October 14, 2021
Don’t Go It Alone: Why Motherhood Requires Courage & Vulnerability
In motherhood, I’ve realized you never stay in the same season for long. As soon as you master something, you or your kiddo hits a new milestone which brings about new challenges. It’s humbling - but important to remember that there’s really no point in the journey that you stop needing support.
Yet it can be really hard to be honest about how hard things are. Especially when you have expectations of how it should be or look like. Perhaps you thought parts of motherhood would come easy to you. Perhaps, you didn’t know how hard it would be to breastfeed or support a baby with developmental delays. Or maybe you’ve just never tried to function with this little sleep.
In this episode, my dear friend and Licensed Social Worker, Stephanie Staveland, is sharing some key points of her journey about the challenges she faced to find support for her mental health after her daughter was born. Discover how she is now inspiring more moms like us to find the courage to ask for help. Mama, we were never created to navigate this road alone!
I also want to add a trigger warning here. Stephanie shares her experience with miscarriage and postpartum anxiety in this episode. If you need to skip this episode, take care of yourself, and let’s connect next week!
Moments You Don’t Want to Miss
[13:06] Find out why Stephanie chose to have a birth goal over a birth plan
[24:14] Discover why those first few days and weeks of motherhood were a huge mix of joy and fear
[27:31] Learn why it’s so easy for baby blues or anxiety to go undetected
[38:55] Listen to Stephanie as she shares some of the loneliest moments in motherhood
[1:04:27] Learn how Stephanie’s experience with loss is guiding the way she supports other women now
Trading Birth Plans For Birth Goals
Kelly Jo: What was Hartleigh’s delivery like? Did you have a birth plan? Did that go according to plan? Or was it different?
Stephanie: Yeah, so for my personality style, I decided that I was not going to create a birth plan. I can sometimes be anxious in nature. I just knew that birth was going to be one of the hardest and most empowering things that I would ever do in my life. I knew that if I had a plan, and it didn't go right, I would beat myself up over that.
So I made a conscious decision to not make a birth plan. I did have a birth goal of delivering naturally if possible, and so that's what I walked into the labor and delivery room with and it actually went amazing. There's nothing about Hartleigh's delivery that I would change. I got very, very lucky to have my mom with me and my husband Caleb was there. I got to have a natural childbirth. And yeah, it was - I mean, it was perfect. Well to me, it was.
Kelly Jo: Well it sounds like you gave yourself permission to really be you! Choosing to not have a birth plan sounds really empowering. It can be really beneficial for some women, but for others, it actually might be a hindrance, right? You knew that it might cause mom guilt, or shame if it went differently, and I think you were able to create that space for yourself. And it really gave space for something else to happen. It sounds like that one decision made all the difference.
Stephanie: Absolutely. Yeah, that's definitely something I've learned about myself over the years - this idea that I just really didn't want to give myself an opportunity to beat myself up over something I couldn’t control the outcome for. I knew that motherhood was going to be hard enough and as a mom, we beat ourselves up all the time. So I figured if I can start off my journey into motherhood without doing that, maybe I'll have a leg up for the rest of it. For me, it just really worked to go in there with a goal rather than a birth plan.
You’re Actually Not the Only One
Kelly Jo: Care for the mental health of moms is something we need to do better. It's so much more common, especially in the middle of a pandemic. I think what you said was so important - that you didn’t have a provider to actually ask you questions about anxiety, right? That would have been really helpful for you, but a lot of times the focus is just on baby blues. But anxiety can be just as common as depression.
Stephanie: Just reflecting on that, I feel like there were a lot of missed opportunities for professionals to have picked up on something or just simply stopped and asked more questions. I didn't know how to bring that up, or confront it or ask for help. I just wish that somebody who was trained in all of that stuff would have seen the struggle and taken the time to ask the important questions.
Kelly Jo: Yeah. And how isolating and lonely that becomes, right? I imagine there are other moms listening right now who either have walked a similar road, or maybe they haven’t yet, but maybe they will face it in the future. It’s just so important to know that you're not alone, right? For anyone listening to this, who might be having those anxious thoughts or feelings, you need to know you’re not alone. You might have to ask for help, but there’s no shame in that at all.
When You Don’t Know What to Say, Show Up Anyway
Kelly Jo: In regards to miscarriage,I think so many people, maybe don't show up or don't support their friend in this situation because they just are so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. But I like what you said - that there's no such thing as the perfect words to say. Just showing up and being present in the midst of the storm is all that's needed.
Stephanie: Right. I had a friend show up while I wasn't even home and they had left a bouquet of flowers on my front door. You know, something so simple right? Text messages that say, “Hey, I'm thinking of you today”, and dropping by with a cup of coffee, or a bouquet of flowers. Just checking in and saying, “Hey, can I bring you hot dinner tonight?”. Those basic sentiments convey care and concern. It just shows the depth of your friendship, even if you haven't experienced that same loss yourself. It's just adding someone to that mama’s corner so she knows she’s not doing this by herself. She’s not alone. She’s got someone here cheering her on and helping her who's genuinely concerned about her well being.
Kelly Jo: Yes, simple but powerful, right? Wow. Thank you for sharing and for your vulnerability. I think the more we can talk about this, the less we’ll try to navigate these things alone. So thank you for giving permission for someone who is listening to ask for help.
A Few Closing Thoughts From Our Conversation
It’s been an honor to do motherhood and life alongside Stephanie. Together we’ve celebrated life, mourned over our losses, and have found healing as we journey together along both the smooth and bumpy roads. While our challenges may be different than yours, know it’s never beneficial for any of us to measure our version of “hard” with someone else’s.
Let’s practice vulnerability and advocate for one another. And please, let’s stop assuming that one mama on Instagram has it all together and everything under control. That’s just not the truth. We all struggle - to struggle is to be human and in the darkest moments of life, we need community, not comparison.
If this season is challenging for you, I encourage you to own it and to name it so you can move through the pain and find healing on the other side. And, whatever you’re facing my friend, you deserve to be supported. And if you’re not getting the support you need - be courageous and ask for help: go to that support group, make that phone call, or even reach out to us here at NMC.
I know this can be so hard to do, but, like my friend Stephanie, you’re an overcomer and brighter days lay ahead And lastly, remember you’re not alone.
More From Stephanie Staveland
Stephanie Staveland is an Alaska-born and raised, wife and mother of 2 beautiful children. She and her family are often found exploring deep in the mountains of South Central Alaska or out fishing the waters of Southeast Alaska. She is a clinical social worker and has recently ventured into private practice.
The majority of her social work career has been in working with survivors of sex trafficking in Alaska as well as providing mental health services. Stephanie is currently pursuing her perinatal mental health certification and as her practice grows she hopes to work with mothers and their partners struggling with perinatal mental health issues, pregnancy/child loss, and infertility.
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