short term counseling and
In the works for 2015 are educational trainings, a new mom workshop and more.
If you're a pregnant woman or new mom, let me know by visiting my contact page or leaving a comment below if there's something you are seeking but cannot find. If it's not on my resources page, I might be able to help you find it.
Before I had my daughter, I worked with in the non profit world with survivors of intimate partner violence, as a counselor, coordinator of a 24-hour crisis line and as the chief trainer of crisis counseling and intervention skills to over fifty volunteers and interns. My career also includes time spent in corporate America and small business. I'm attended the University of Connecticut for my undergraduate work and Southern Connecticut State University for my graduate degree in Women's Studies. Head here for my complete resume, list of recommendations or to connect with me..