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The Unhealthy Hustle

Where my postpartum anxiety/depression friends at? 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️



“The more anxious we are, the more high-functioning we will make ourselves appear, which just encourages the world to lean on us more.” – Sarah Wilson



Anyone else identify strongly with this statement?



Personally I can easily say that the height of my PPA/PPD struggle was when I was hustling most to make it look like I wasn’t struggling at all. And guess what? I was incredibly convincing. Chalk it up to my expensive theater degree (thanks, Mom and Dad!) or to the overwhelming pressure I felt to not be perceived as weak or needy, but the more I struggled the more I hustled to cover it up.



It was exhausting. It was overwhelming. It was indescribably unhealthy. It did not serve me, my husband, our family, or the greater community in any way. None.



Repeat after me: Sometimes the hustle is not healthy.



If you’re hustling to further your career or keep your body strong or to achieve your goals, you go get it! I am proud of you for the work you’re putting in and I will cheer you on every step of the way.



However, if you’re hustling to prove to someone that you’re capable, to prove that you’re fine on your own, that you don’t need help, that’s a problem.



If you’re hustling to cover up feelings of shame, that’s not healthy.



If you’re hustling to keep up with any arbitrary cultural standard, that’s a problem.



If you’re hustling because you don’t feel like you’ll let people down if you step back or say no, that’s an issue.



If you’re newly postpartum or deep into that 4th Trimester of baby’s first year and you find yourself hustling, I want you to take a minute to question. Ask yourself, why am I so exhausted? Did I lose sleep? Am I feeling more than just blues? Am I struggling with extreme emotions like sadness or anger? Am I secretly over-using or becoming too dependent upon substances or other numbing mechanisms to cope? (Think misuse of food, alcohol, excessive social media use, etc.) Am I taking on new tasks or responsibilities because they’re things that bring me joy and satisfaction or because I feel obligated or because I want to make others happy with me?



If these questions strike a chord, you need to get creative and prioritize yourself. I know that’s hard, especially when you’re keeping kids alive and have other responsibilities. But remember, your family/baby/husband/coworkers also need you to prioritize yourself.



The height of the struggle is not the time to hustle more. It is time to prioritize rest and mental health. Remember, your schedule should reflect what works, not what’s “normal.” Be creative. I have a friend who spent the first two years of her baby’s life staying up all night and sleeping for most of the day. That’s what worked for her family and it was perfect. Do what works even if it seems bizarre to others.



It’s incredibly difficult to stop hustling, especially if you’re anxious and depressed. If you’re overwhelmed and you need help to stop the cycle, reach out. The lie says that you’re the only one struggling, you’re a burden, be quiet because your life is easier than most, and on and on and on. The truth is, everyone is struggling. Everyone. You are not a burden. Ever. Also, all the cool moms go to therapy. (That’s a little tongue in cheek but truthfully speaking, talking to an unbiased third party for the better part of a year saved my sanity. Therapists, counselors, priests, pastors, mentors, friends, support groups…they’re all there to listen and support. Use your resources. You will never regret it.) Constant hustling perpetuates the cycle. Just like in labor, the only way out is through. But also just like in labor, there are people ready and willing to support you. You don’t have to shoulder life all on your own. You’re worthy, my friend.



Need a place to start? Try the following resources:
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Amy’s Blessingway

Guys, I love Blessingways. I love them so much, but sometimes it feels like zero other people even know what a Blessingway is. In my extremely unbiased opinion (cough, cough) I think our American culture does a really wonderful job of preparing families for new babies with things, but not preparing them emotionally or mentally for the changes that come with a newborn. Baby showers are absolutely amazing and totally necessary, but birth is so much more than an opportunity to collect clever onesies and stock up on diapers. We do mothers a huge disservice when we only prioritize things for their baby and neglect their mental and emotional health.

 

Enter the Blessingway.

 

Blessingways, or Mother Blessings, trace their lineage back to traditions of the Dine Navajo people. A Blessingway differs from a traditional baby shower in that the focus is solely on preparing the mother-to-be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for labor, birth, and welcoming a new soul into the world.

 

I had the privilege of helping host a Blessingway for a dear friend and doula client the other day, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show off what the morning looked like and what we did!

 

It was such a beautiful day. The mother-to-be, Amy, hosted in her home and we had a delicious brunch with a small group of her close friends. I think it’s important to remember to keep your guest list short. It’s best for the vibe to be intimate, so make sure you’ve got a group of people who feel comfortable being a little vulnerable together. By vulnerable, I mean a group of pals who feels safe to you, who are okay with speaking truth to your heart, praying together, things like that.

 

At Amy’s Blessingway, conversation was joyful and uplifting. We spent a lot of time talking about our own shared labor experiences and got on our soapboxes about how women are far more capable to birth than our culture believes. We talked about the funny parts of our birth stories and bonded over our shared identities as mothers.

 

Amy asked that everyone bring a card with a scripture or quote that would be an encouragement to her as she prepares for baby. Blessingways are not necessarily religious, but the definitely lend themselves to many different faith traditions. The beauty of a Blessingway is that you can customize it to include whatever speaks most to your heart. Birth affirmations, scriptures, quotes, mantras, and prayers all work well here.

 

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We were also asked to bring a bead to Amy’s Blessingway. Beads are a common Blessingway tradition. I’ve had clients string them into necklaces to wear during labor or just put them on a string to hold or look at while they’re laboring. Beads can be a tangible way to count your way through contractions or could be a visual to focus on during labor. When each person gave Amy their bead, we explained why we chose that particular bead and what it symbolized. This is such a beautiful opportunity to speak truth to the heart of a mama and to remind her how strong and capable she is.

 

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Amy’s dear friend, Karolann, explaining her gift beads.

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A Blessingway can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. Some folks like to include henna art for the expecting mama and her guests. Amy was gifted some beautiful henna belly art before her Blessingway by Kera Marie of Traditions HennaI mean, can you even believe how gorgeous this is? She incorporated the handprints of Amy’s other kids and even Amy’s favorite animal, an octopus…gold stars if you can spot him!

 

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After we finished up all the activities, attendees were given a candle to light when Amy was laboring and a blue string to tie around our wrists to remind us to pray for her. It was a truly lovely and special morning.

 

Ultimately, throwing a Blessingway is just such a beautiful way to hold space for expectant mothers and honor their journey toward birth. Blessingways can also be very healing for mothers delivering babies during or after difficult circumstances like the loss of a baby or another family member, a deployment, or after a difficult previous birth. These ceremonies are also wonderful for preparing mamas for VBACs or even a scheduled c-section. The options are endless! If you’re interested in hosting a Blessingway for a friend or having one for yourself, I do offer Blessingway services. Feel free to hit me up and we’ll plan an event customized to your personality and birth. Happy Blessing, everyone!